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Taplin, Louise (1855–1901)

On Tuesday, May 21, 1901, died Louise Taplin, matron of the Infants' Home, Ashfield, from a sudden and severe attack of pneumonia, which lasted but 12 days. To her large circle of friends Miss Taplin was known as a most accomplished and charming woman. A trained nurse, and a brave woman is always a useful member of society; but the matron of the Infants' Home had other and rarer qualities which gave her an influence that was invincible. She really loved children—any children—with a large heartedness that belongs to real motherhood, tempered with a judgment and power of management that few mothers display. In the Home, and indeed to her intimates at large, she was known as "Tappy," a name given to her by one of her waifs.

No prettier scenes were possible than the group of four-year-old children saying their evening prayers at "Tappy's" knee; or some 20 of these little waifs and strays, with smiling and expectant faces ranged along the playroom of the Home to receive their share of "biccys" from "Tappy.'' Her influence was so marvellous, that visitors playfully accused the matron of mesmerism. Of her more serious capacity as matron, the following records of the home tell a sufficiently plain story:—Miss Taplin came to the Infants' Home in 1886. For the four years 1883-4-5-6 the death rate averaged 36·6 per cent. In 1888 it had fallen to 19·4 per cent., in 1893 to 7 per cent., while for the next six years the average is below 11 per cent. When it is remembered that the infants admitted to this home are often sickly from birth; have sometimes gone through the trying ordeals of varying periods in parcels left on doorsteps or elsewhere, this sudden fall in the death rate can only be interpreted as showing exceptional care and skill in their treatment. Enthusiastic herself in the good work of the home, Miss Taplin inspired others with a like desire to help.

Twice during her reign did Miss Taplin take a holiday to Europe, to return laden with spoil and with solid cash for the benefit of her "babies,'' without unpleasant dunning or the usual purse-tightening appeals. And year by year, partly or wholly through her exertions, new wards, a large play room, and better accommodation formed new and ornamental adjuncts to the old cottage building and grounds, originally given by Mrs. Carl Fischer and the late Mrs. Walker. But Miss Taplin's influence was not confined to the babies only.

One object of the home is to assist unmarried mothers with their first infant by providing a temporary home for mother and child. To such the home is a real shelter. The little ones are saved for the baby farm, and the mothers, sometimes under 16 years of age, are freed from the terrible temptation to infanticide. Here was no cant—real sympathy, generous silence, welcome help, often broke down the stubborn and sometimes vitiated opposition to better principles. Sometimes a delayed marriage, often useful work in good situations, was procured for these hapless victims by the ceaseless energy of the matron and her friends.

Miss Taplin had two especial griefs in connection with the home. The first was—it could not hold all the cases that applied; the second, that just when she had grown to love her children most, the "State" came in and took them away for "boarding-out treatment" at 5 years of age. The first of these troubles are either from lack of room or from the application of laws necessary to such an institution. In such cases Miss Taplin frequently, after judicious inquiry, personally assisted by monetary or other means. The second, though part of a beneficent and perhaps necessary Government scheme, was always a heartburning question. Perhaps "Tappy" was seen quite at her best, when, having extorted from some circus manager free tickets, she would load up the Home pony-cart with some dozen of the older babies, and personally conduct the procession to the railway. At Redfern would be seen the queer little crew— early taught to hold the one in front by the pinafore—shepherded and protected by nurse and matron to the wonderland of clown and performing animals.

That such a life should be cut short in the full vigor of middle-age is pitiable. To her many friends remains the memory of her bright and vivacious personality. We all have somewhere enshrined in the most sacred corners of our minds a temple dedicated to the goddess "Mother." In Louise Taplin many a nameless and deserted child found that sacred relationship. It is a sufficient epitaph to a noble life.

H. L. C.

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Citation details

'Taplin, Louise (1855–1901)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/taplin-louise-27555/text34959, accessed 8 July 2020.

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