05 November, 2006

Janet Snodgrass

Janet Snodgrass is unknown as an artist, especially a conceptual one, and yet her creation of the Ashes was one of the most inspired acts in Anglo-Australian relations.

But who has heard of Janet Snodgrass today? Who even knows that the Ashes were created by a woman and an Australian woman at that?


Janet Clarke (née Snodgrass) was a society hostess and leading patron of good causes in Melbourne from the 1880s until her death.

She was a member of the Charity Organisation Society, the Austral Salon, the Melbourne District Nursing Society, the Talbot Epileptic Colony committee, the Alliance Française, the Dante Society, the Women's Hospital Committee, the Hospital for Sick Children and the City Newsboys' Society. She helped to organise the Women's Work Exhibition in 1907.

Clarke's influence was such that she became the first president of the National Council of Women of Victoria in 1902, and of the Australian Women's National League in 1904.


Clarke also holds a special place in the history of cricket, due to her role in establishing the Ashes Test series. In 1882 Ivo Bligh led a team from England to play three tests in Australia. The team spent Christmas at the Clarke property, Rupertswood, in Sunbury. After losing a social game to the English team, Lady Clarke apparently presented Bligh with a small urn containing the burnt ashes of the stumps and announced that she would like it to be a perpetual trophy between the two teams. The urn was donated to the MCC in 1927.



CLARKE, LADY JANET MARION (1851-1909), philanthropist, was born on 4 June 1851 at Doogallook station on the Goulburn River, Victoria, the eldest daughter of Peter Snodgrass and his wife Charlotte Agnes, née Cotton. She became governess to William Clarke's children late in the 1860s and married him on 21 January 1873

As mistress of Rupertswood, the Clarke mansion at Sunbury completed in 1876, Janet at once showed her flair for organization, combining the care of her large family with an active public life. She was the inspiration behind the lavish hospitality for which the Clarkes became famous in the 1880s and 1890s, particularly after the town house, Cliveden, was finished in 1888. This huge home in East Melbourne was the setting for balls, luncheons, dinners and garden parties. Janet led society in Victoria for thirty years. She was a familiar figure at the races and admired at the main social events each year. On her many visits to England she was entertained as one of the best-known Australian women.

She was also the first president of the National Council for Women, founded in 1902 to link separate women's organizations

Her most notable donation was £5000 to the building in 1889 of the Hostel for Women University Students, Trinity College (Janet Clarke Hall)

In 1904 she was president of the University Funds Appeal which raised £12,000. From that year Janet's interest in politics was expressed through the Women's National League of which she was president. The league helped to organize women for voting in elections, particularly to the Federal parliament and the support of anti-Socialist candidates. Their publication, Home, was designed to foster women's domestic influence for good.

Sir WILLIAM JOHN (1831-1897)

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