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Anderson, Alice Elizabeth (1897–1926)

from Herald (Melbourne)

Alice Anderson's garage at Kew, Melbourne, n.d.

Alice Anderson's garage at Kew, Melbourne, n.d.

The tragic death, last night, of Miss Alice Anderson in her garage in Cotham road, Kew, has caused widespread regret. Probably no woman in Melbourne was better known. She pioneered the way to motor garages for women, and made a greater success of it than most men could.

Her untimely end at 29 cuts short a career full of romance and rare achievement. Many men have watched her repair a car or even change a wheel where they had failed and marvelled at her resource and initiative in driving.

Miss Anderson returned from a motor trip into Central Australia only last Saturday, sunburnt and happy. Last night she was cleaning an automatic pistol that she had used on the journey. She removed the magazine, unaware or forgetting that a bullet was still in the barrel. This by some means exploded, and she was shot in the head. She was rushed to Lancewood private hospital owned by her friend, Sister McBeth, but she was dead on arrival. The funeral will leave Lancewood, Glenferrie road, Kew, at 3 p.m. on Monday.

The garage in Cotham road was closed today. Some of Miss Anderson's employes were there slowly attending to cars. They were too upset to talk of their mistress.

"She was always so good to us that we found great pleasure in our work," said one, who has been there for three years. "Her death in such circumstances is a great shock to us, and we'll miss her terribly. She was laughing and joking with us just a short time before."

Miss Anderson was a daughter of Mr J. T. Noble Anderson, consulting engineer to the Richmond Council. Today he received scores of messages of condolence.

Hundreds of Melbourne people, particularly in the eastern suburbs, knew Miss Anderson and her little band of women drivers and mechanics. The garage had a long list of clients. Most people have seen her neatly uniformed chauffeurs leap briskly from the driver's seat, open the door, and salute smartly. Efficient service was the "boss's" watchword, and everyone got it. Recently she initiated a "once over" system. Your car was completely overhauled in eight hours for 30/, after every 600 miles. That is but one illustration of her initiative.

One of those who received the greatest shock at Miss Anderson's death was Miss Jessie Webb, M.A., lecturer in history at Melbourne University. Miss Webb, who had known Miss Anderson for many years, accompanied her on the trip to Alice Springs.

"She was a woman of most pleasing personality, great force of character, and high originality," was Miss Webb's tribute today. 

Miss Anderson, took up cars at an early age. When her parents lived at Narbethong, in the ranges, she used to drive across Blacks' Spur as well as any man. Her love for mechanics was so great that she worked even there in conjunction with people who carried passengers to the city. Before she was 20 she came to Melbourne and went into a garage to complete her training. She emerged a fully qualified mechanic, and saw no reason why she shouldn't enter into a realm hitherto commanded by man.

So she started off with a couple of cars in Kew, about nine years ago. She used a wooden shed then. Business developed and she decided to erect an up-to-date garage. There was a brick shortage. "I can't go ahead," said the builder. "I can't get bricks."

"Oh, that's all right," replied the young woman, "I've got the bricks already.".

And so the job was done. Success followed success until at the time of her death Miss Anderson employed eight or nine women drivers and mechanics. She taught her employes all she know. One or two of them were with her several years.

The young proprietress soon built up a strong private connection. Mothers in the country, where she was known, sent their daughters to her to be driven about in the city. Not infrequently she acted by special request as their guardians at many dances and other functions.

Soon, too, she became a member of the Lyceum Club, which is primarily for women who undertake big organising work or break new ground for women. As the first woman garage proprietor, Miss Anderson was worthy of her place. But her interests were not only confined to the motor car. She could converse on many and varied subjects and was a vivid writer. Several articles by her have appeared in The Herald.

There are four sisters, living. One is the wife of Dr. Derham, of Kew. The others are Miss Kathleen, Miss Joan and Miss Claire Anderson. The latter, following the same bent, passed through a course of engineering at the University.

Original publication

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Citation details

'Anderson, Alice Elizabeth (1897–1926)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/anderson-alice-elizabeth-12772/text35506, accessed 26 May 2019.

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Alice Anderson's garage at Kew, Melbourne, n.d.

Alice Anderson's garage at Kew, Melbourne, n.d.