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Amelia Fuller was twice the Mayoress of the City of Adelaide (married to the Mayor), from 1866-1869 and 1882-1883.

Early life

Amelia Georgina Fuller was born on 28 April 1834 to Elizabeth née Shepherd, and Laurence Harward. The family lived in Cornwall, England. After the death of Amelia’s father in 1847, his widow brought Amelia and her two younger sisters, Louisa and Emma, to South Australia, arriving aboard the Caroline on 1 September 1849. By this time Amelia’s mother was by no means young. But copper had been discovered at Kapunda, north of Adelaide, coinciding with the Cornish potato famine and slumps in the Cornish mining industry. Perhaps Elizabeth already had family here amongst the Cornish miners, and like so many others bravely took the journey to ensure her young daughters a better life. But sadly, in 1852 Elizabeth died. The following year, on 7 February 1853 Amelia, aged 18, married 27-year-old Henry Robert Fuller at St John’s Church in Halifax Street. It was clearly a love match, and the couple would be married for 52 years.

Amelia gave birth to 12 children: Louise Emma in 1854, Charles Henry in 1856, Florence Bateman in 1858, Alfred Frederick Richmond in 1860, William Henry in 1862, Edgar Firmin in 1866 (who died the same year), Henry Ernest in 1867, one unnamed child in 1869 who did not survive, Mabel in 1871, Lawrence Herbert in 1874, Harold Reginald in 1876, and Arthur Egerton in 1878.

Pulic life and service

Henry was Mayor of Adelaide from 1866 to 1869. He was also elected to the South Australian House of Assembly for the seat of West Adelaide, which he held from 1865 to 1870. For six years – from 1894 to 1900 – he also held a seat on the Legislative Council. When Amelia gave birth to her seventh child in 1867, City Councillors presented Henry with a silver rocking cradle ‘for the high esteem in which he is held’. In 1953, the child, Henry Ernest – by then aged 86 – gave the cradle back to the City Council. It is now part of the Adelaide City Council’s civic collection.

In 1905 Henry died at the age of 79 at their home in Grenfell Street. On 2 September 1905, the Observer announced ‘he passed peacefully away in the presence of the widow and other members of the family’. The newspaper also reported:

Mr and Mrs Fuller celebrated their golden wedding on February 7, 1903, at their residence in Grenfell Street, Adelaide. There was a large gathering of the family and friends, and congratulatory letters and telegrams were received from personal and political friends all over the state.

Amelia also outlived her two younger sisters and three of her adult children. Charles died in 1876, Florence in 1889, and Louise in 1916. Amelia died on 22 August 1926, at the age of 92. She was buried with her husband in the North Road Cemetery. Amelia’s early life in Cornwall could not have been easy. We can only wonder how often she thought back and quietly thanked her mother for bringing Amelia and her sisters to the other side of the world. On the other hand, the well-educated Henry – the son of a London surgeon – had enjoyed a privileged childhood. Yet, in Henry’s obituary the Observer noted:

One little philanthropic act he did ... was to the poor old inmates of the Destitute. For years while he was in the enjoyment of his health he met with those old men every Sunday morning as they were going down to the church, and presented them with a stick of tobacco. The gift was small in itself, but depicted his kindness of heart.

Portraits of Henry indeed show the face of a kindly man, but it is easy to imagine Amelia’s influence in her husband’s philanthropy. Amelia gave 30 years of service to the Young Womens Christian Association, attended Holy Trinity Church, and was active in charity work.

By Cheryl Williss, HerStory Project

The HerStory project came about to recognise and celebrate the lives and the achievements of Women’s work in South Australia and was initiated in 2015 on the 175th anniversary of the City of Adelaide, by Genevieve Theseira-Haese, Lady Mayoress of Adelaide. The stories collected offer a unique perspective of Adelaide and South Australia that form a different history to what is often heard. This community built initiative is supported by the City of Adelaide and the History Trust of South Australia.

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