Zelinda Rosetta Isaacs was the Mayoress of the City of Adelaide from 1915-1917.
Early Life and Career
Zelinda Rosetta Raphael was one of four children born to Esther (nee Simmons) and Ralph Raphael, who were early South Australian settlers from England. Mr Raphael arrived in 1843, his wife in 1850 and he first operated a very successful drapery business in Hindley Street. The couple made several visits to England and Europe and during this time Zelinda was born in London in 1856. Her older siblings were born in South Australia. On their return to South Australia with the infant Zelinda Mr Raphael was engaged in loans banking and by the 1890s was considered to be ‘one of the wealthiest men in Adelaide’. He was one of the original founders of the Adelaide Synagogue, the Sabbath School and the Adelaide Hebrew Philanthropic Society. The family lived in Lefevre Terrace, North Adelaide.
Businessman Isaac Isaacs, born in Melbourne in 1858, was one of nine children of Wolf and Abigail Adelaide Isaacs. The family moved to Dunedin, New Zealand in 1868. Isaac spent about 25 years there before returning to Victoria. Isaac and Zelinda were married in 1882 in Dunedin. They returned to Victoria and in 1899 moved to Adelaide where Isaac took the role of managing trustee of the estate of Zelinda’s father.
Isaac and Zelinda had two children, a daughter and a son. Family life and a very busy public life were to be Zelinda’s future, as prior to coming to Adelaide, Isaac had already become involved in public life. He was elected treasurer for the demonstration to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887 and in 1889 he was elected grand president for Australasia of the United Ancient Order of Druids.
In Adelaide he was a member of the Adelaide City Council for 30 years and filled the role of chief magistrate during the war. Other public positions he held were: president of the Justice Association; chairman of the Liberal Federation; a representative of the Municipal Tramways Trust; representative of both the City and Suburban Local Boards of Health on the Central Board of Health; representative of the Adelaide Local Board of Health on the Metropolitan County Board under the Food and Drugs Act and a member of the Metropolitan Infectious Diseases Hospital Board. He also held important positions in other organizations including as master of the St Andrew’s Lodge; master of the Southern Cross Masonic Lodge; chief president of the South Australian branch of the Australian Natives’ Association and president of the Adelaide Jewish Philanthropic Society.
Isaac Isaacs had served on the Adelaide City Council since 1902 so Zelinda was familiar with her supportive role here. However, when Isaac became Lord Mayor of Adelaide in 1915, Zelinda, aged 59, not only took up the mantle of supporting her husband in his role, but also the war effort, through the Red Cross. As Lady Mayoress she was appointed to the Executive Committee of the South Australian Branch of Red Cross. (This position was formerly held by her predecessor, Lady Mayoress Janet Simpson.)
The Adelaide Town Hall was a focus point for the work of the Red Cross: both Executive Committee and Annual General Meetings were held here, and those of the hard-working Adelaide Mayoress’s Sewing Guild who met in the Banqueting Room. This group was later re-named The Mayoress of Adelaide Working Guild. Zelinda Isaacs served as President of the Guild from December, 1915. The Guild of sixty women met twice each week and clothing was swiftly sewn or knitted by members, forwarded to the Central Packing Depot established at Government House and then sent overseas. Articles were also made for local hospitals. A wool spinning industry was also set up at the Town Hall, where it operated until room was found in Waymouth Street, mid 1917.
At the annual meeting for 1916, at which she presided, it was recorded that…
The Mayoress, in a few well-chosen and encouraging remarks, thanked the members on behalf of the Red Cross Society for the work they had done during the year, and inspired them to further effort.
The Jewish Women’s Red Cross Circle (Guild) was also strongly supported by Zelinda.
Under the auspices of the Lady Mayoress’s Guild, fund raising also took place: a concert at Unley Town Hall, cake stalls and a fair (Bon Marche) at the Adelaide Town Hall to raise funds for invalid foods for soldiers in Europe. A large sum of money was raised at Red Cross Galas held at the Theatre Royal and, in 1916, at the Tivoli Theatre, under the patronage of Mr and Mrs Isaacs. The whole of the proceeds of both galas provided comforts for sick and wounded soldiers in hospitals in South Australia and abroad. Mr and Mrs Isaacs were very supportive of the program to provide entertainment to invalid soldiers in hospitals. Early in 1916 Zelinda Isaacs was invited to be President of the Exhibition Sewing Circle which had the task of fitting out and fully equipping a Clearing Hospital for invalid soldiers.
Isaac Isaacs died in 1935 and Zelinda Isaacs died in 1937 at ‘Quevedo’, her home in Thorngate. They are buried in the Jewish section of the West Terrace Cemetery.
At the time of her death it was reported that Zelinda Isaacs, ‘Wartime Mayoress’…
Although of a retiring disposition, carried out her work as mayoress ably during the war years...
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).
Leadbeater, B, 'South Australian Shipping & Immigration', Family History SA.
Otago Daily Times, 'Marriage', 7 August 1882, p2.
Red Cross, Record, July 1916-December 1917, Adelaide: ARC South Australian Division.
Red Cross, Record, December 1917-June 1918, Adelaide: ARC South Australian Division.
The Advertiser, 'Death of Alderman Isaacs', 17 January 1935, p14.
The Advertiser, 'Death of former Mayoress of Adelaide', 12 July 1937, p20.
The Advertiser, 'New Mayors', 6 December 1915, p9.
The Advertiser, 'The Advertiser', 30 October 1890, p4.