State Library of South Australia logo Your story
SA Memory. South Australia past and present, for the future

House of Mercy - Anglican Refuge for Unmarried Pregnant Girls
Title : House of Mercy - Anglican Refuge for Unmarried Pregnant Girls House of Mercy - Anglican Refuge for Unmarried Pregnant Girls
Add To My SA Memory
Creator : Beverley Battams (nee Page)
Place Of Creation : SA
Date of creation : 1967
The State Library of South Australia is keen to find out more about SA Memory items. We encourage you to contact the Library if you have additional information about any of these items.
Copyright : Reproduction rights are owned by State Library of South Australia. This image may be printed or saved for research or study. Use for any other purpose requires permission from the State Library of South Australia. To request approval, complete the Permission to publish form.
Description :

I was always told as a child that if I should ever become pregnant before I got married, I would have to give my baby up for adoption. This was a known. There was no argument about it. I had no intention of getting pregnant but at the age of 16 I found myself in that predicament. My parents, not knowing what to do reached out to the church. Our priest suggested that I go away to the House of Mercy until I had delivered my baby. So at six months pregnant (which was the required time), I lived at the House of Mercy on Stephens Tce Walkerville until my baby's birth, well, a few days after.

The House itself was an old building set amongst huge old trees. A beautiful chapel was at the rear. I loved the solitude in the chapel and often went to clean and polish it. We girls had each our own little cubicle in a huge room with toilets and showers in an adjacent room. We worked every day in the big laundry room of the House. Hospital sheets, gowns and doctors coats were laundered and pressed. I remember the big sheet press that only the chosen girls could use and we the other girls ironing by hand the starched gowns and doctors coats. All of which were dampened down and starched by hand and rolled into very tight rolls.

There was a lovely Matron during the time I was there but I can't remember her name. She ran the show. A cook was also employed but I don't think she lived in. The House could accomodate many girls, I was one of ten at the time of my being there. Many different characters and personalities are remembered and a few heartaches. Heartaches connected with memories of girls desperate to keep their babies but society pushing aggresively for adoption.

We had Morning Prayer each morning which was a lovely routine for me - a bit of reassurance in an environment of stressful emotions and unsure future. Bitchiness was always present and I felt so threatened by it. We were allowed to go for walks each evening but not many of us did because of the stares we received from passer-bys. Every Sunday we all went home to families to be back by evening mealtime. For our regular checkups, we would all be taxied to and from the House to Queen Victoria Hospital. All of us were made to wear cheap Woolworths plain rings as wedding rings - hardly any of us at the time were over 16! I remember being treated less than respectful by student and registered doctors but that was the era when to be pregnant held low esteem in society.

There was a big sunroom where we would all gather after lunch and I had my sewing machine and would sew dresses (maternity smocks) for girls and for myself.







I have wanted to catch up with these girls but don't know where to start.

I know the House of Mercy was opened in the late 1880's and so I am very interested in learning more about this old Home. My last recollection is that is it privately owned now.

I remember the cook was drunk more often than not!

Period : 1946-1979
Place : Walkerville
Region : Adelaide metropolitan area



About SA Memory

Explore SA Memory

SA Memory Themes


My SA Memory


What's on