Jane Townsend was Mayoress of the City of Adelaide (married to the Mayor) from 1864-1866.

Jane Hooper Townsend née Norris was the second wife of William Townsend, who had emigrated to South Australia from England in 1853 with his first wife, Emma. Emma died soon after their arrival. 

There is no civil record of the marriage of Jane and William, but we do know William was a lay preacher in the Congregational Church. However, the birth of nine children is recorded: Jane in 1855, Frederic Pellatt in 1857, Frances Emily in 1858, Alexander Hay in 1860, Francis Joseph in 1862 (Francis died at the age of two), Adelaide Florence in 1864 (Adelaide died the following year), Thomas Henry in 1870, Francis Joseph in 1871 (this baby also died, in 1872), and Mabel Edith in 1877 (baby Mabel died the same year). The family lived on a large property at Mitcham. William named the stately house Pellatt Villa. 

William was Mayor of Adelaide from 1864 to 1866. At the time William was also the state member for the (former) seat of Onkaparinga. The Adelaide Town Hall was completed and opened during William’s mayoral term. William is best known for his work to establish an institution for the deaf and blind which stood for many years in the Adelaide beachside suburb of Brighton. Jane would visit the children at the Destitute Asylum on Kintore Avenue. The Adelaide Observer noted on 23 June 1866:

We are happy to hear that while the good citizens of Adelaide were taking part in the festivities occasioned by the celebration of Her Majesty’s accession to the throne and the opening of the Town Hall, the afflicted and friendless inmates of the Destitute Asylum had an opportunity of sharing in the general hilarity. The children belonging to the establishment were regaled with fruit and cakes, kindly supplied by Mrs. W. Townsend, the wife of His Worship the Mayor …

After William died in 1882, newspapers took care to note his three sons were in the first carriage of the funeral cortege – but unfortunately made no mention of Jane or the couple’s surviving daughters. Jane died in 1890 and was buried with her husband in West Terrace Cemetery.

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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