Devout Baptist Rosetta Birks encourages women's-vote support in the wealthier circles
Rosetta Birks (at right with Mary Lee), as featured in a tapestry to mark the centenary of the South Australian suffragist movement.
Rosetta Jane Birks, suffragist and philanthropist, was, one of nine children of South Australian newspaper owner William Kyffin Thomas and his wife Mary Jane. The granddaughter of Mary Thomas, Rose grew up in a family that strongly supported public life and philanthropic causes.
She was a lifelong member of the evangelical Flinders Street Baptist Church, co-founded by her father. In 1879 at Glenelg, Rosetta married her sister's widower Charles Birks, a draper, and became stepmother to his six children.
Charles and Rose Birks lived for a time in England, returning to Adelaide in 1886 when the Commercial Bank of South Australia collapsed. Charles resumed managing Charles Birks & Co store.
Rose Birks presided over several Baptist women's associations, including a mothers' union. She had joined the Ladies' Social Purity Society in 1882 and worked as treasurer of that and many philanthropic organizations.
Regular meetings at Knutsford, the Birks' home at Glenelg, won support for women's suffrage in wealthier social circles. Rose later became treasurer of the short-lived idealistic and educational Women's League.
Rose became a board member of the Adelaide Hospital and the Queen's (maternity) Home. In 1902, she helped to found of the South Australian branch of the National Council of Women.
The high point of her work for girls was within the Young Women's Christian Association and she is credited with modernising the Australasian movement.