Major Mary Anderson MBE

Major Mary Anderson served the community before her own interests for almost 50 years.

Honour Roll

Mary Anderson was born in New Zealand on 25 August 1875. She worked as a woolworker until she entered the Salvation Army's Training College, and was commissioned as a Salvation Army Officer (ordained Minister of Religion) in 1901. For twelve years she served in Corps (parish) work where her concern was always for the poor, the disadvantaged and those with special problems.

In 1913, she was appointed to the Melbourne Police Court to assist women and girls in distress. The stories of Mary's work in the courts are legendary. She was never concerned with religious denomination, and she never gave up! She had a wonderfully spontaneous sense of humour and also the knowledge and tenacity of purpose to see a task through, which meant that many of the women and girls who came before the magistrates were able to be assisted and rehabilitated. The officers of the court and police force placed great reliance on Mary's judgement and many women were kept out of prison by her intercession and acceptance of responsibility for them.

From 1917 the matronship of Salvation Army Women's Shelters was added to her responsibilities. She received the Salvation Army's Long Service Order in 1927 and retired in 1935. In 1943, Mary was the first Australian woman to be awarded the Order of the Founder, the Salvation Army's highest honour. In 82 years it has been awarded just 203 times; 24 times to Australians. The Order was inaugurated in 1920 to recognise Salvationists who had rendered distinguished service, such as would have specifically commended itself to the Founder, William Booth. The citation included: " - has, for 25 years carried on a sacrificial and remarkable blessed ministry as Police Court Officer in the City of Melbourne, highly appreciated by Magistrates and the public, also powerful in influence among wrongdoers of many degrees."

Although she retired in 1935, Mary continued her police work for a further eleven years, and was honoured in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1956, receiving the MBE from the Governor of Victoria. Mary 'the Little Major' died on 9 August 1956. E.W. Tipping devoted his whole feature 'In Black and White' to a description of her funeral service. The City of Melbourne paid tribute to a selfless 'Advocate for the Troubled'.

Mary made a very significant contribution to the wellbeing of women and girls, who in so many cases, were unable to help themselves.