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Matilda Susanna Curnow (1829–1921)

from Sydney Morning Herald

The death occurred yesterday morning, at her residence, Clifton, Cambridge-street, Enmore, of Mrs. Curnow, the widow of Mr. Wm. Curnow, formerly editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, who died in 1903. The late Mrs. Curnow, who was in her 93rd year, was born in Sydney in 1829.

About her there was a simple charm of personality that won for her a wide circle of close friends. "A light-hearted lady of 8O" was Lady Poore's description, in her book, Recollections of an Admiral's Wife, of Mrs. Curnow in 1909. To those who know her, this description will appeal as portraying a dominant side in the late Mrs. Curnow's disposition. She was not only thoroughly cheerful herself, but it was a mission of hers to bring sunshine into the lives of others. With this object in view, she founded, in 1909, the Optimists' Club of New South Wales, of which Lady Poore was the first president and the late Sir George Reid the patron. At the inaugural meeting held in the Sydney Town Hall, Mrs. Curnow, in the course of her remarks, said: "I quite agree with the thinker who wrote: 'The greatest asset in this universe is faith,' for faith brings hope, and hope makes us cheerful, and cheerfulness is optimism." She further defined optimism as "the process of distilling the best and sweetest out of life and sharing it with others." Hers was no theoretical doctrine. She devoted her life to putting it into practice.

It was this spirit of trying to brighten the lives of others, especially little children, that prompted Mrs. Curnow to work heart and soul for the Free Kindergarten, the cause nearest to her heart. Through her energy and devotion, and with the hearty co-operation of Mrs Frances Anderson and Miss Louisa Macdonald, a branch of the Free Kindergarten was founded in Newtown many years ago, and it proved a blessing to the young children in the slum area in which it was situated.

Other enterprises which claimed the late Mrs. Curnow's wonderful energy and enthusiasm were the formation of a Women's Literary Society, the Women's Industrial and Centenary Fair in 1888, the furtherance of the claims of the Women's Jubilee Fund, and the Sydney University Women's College. In the last-named she was particularly interested.

Mrs. Curnow was a bright conversationalist and a considerable reader, with a nimble wit. Many visitors to her home will recall animated discussions with her on various topics. She was a great student of the Bible, with broad views, and was a keen admirer of Henry Ward Beecher, Martineau, Wilberforce, Stopford Brooke, and H. C. Brierley, among others. Psychical research, too, figured among her interests. Mrs. Curnow lived a full and vigorous life, and to the end her mind was clear and bright, though for the past few years she was a comparative invalid. Her exquisite handwriting is familiar to all her friends.

There was a family of six–four boys and two girls. The surviving children are Miss Nellie M. Curnow, Mrs. Clark, and Mr. Leslie Curnow, who is engaged in journalism in London. Mrs. Curnow has also left seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

The interment, which will be of a private character, will take place this, morning.

Original publication

Other Obituaries for Matilda Susanna Curnow

Citation details

'Curnow, Matilda Susanna (1829–1921)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Weiss, Matilda Susanna

12 July, 1829
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


15 September, 1921 (aged 92)
Enmore, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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