Lucy Morice, niece of Catherine Helen Spence, promotes kindergartens as way to a just society

Lucy Morice started the Kindergarten Union and the School for Mothers Institute among her many causes.
Image courtesy State Library of South Australia

Kindergartens became the most passionate cause of Lucy Morice, a social reformer alongside her aunt and close friend Catherine Helen Spence.

Influenced by her family’s Unitarian and political beliefs, Morice developed an idealistic version of a just society. Such idealism was challenged by the failure, first of the Women’s League founded with Spence in 1895, and then the South Australian Co-operative Clothing Company (1902-13), designed to stop women being exploited.

Morice and her husband James helped to found an Adelaide Fabian group; in 1903, they had met the Shaws and other Fabians in England. She turned to the Anglican Church and theosophy, and claimed to be a socialist. In 1905, she joined a United Trades and Labor Council committee to form a new trade union: the Women's Employment Mutual Association.

Morice enjoyed music and, in 1911-12, was on the Adelaide Literary Theatre board. She attended Government House balls and held Sunday salons.

In 1905, she helped to found the Kindergarten Union of South Australia. With Lillian de Lissa (director of the first Adelaide free kindergarten in Franklin Street), she battled to keep the union's early independence.

Morice lectured in history of education to Kindergarten Training College students in 1908-25 and stimulated them to read widely. Her belief in kindergarten as a hope for society's future was allied with distaste for the regimented state schools.

Her compassion for children caused her, with Helen Mayo, to found the School for Mothers Institute in 1909. As president, she campaigned against high infant mortality rates. That year, on Vida Golstein’s advice, Morice started the Women's (later Non-Party) Political Association, succeeding Spence as its president.

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