Thinking About MR. A. W. FLEMING. The Smith Family Founded in NZ and another name...

posted Jan 11, 2016, 7:54 AM by Devotion News Editor   [ updated Mar 23, 2016, 5:46 PM ]
A hot night and I'm up poking around the internet and my mind turns back to the origins of the Smith Family and the one firm name I have; MR. A. W. FLEMING.

Founding Member of the Smith Family Charity
Fleming died 8 years and about 4 months after the first visit by the Smiths at Christmas Eve 1922. He was certainly recorded as a Freemason.

He is recorded in his obituary as a "foundation member" of the Smith Family, but the obit does not record he was there on 24 Dec 1922. There is nothing to say the Founding Members of a formal organisation, albeit one comprised of "Smiths", were the same men as those who had visited the orphanage on Christmas Eve in '22.

I wonder at the reaction of the Smith Family to the Obituary. It may have been an important moment in the evolution of the Smiths where they raised an objection to a real name being recorded as a member. This certainly contravened the organisation's Constitution, but I do not have a firm date for that Constitution. Certainly this Obituary is the sole one of its type I can find. Perhaps the other foundation members did not warrant such an Obituary, perhaps the other names were not known, perhaps linking a clearly identified person was not in keeping with the ways of the Mr and Mrs Smiths, perhaps, perhaps... it's a common theme here..

The Great Depression start date is generally accepted as Black Tuesday 29 Oct 1929. The effects took some time to be felt but when Brother Fleming died in March 1931 it was being felt in Australia. Wikipedia tells me unemployment reached a record high of 29% in 1932 in Australia. Flemming died as the Depression  would have been biting into Sydney's workers but just before its peak. The Depression would have created much work for the Smiths as it did for all such organizations through the world. A year after Flemming's death, a book was published on the Smiths "its work and story" (1932). Sometimes such books are written to promote rather than to record an organization, I am keen to read this book written as the Depression raged and while most of the founders of The Smith Family would have all been alive. It is worth noting it was published the year following Flemmings death.

In 1932, I understand the Smith Family was also founded in New Zealand. I've just discovered that via google.

The Fabric of Welfare: Voluntary Organisations, Government and Welfare in New Zealand, 1840-2005, Margaret Tennant, Bridget Williams Books, 2007 Page 112-113 gives us some more crumbs and another book to examine..

Joyspeadking and Mothers' Rests

Depression, on a communal as well as an individual level, prompts the prescription of good cheer. 'Cheer-up weeks' were tried in some New Zealand Centres, while 'Sunshine' and 'Happiness' clubs proliferated. One of the standard images of 1930's New Zealand involved men and woman, many in cheap sandshoes, lining up outside the 'Smith Family Joyspreaders' - a relief organisation founded by Wellington businessmen in February 1932, but inspired by an association that is sill a significant element among Sydney's social services.

'Joyspreading' involved a two-pronged approach for the Smith Family; boosting community morale while relieving individual destitution, During the Depression the organization subsidized children's attendance at health camps, sending unemployed youths out possum-trapping, provided a boot repair facility, acted as an intermediary in tenancy and debt collection disputes, distributed food orders, organized community singalongs, ad ran Christmas parties and free picture shows for needy children...... ... .... The "Smith Family' of the title did not refer to a related group of philanthropists, but to the 'anonymous and universal' application of the organization itself. 'Smith' was a name redolent of the ordinary and the recurrent, and participants in the Smith Family's work were supposed to be enveloped in the anonymity of a common surname. Hence there was not only "Chairman Smith', but 'Secretary Smith' and anonymous women workers, such as 'Mrs Hope Smith', who made a thousand garment for distribution among the poor of Wellington in 1933. The Smith Family aimed to replicate the 'kindly-disposed neigbour' what came out to light when things were at there blackest, and some of those helped during the Depression apparently did not know the source of their assistance.... .... In May 1935 the Smith Family Inc (the 'Joyspreaders' having faded from usage) amalgamated with the Mayors' Metropolitan Relief Committee. Having been so closely associated with depression conditions, the organization had to chart new waters after 1935. By 1938 Peter Fraser was the Smith Family' titular president, and close links with his office became apparent in the records..... in 1941 the Minister of Internal Affairs, Bill Parry, instructed his department to appoint an officer to liaise with the organization over an extended 'Mothers' Rest' scheme..... Peter Fraser later supported the schemes extension.."

The above was sourced here

The Smith Family seemed busy in Depression New Zealand as well as in Australia.

Of the names above, Peter Fraser, NZ Prime Minister, nor Bill Parry appear to have been a Freemason. Pity, that might have been another circumstantial link..

Still... business and philanthropy,,, automatically makes me think of Rotary (founded in 1905 in Chicago USA. Rotary was founded in Melbourne in 1921 and soon after Sydney... Women were not admired to Rotary until 1989... but they seemed involved in the Smith Family from its early formation..

For the Record there are two Fleming Notices;
"OBITUARY. MR. A. W. FLEMING." The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) 18 Mar 1931: 18. Web. 10 Feb 2016

1931 'MR. A. W. FLEMING.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), 19 March, p. 13, viewed 10 February, 2016,

It is the first of the above which appears on this page as a jpg.

It's late... the search will have to continue another day.