MAUD MONTGOMERY, A VERY INDEPENDENT WOMAN

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Maud Montgomery (1865-1949)

Maud was the third daughter of the eminent English clergyman, preacher and author, Frederic William Farrar. She was known to maintain resolutely a wide range of domestic, diocesan and philanthropic responsibilities.

Her father was housemaster of Maud's future husband, Henry, at Harrow School before becoming Canon of Westminster Abbey and subsequently Dean of Canterbury before his death in 1903. She was said to have inherited her father's concern for moral righteousness and an ability in public speaking.

Maud became engaged to Henry at the age of 14 and married before turning seventeen in King Henry VII's chapel in Westminster Abbey in July 1881. Henry was seventeen years older than Maud. Her mother, Lucy Mary Cardew, married at the age of nineteen.

Her husand's salary was little enough for the upbringing of what was to become a family of six boys and two girls. Her strength of will and powers of organisation came to the fore on arrival in Tasmania on 23 October 1889 after a 6 week journey by sea.

On 18 November, less than a month after their arrival in Hobart, their eldest daughter, Sybil Frances, dies aged seven years. They buried her within walk of Bishopscourt in the upper part of Queenborough Cemetery, Sandy Bay (now The Hutchins School). For Maud, this was a very severe test. With her husband frequently away, she was often alone. Henry was proud of her dogged commitment to Tasmania: she gave up looking back and rooted herself in her new home. Few did it so completely, Henry claimed in his memoirs.

She continued to impose a strict routine on all the children, having begun this in Kennington and maintained it on the long voyage to Hobart.

 

“With her usual organisational ability, our mother had arranged for tutors to come from England and take over the job of teaching her children, who were rapidly growing up, as well as children of certain close friends in Hobart or nearby. She had an extra room built on to Bishopscourt which served as a school room. The Bishop’s salary was £1,000 a year, which in those times, apparently sufficed for all needs.”
— Brian Montgomery, Monty a Life in Photographs 1985

Lady Hamilton, Maud Montgomery and the Nil Desperandum Society

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The Hamilton Literary Society is the oldest continuing literary society in Australia. It was established in 1889 by Lady Hamilton, wife of the Governor of Tasmania, Sir Robert Hamilton. Well-educated and forceful, she was imbued with new ideas of the activities suitable for women. 

Her husband, Sir Robert Hamilton, having become 'tainted by sympathy for Irish home rule' as Secretary to the Irish Administration in Dublin, was removed from this position and instead, at the age of 50, was made Governor of Tasmania (his wife was then 35) in 1887 until 1892. Hamilton seems a quiet, pleasant figure. He much enjoyed pottering in the gardens of Government House, clipping the hedges and lying in a hammock.

In July 1889, Lady Hamilton invited 25 women to tea at Government House to form a society with the aim of fostering an interest in literature. Originally called the Nil Desperandum Society, it became, on her departure, and with her approval, the Hamilton Literary Society as it is today. The President of the Society is by tradition the wife of the current Governor of Tasmania. Membership is limited to thirty.

Members invited were serious young women who were challenged by Lady Hamilton herself to serious endeavour. Maud Montgomery attended her first meeting on 13 June 1890 at Government House.

The 24th meeting of the society was held at Bishopscourt. Seven our of the eight women present disapproved of Ladies taking part with Gentlemen in the game of cricket. Three more meetings were held at Bishopscourt, culminating in a gathering on 23 October 1890 at which Mrs Montgomery read a paper on her father's account of the Oberammergau Passion Play. 'It proved too much for most' of the twenty-one women there, six of which were married. The meeting terminated after a very short debate.

Maud Montgomery next attended the 31st meeting on 27 November 1890 at Government House. The topic 'Passion Plays of the Middle Ages' found participants better prepared. The paper was followed by a 'very animated discussion as to the advisability of introducing sacred plays as a means of educating children'. Maud was an active contributor.

Mrs Montgomery never attended another meeting and by 1894 was no longer listed as a member of the society. Part of the reason may be explained by the 'grand quarrel that arose between Lady Hamilton and the Dobsons' around early 1891. Ethel Dobson, daughter of Sir Lambert Dobson, Chief Justice of Tasmania and a leading churchman, wrote a letter of apology to the society's secretary, a letter which Lady Hamilton considered insulting. Maud Montgomery unsuccessfully tried to make peace. Ultimately, Lady Hamilton aked those who defended Ms Dobson resign. Ten did so. Attempts at reconciliation were never fully successful. Read more about 'Showdown at Government House' here.

MAUD MONTGOMERY’S HONEYMOON IN IRELAND 1881

As they came up the drive, Maud Montgomery had somewhat mixed feelings about her reception and how she should conduct herself at her husband’s home. She had of course seen much of her parents-in-law in London and she was very fond of Sir Robert who she regarded as a charming old gentleman. But she was terribly in awe of her mother-in-law, Lady Montgomery. The latter is on record as saying that ‘she could do nothing with Henry’s young bride who, in her view, was too proud and stiff’.

Read more about Maud Montgomery's Honeymoon in Ireland