Janet Johnston


 BORN 1848 in Bradford, Yorks, England.
 DIED 25 September 1939 in Adelaide, SA.
 FATHER Kerr Johnston (1812-1887)
 MOTHER Eliza Denovan Gowan (1816-1894)
 MARRIED Daniel Matthews (1837-1902) on 13 June 1872 at Port Melbourne, Vic.
 CHILDREN   John Kerr Matthews
 Daisy Matthews
 Gretta Matthews
 Margaret Mary Matthews
 Alma Janet Matthews
 MIGRATED March 1853 to Australia

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Educated at Somerset House (Hobart). In annual exams of 1855, won first-class honours in Latin, Etymology, Geography, Writing and Science.

Janet’s diary and memoirs are available in Norman family papers, PRG 422, State Library of South Australia. A descendant of Janet and Daniel has written a book about their involvement with Australian Aborigines: Cato, Nancy, Mister Maloga (rev. ed.), St Lucia, UQP, 1993.

Claire McLisky says:

Janet … harboured a lifelong ambition to become a missionary, and made its establishment the condition of her betrothal to [Daniel]. Christian love, she argued, was the duty of every believing Christian, and it was this love that commanded her to go out and evangelise the neglected ‘heathen’ Aborigines. Her longing to become a missionary was also informed by her experiences growing up at her father’s Mission to Seamen in Sandridge, Melbourne, and her desire to branch out on her own, away from the supervision of her father and nuclear family.

Janet’s work fell mainly within the ‘feminine’ spheres of household management, teaching and evangelisation amongst the Aboriginal women, as well as caring for her own five children, a task which sometimes limited the extent to which she could participate in the public life of the mission. Her atypicality stemmed partly from the mission’s own uniqueness as a non-denominational, non-mission society venture built on private land—forty acres on the northern banks of the Murray River, land that traditionally belonged to the Yorta Yorta and Bangerang peoples. But Janet was also unusual in her degree of involvement in Maloga’s foundation.

Journal of Australian Studies, 39:1, 32-43    

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