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Benjamin, Lady Frances (Fanny) (1839–1912)

A member of one of the most respected and prominent families of the Melbourne Jewish community passed away by the death, last Sunday week, of Fanny, Lady Benjamin, widow of the late Sir Benjamin Benjamin, who was Mayor of Melbourne from 1887 to 1889, and who predeceased her seven years ago. Lady Benjamin died at the age of 72 years, after a short illness of about four weeks, at "Canally," East Melbourne, where she had resided for forty-three out of the fifty-five years in which she had been in this city. She was a sister of the late Mr Justice Cohen, of Sydney, whose recent unexpected death produced so profound an impression.

The deceased lady was distinguished for the unobtrusive amiability of her character and for the strong, active interest she look in Jewish and general charitable work. She had been at various times on the committees of the Hebrew Ladies' Benevolent Society, the Women's Hospital, the Austin Hospital, the Melbourne District Nursing Society, the Victorian Ladies' Work Association, the Foundling Hospital, the Richmond Creche. She was one of the foundation members of the Queen's Fund, and for a period acted as its treasurer. She was life governor of most of the above-mentioned and other public institutions. She left seven sons and six daughters surviving her.

The remains of the deceased lady were interrcd in the Melbourne General Cemetery on the 19th ult. The funeral was largely attended, representatives of many public bodies being present, and nearly a hundred floral tributes were sent. The Rev. J. Danglow, MA, minister of the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation, officiated, and delivered the following discourse over the grave:—

"The air is heavy for us with the sense of bereavement, our hearts are deeply moved by the pangs of sorrow as we stand here thus mournfully assembled in order to consign to their last earthly resting-place the mortal remains of our beloved Lady Benjamin. That revered name meant so much for those who knew her, so much that was beautiful, so much that was pure and good.

Only a short time ago we learnt with consternation of the passing of the distinguished brother of the departed, the Hon. Justice Cohen, who for many years sat with honour on the Bench of New South Wales, and identified himself whole-heartedly with every important movement that sought to promote the highest welfare of his brethren of Faith and his fellow-citizens. He was one whom this world could ill afford to lose, and whose demise constitutes a grievous calamity not only to our brethren of the sister State, but to the whole of Anglo-Jewry. Only ten days ago his body was laid to rest in its Australian grave. And now, alas! we have lost his sister, too – Lady Benjamin, who was the soul of honour, the pattern of civic and homely virtue, one who did her duty nobly as a wife, as a mother and sister, as a Jewess, and as a citizen. She was a true mother in Israel, who loved her Faith with unpretending piety, and made it her guiding star through life. During the three years that she was Mayoress of this great City of Melbourne she proved herself, as on all other occasions, the noble helpmate of a noble husband. With natural dignity and conspicuous ability, and with touching simplicity, she discharged all the manifold and difficult duties appertaining to her lofty position. In the active realm of public life she never spared herself, but laboured, so long as she was physically able, for the common good, without distinction of class or creed. And in the serene atmosphere of the home she exerted a refined, a quiet, and a queenly influence which was suffused with love and sweetness. Now she is no more. But let not excess of tears obscure the light which has come to her, the light which is sown for the righteous, for in God's light she will surely see light. Thy righteousness shall precede thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward."— Isa. lviii. 8. Those whose memory lives yet in our hearts to spur us on to better things do not die. For many, many years may she live still in the hearts of her children, who rise up and call her blessed, and all her dear ones, directing their thoughts and aims to noble ends; and to the many of us who knew her well and loved and revered her, may the example of her beautiful life prove ever a powerful incentive to the cheerful performance of duty, of duty to others, to our selves and to our Father in Heaven."

Original publication

Citation details

'Benjamin, Lady Frances (Fanny) (1839–1912)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/benjamin-lady-frances-fanny-20262/text31320, accessed 18 April 2019.

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