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Christiane Susanne (Augusta) Zadow (1846–1896)

by Helen Jones

This article was published:

Christiane Susanne Augustine Zadow (1846-1896), by unknown photographer, c1885

Christiane Susanne Augustine Zadow (1846-1896), by unknown photographer, c1885

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B58465

Christiane Susanne Augustine (Augusta) Zadow (1846-1896), trade unionist and factory inspector, was born on 27 August 1846 at Runkel, Duchy of Nassau, daughter of Elizabethe Hemming and Johann Georg Hofmeyer, gardener, who were married next year. Educated at Wiesbaden and, on a scholarship, at the Ladies' Seminary, Biebrich-on-Rhine, she became a companion and governess, travelling through Germany, France, Russia, Siberia and England. Just over four feet (122 cm) tall, she was warm-hearted, alert and fluent in several languages. Having seen women reduced to 'veritable beasts of burden', on settling in London in 1868 she worked as a tailoress and helped oppressed female clothing workers in the East End.

At the register office, Westminster, on 30 May 1871 Augusta (as she now styled herself) married Heinrich Christian Wilhelm Zadow, a tailor and a political refugee from Germany. Seeking a just society, they embarked with their 3-year-old son in the Robert Lees as assisted migrants bound for Adelaide. Arriving in 1877, they lived at Goodwood. Augusta laboured tirelessly to assist the increasing number of Adelaide's female workers in the newly-mechanized clothing trades. To overcome the injustice of their penurious wages, she planned for structural change. Although a proposed women's co-operative clothing factory was not achieved in her lifetime, she was the major force in establishing the Working Women's Trades Union in 1890: she was its foundation treasurer and, from late 1891, a delegate to the United Trades and Labor Council. With Mary Lee and David Charleston, she drew up a log of wages and prices for use in Adelaide. She investigated complaints about women's wages, work safety and sanitary conditions, and gathered evidence for a council sub-committee on sweating.

In 1893, during the depression, Mrs Zadow established the Co-operative White Workers' Association, supplying donated materials to shirt and underwear makers and paying fair wages from garment sales. She found employment for women as domestics; she also managed the Distressed Women and Children's Fund, her earnest appeals gaining colony-wide response in cash and kind. Using 'simple eloquence' and conviction, Augusta drew widespread support for female suffrage; after women in South Australia were enfranchised in 1894, Charles Kingston's government appointed her an inspector of factories in February 1895. She resigned from the union and was naturalized in September. With temporary premises and a minimal salary, she walked to inspect city and suburban factories, workshops and dressmaking establishments, and supervised the safety and working conditions of women and minors. When she encountered 'opposition and rudeness' from some employers, she continued undeterred. Her precise, practical reports and recommendations, written in copperplate, often at night, were adopted and set standards. She took no leave.

Augusta was compiling a report on the 1894 Factories Act when she contracted influenza; she died of haematemesis on 7 July 1896 in Adelaide. Mourners at her funeral, conducted with Anglican rites, included Kingston, twenty parliamentarians and many factory women. The Trades and Labor Council collected nearly 1000 threepenny subscriptions for her tombstone at West Terrace cemetery which honoured her 'Self-denying Efforts on Behalf of the Struggling and Oppressed'. Her husband and son survived her.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Jones, Nothing Seemed Impossible (Brisb, 1985)
  • H. Jones, In Her Own Name (Adel, 1986)
  • Report of Inspector of Factories, Parliamentary Papers (South Australia), 1896 (87)
  • Voice (Adelaide), 14 July 1893
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 9 July 1896
  • Register (Adelaide), 11 July 1896
  • Weekly Herald (Adelaide), 17 July 1896
  • Daily Herald (Adelaide), 14 June 1913
  • United Trades and Labor Council of South Australia minutes, Dec 1889–Dec 1896, and letter book, 12 July 1896 (State Library of South Australia)
  • Factories letter book, 26 June, 27 Sept 1895, 21 Jan, 29 May, 8, 10 June, 6, 7, 8 July 1896 (State Records of South Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Helen Jones, 'Zadow, Christiane Susanne (Augusta) (1846–1896)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 15 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Christiane Susanne Augustine Zadow (1846-1896), by unknown photographer, c1885

Christiane Susanne Augustine Zadow (1846-1896), by unknown photographer, c1885

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B58465

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Hofmeyer, Christiane Susanne

27 August, 1846
Runkel, Hesse, Germany


7 July, 1896 (aged 49)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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