Collingwood Notables Database
Evangeline Florence Ireland (Sister Faith)
1866 - 1926
Methodist Sister, welfare worker
Eva Ireland, born in Tasmania, taught with her father who was head of the Collegiate School in Hobart before coming to Victoria. She joined the Methodist Sisterhood, taking the name of Sister Faith, and worked with the Collingwood Methodist Mission for 12 years.
Harry Freeman, son of John Thomas Freeman who was Minister of the Collingwood Methodist Mission from 1928 and through the wretched Depression years of the 1930s, describes the Methodist Sisterhood in his book Collingwood Coke. Founded in the late nineteenth century, it was an Order of ‘carefully selected devout women who had felt the call to dedicate their lives to Christian service’ in the field of city missions, for which they underwent special training. Their role consisted of pastoral and hospital visitation, counselling, dispensing relief to the poor, religious instruction in state schools, the supervision of young people’s clubs and classes, and occasional preaching. Their uniform was modelled on that of some nurses: blue or grey light serge or twill, a long coat with white linen cuffs and collar and a pill box hat of velvet with a train falling behind and a white pussy cat bow, as seen in her photograph.
In addition to her many duties, Sister Faith edited the children’s page of the Spectator and Methodist Chronicle, and children from around the state wrote to her under the guise of ‘Big Sister’. In 1906 the church opened a Free Kindergarten, a service seen as vastly improving the lives and prospects of children from poor families. Initially located in the Sunday School hall, the kindergarten for some years operated under Sister Faith’s directorship. In 1907 she was appointed a probation officer under the Children’s Court Act. She was also an active member of the National Council of Women; at a meeting held in 1909 at the Austral Salon she proposed the novel concept of co-operative housekeeping to mitigate the drudgery of domestic life. In this she was supported by Vida Goldstein.
A lengthy article in the Weekly Times in 1912 outlined Sister Faith’s views on the housing problems in Collingwood and their deleterious effects on home life and health. Here she is described as a ‘sweet-faced sister of charity’, clad in alpaca cloak and dark blue bonnet, and welcome in all poor homes.
A tireless worker, she trudged from morning to night through the densely packed streets visiting homes as an angel of mercy and sympathy, cheering sad and lonely women and dispensing donations. At night she wrote appeals to supporters. Late in 1917 she resigned after 12 years with the Mission. In declining health, she took less demanding work at the Chaucer Library and Methodist Book Depot at Clyde House in Collins Street, but this was not the end of her welfare work. During her work she had realized the need for a school for disabled children, and thanks to her efforts the Yooralla Hospital School and Kindergarten commenced.
Sister Faith lived in Victoria Parade Fitzroy for many years, moving to Simpson Street East Melbourne towards the end of her life. She underwent a major operation in 1925 and died in a private hospital the following year. Just after her death it was resolved to name a new wing of the Yooralla Hospital School in her honour.
The Gipps Street church and hall were demolished in 1967, but despite decades of changes in name, building, management and fee structures, kindergarten services are still offered at the childcare and kindergarten centre now known as Rupert Street Uniting Early Learning, which is regarded as a successor to the Methodist Mission Free Kindergarten.
Gipps St Methodist Church
|Birth Date||Birth Place|
|1 October 1866||Hobart, Tasmania|
|Home Street||Home City||Status of Building|
|163 Victoria Parade||Fitzroy|
|Gipps Street Methodist Church, Collingwood|
|Death Date||Death Place||Cemetery|
|22 September 1926||Richmond, Victoria||Brighton|
Freeman, Harry, Collingwood coke, Spectrum Publications, 1984, Melbourne