Lady Mary Colton

People of Adelaide


Posted on 01 Sep 2019

Mary colton state library of south australia b 25678 6 circa 1895

Lady Mary Colton (1822-1898), philanthropist, suffragist, and Lady Mayoress, was Secretary of the South Adelaide Wesleyan Ladies' Working Society from 1844, and later the Nursing Sisters' Association which cared for mothers after childbirth.

Colton also served on the ladies’ committees for the Servants’ Home, which assisted new female immigrants and servants to find employment. She further supported the Female Refuge, a shelter for single pregnant girls, reformed prostitutes, victims of domestic violence and deserted wives.

In 1872 Colton was part of a deputation to the Premier to introduce the boarding out of institutionalised children, resulting in the foster care model.

Married to Sir John Colton, Mayor of Adelaide from 1874-1875 and Premier of South Australia from 1884-85, she was among a group of prominent Adelaide women who lobbied for the foundation of the Adelaide Children's Hospital and joined its Board of Management after it opened in 1879. In 1891 Colton was the first female President of the Women’s Suffrage League.

Celebrating 125 years of women's suffrage in South Australia.

Image: State Library of SA B25678 6, circa 1895