Mrs Freida Walker was Lady Mayoress of the City of Adelaide (married to the Lord Mayor) between 1943 and 1946.
Early Life and Career
Freida Walker (nee Row) was born at Parramatta, NSW in 1874 to father William Rooke Row and mother Emily. She was the eldest daughter and had seven siblings. Her father was Chief Traffic Auditor for the New South Wales Government Railways and he also took a prominent part in local affairs in Manly.
Her husband-to-be, Reginald Walker, also came from a community minded family. Reginald was born to father Thomas and mother Jane Walker at Ararat in Victoria where his father Thomas was the first mayor. The family later lived in Lavender Bay, Sydney and Freida married Reginald Walker at Manly in 1907. As a young woman, Freida was supportive of such activities as fund-raising for the building of the Manly Cottage Hospital, opened in 1896.
Freida was one of three Lady Mayoresses in the Adelaide City Council who served in this role during the Second World War. Her husband, a pastoralist and company director, came to the role of Lord Mayor after serving on the Burnside Council from 1929-1940. He was also president of the Commonwealth Club, member of the Rotary Club, vice – president of the Norwood High School Council and served in numerous other community organizations. Reginald was an alderman on the Adelaide City Council for three years prior to his election as Lord Mayor in 1943.
Freida was destined to lead a busy and active public life and was described as ‘having the gift of entertaining’, hosting bridge and garden parties in their Kensington home; skills she was able to draw on for the hosting of fund-raising events for Red Cross.
Freida was a tireless helper to her husband in his civic duties and also gave many hours of service to Red Cross. In her capacity of Lady Mayoress, she automatically served on the South Australian Red Cross Divisional Committee. During the war she was also a constant helper at the Red Cross Cheer Up Hut.
During this time the Lady Mayoress’s beautifully decorated reception room at the Town Hall was a ‘hub’ of activity. Many functions were hosted here to raise funds for the Red Cross aid program. An important event each year was the reception to launch the Miss Red Cross City of Adelaide, a huge fund-raiser.
Other functions included receptions for visiting musicians who gave recitals to raise funds; a ‘picture evening’ at the Town Hall to support the Red Cross Queen and an exhibition of Freida’s own tapestries and baskets, china and crystal collected in her travels.
Together with the President of Red Cross, the wife of the State Governor, Freida packed the first of 4500 Christmas hampers full of ‘comforts’ to be distributed to every serviceman and woman in hospitals and convalescent homes. Such ‘comforts’ and clothing were also being sent to those serving overseas. Freida was President of the Lady Mayoress’s Red Cross Town Hall sewing circle which sewed thousands of garments to be sent overseas; as did many other Red Cross Branches.
The Walkers were still holding office when World War Two ended and attended happy occasions such as a welcome home dance to ex-servicemen and women.
From 1927 the Walkers were avid travellers, both within Australia and overseas. There were not many parts of the world they did not see together. To name a few: their adventures in Fiji, as guests of the District Commissioner, arriving just after a hurricane had swept through, were reported in detail in The Register News-Pictorial and they travelled in Japan and Hong Kong and in India where the highlight was the colourful Viceroy’s Parade. In 1935 they explored Africa.
Freida was an active member of the Red Cross in Burnside and the FFCF (Fighting Forces Comforts Fund) and gave long service in the district Red Cross shop at Marryatville.
She was also an enthusiastic and practical supporter of the establishment of Wanslea Children’s Home for the children of sick mothers (with the fathers away at war). She was a member of the Wanslea Board, to which she was elected at the inaugural meeting held in the Lady Mayoress’s room at the Town Hall. A large window, the ‘Freida Walker Sunshine Window’ was erected in the Wanslea building, acknowledging her support and encouragement to the movement to establish the home.
She was also an industrious worker for the Royal Adelaide Hospital Auxiliary for twelve years.
Just a short time after they left their positions of Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress Freida died suddenly on 1 October, 1946 while visiting Kingscote. Reginald died in 1960.
Ewens, MN, History of the South Australian Division of ARC, 1914-1981, (Adelaide: Unpublished manuscript, 1981).
Kitty, L, 'Elizabeth Leigh’s Pages for Women', The Register News - Pictorial, 25 January, p.28.
News, 'Lady Mayoress Entertains', 29 April 1943, p.5.
News, 'Seeks Post as Alderman', 22 April 1938, p.3.
The Advertiser, 'At Home at Folkstone', 11 October 1924, p.11.
The Advertiser, 'Dance at St John’s', 4 May 1946, p.11.
The Advertister, 'Death of Mrs Reginald Walker', 2 October 1946, p.10.
The Advertiser, 'Memorial Window at Wanslea', 4 February 1947, p.10.
The Advertiser, 'Miss Adelaide Red Cross Announced', 28 July 1944, p.7.
The Advertiser, 'Nominations for City Council', 10 June 1946, p.7.
The Advertiser, 'Women World Travellers', 13 March 1935, p.13.
The Mail, 'Red Cross Film for Town Hall', 8 July 1944, p.11.