Janet Simpson was the Mayoress of the City of Adelaide (married to the Mayor) from 1913-1915.
Early Life and Career
Janet Doris Hubbe (known to many as ‘ Doris’) was born in 1887 in Knightsbridge (now Leabrook), one of the five children of Captain Samuel Grau Hubbe and Edith Agnes Hubbe (nee Cook). Janet’s father Samuel explored the interior of the continent as a valuer and inspector in the Surveyor General’s Department and organized the South Australian Bushmen’s contingent in the Boer War in which he died in 1900, leaving his widow Edith and five young children. Edith was just as energetic as her late husband, talented and well educated. She studied at the newly established University of Adelaide and opened her own very successful school in Statenborough Street, Knightsbridge. Janet attended her mother’s school where she was taught nature study, mathematics, English, French, Latin and music by a group of gifted teachers and there were family friendships with an intellectually active circle. The reformer, Catherine Helen Spence was among these connections. Students from ‘ Mrs Hubbe’s School’ were awarded the Tennyson Medal. Janet passed music examinations and went on to teach at her mother’s school until she married Alfred Allen Simpson in 1910.
A A Simpson (the eldest son of another early-settled South Australian family) known as ‘Allen’, was a keen geographer and served as President of the Royal Geographic Society of Australasia. He supported exploration of the interior and the Antarctic and the Simpsons were there to welcome home their friend Sir Douglas Mawson from his exploration. He was director of the very successful family company A Simpson & Son which produced gas stoves and electric washing machines and he served as an alderman on the Adelaide City Council prior to his term as the 39th Lord Mayor from 1913 to 1915. During this war-time period of office he called a meeting to start a patriotic fund and the Simpsons attended Wattle Day tree plantings to honour those who had died and the unveiling of a memorial cenotaph. The Foundation Stone of additions to the Adelaide Town Hall buildings was also laid by Allen Simpson in April 1915. After completing her war-time role as Lady Mayoress Janet raised a family of six children, two daughters and four sons.
The Australian Branch of the British Red Cross Society was formed on 13 August in 1914, just nine days after the outbreak of World War 1. Women of Australia at many levels helped Red Cross become firmly established within a very short space of time. The young Lady Mayoress of Adelaide, Janet Simpson, found herself in a key position to be involved in the formation of the South Australian Branch of Red Cross and she was well prepared for her role in this team of confident, talented and well-connected women.
On August 6, 1914 Lady Helen Munro Ferguson, the wife of the Governor General, had published a letter in the press suggesting the formation of Red Cross in Australia and appealing for support. She also wrote to the wives of the State Governors asking for their cooperation in promoting the movement in their own States. Encouraging replies came in, including one from Lady Galway, the wife of the Governor of South Australia who convened a meeting jointly with Janet at the Adelaide Town Hall. ‘ A large and representative meeting, convened jointly by Lady Galway and the Mayoress (Mrs A A Simpson), assembled at the Town Hall on Friday, August 14, to consider the advisability of forming a branch of the Red Cross Society.’ At the meeting Dr J C Verco proposed ‘That a section of the British Red Cross Society be established in South Australia’; the proposal was seconded by the Mayoress of Adelaide Mrs Janet Simpson and carried with applause. Mrs Simpson said that ‘they must endeavour to direct all their capacities and enthusiasm towards making the South Australian Society as efficient as those of the older lands…’. (The Register 15th August,1914. p. 11) and one of her goals was to communicate with all the other Mayoresses in South Australia to establish local Circles of Red Cross.
Janet Simpson was appointed a member of the Executive Committee and this work for Red Cross would be her core task during her time as Lady Mayoress between 1913 and 1915. The Adelaide Circle was called the Mayoress’ Circle and by the end of 1915 there were 300 Red Cross Circles in the State whose members energetically sewed clothing for servicemen. A central packing depot was established in the stables of Government House while the ballroom rang with the noise of the sewing machines as the members of the Mayoress’ Circle got down to practical work.
Entertainments and fetes proved a successful way of raising funds and keeping the public interested and aware of the work of the Red Cross Society. Allen and Janet Simpson granted their patronage to large Gala Performances which included drama, dance and orchestral items. Funds raised were used to purchase articles to be packed and sent overseas.
Janet travelled widely, including England, Europe and Ceylon, holidaying and attending conferences and she addressed the Liberal Women’s Educational Association on her return to Adelaide.
Janet’s interests extended over a wide field, embracing social welfare, civic affairs, politics and the arts. She was President of the Burnside Music Club which was one of the first attempts to create a cultural centre in the suburbs. She performed several public roles including Red Cross membership for many years, as a member of the Divisional Council, as Chairman of the Burnside Red Cross Branch, as co-convenor of the Civil Relief Department at Red Cross House during World War Two and president of the Quilts Committee which sent thousands of quilts to London for distribution. Janet was also President of the Queen Adelaide Club and the Lyceum Club and made her home Undelcarra in Burnside available frequently for gatherings to raise funds for various causes. She supported her husband in his role as a business leader and member of numerous community welfare bodies. Allen Simpson died in 1939 and Janet Doris Simpson died in 1950.
Clark, LE, Almost Ninety: The Story of the ARC ( South Australian Division), 1914-2003 (Adelaide: Unpublished manuscript, 2003).
Ewens, MN, History of the South Australian Division of ARC, 1914-1981 (Adelaide: Unpublished manuscript, 1981).
Hubbe, S, Samuel Hubbe: Summary Record, (Adelaide: Unpublished manuscript, 2001).
News, 'Lyceum Club: Mrs A A Simpson to Preside', 29 July, 1930, p5.
Oppenheimer, M, The Power of Humanity (Sydney: Harper Collins, 2014).
The Advertiser, 'Death of Mrs A A Simpson', 19 December 1950, p12.
The Advertiser, 'Mrs A A Simpson Addresses Liberal Women', 12 October, 1937, p9.
The Observer, 'Family Notices: Wedding, Simpson-Hubbe', 15 January 1910, p31.
The Register, 'Red Cross Society', 15 August 1914, p11.
Warburton, E, The Paddocks Beneath: A History of Burnside from the Beginning, (Adelaide: The City of Burnside, 1981).