Jeanie Willcox was Mayoress of the City of Adelaide from 1892-1894.

Early Life

When Jeanie Barker married her second husband, Charles Willcox, at Fitzroy, Victoria, in 1887, she became stepmother to seven children, their ages ranging from sixteen down to four. That same year, Charles and Jeanie’s first child, Jeanie May, was born. She was followed by Katherine Muriel in 1889 and Charles Angas in 1892. The family spent their summers at their hills property, Braeside, at Stirling.


Charles was a prominent South Australian businessman and regularly travelled interstate. He was elected to the City Council in 1884 and served as Mayor of Adelaide from 1892 to 1894. On Friday 21 April 1893, the Evening Journal reported on a reception held by the Mayoress the previous afternoon:

The Mayoress (Mrs. C. Willcox) held a reception in the Town Hall from 3 o’clock till 5. The hall was arranged in the group system, chairs being put in clusters all about the hall, which was tastefully decorated with pot plants, flowers, and foliage. A dais was erected on the northern side, and there the Mayoress received her guests. Mrs Willcox was dressed in dark green silk, trimmed with green velvet and large empire puffs to the sleeves, bonnet en suite. There was a very large attendance of ladies and gentlemen. Refreshments were handed round in the hall by attendants, and the music was provided by Coward & Lindstrom’s string band. After the formal reception by the Mayoress, who was accompanied by His Worship the Mayor, the guests fell into pleasant social groups and enjoyed the relaxed and lively conversation.

A second reception was to follow a week later:

There was a very large, representative, and fashionable gathering, especially of ladies, at the second reception in the Town Hall on Thursday afternoon by the Mayoress (Mrs. C. Willcox) ––in fact it was much larger than the one given last week … There was a constant stream of ladies and gentlemen to the Town Hall to pay their respects to the wife of the Mayor, and quite a thousand people must have passed the stairs to the Reception room … The Mayoress was fully occupied for two hours in receiving the continual succession of visitors.

But Jeanie did not confine herself to genteel events and finery. She led a committee formed to help women in need, and meetings were held in the Town Hall reception room. A Women’s Unemployed and Distress Fund was established, with Jeanie as honorary treasurer. She also assisted in the physical distribution of food and clothing packages. Soon regular distributions were taking place at two main depots: Tynte Street, North Adelaide and Leigh Street in the city.

Both Jeanie and Charles were also active in the Tynte Street Baptist Church.

Personal Note

When Charles died in September 1921, The Advertiser’s obituary noted that his wife had been ‘exceedingly popular during her period as Mayoress’. Jeanie died in the family home in Finniss Street, North Adelaide, in October 1936. She is buried in the North Road 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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