• Died 25 February 1902
  • Buried Ballarat Old Cemetery

How 60-year-old Janet Geddes came to be a resident of the Ballarat Female Refuge (for single mothers) is largely unexplained. However a clue can be found in the correspondence records. Geddes had had a long association with the Refuge, having been employed at Grant Street as a servant in 1874. A previous pregnancy had seen her an inmate of Ballarat Hospital in 1862. In 1887 the Inspector of Charities queried Geddes’ eligibility to still be counted amongst the inmates. The Ballarat Female Refuge Secretary, Edith Glenn, acknowledged his criticism and noted that in future Geddes would be counted as staff.

Given the importance of the laundry to the financial stability of such institutions it was not uncommon for a small number of older women to be retained because they were reliable workers and it would seem from this response, and the fact that she was described as a ‘laundress’ in 1889, that Janet fell into this category. However, if this was the case, her period of sanctuary was short-lived. The doctor treated her for neuralgia, flatulent colic, and dyspepsia on many occasions from 1888 until 1890. When, suffering from bronchitis, she was hospitalised in 1890, it appears her usefulness in the laundry had expired.

On her discharge from hospital Geddes lived independently but far from successfully in the community. On 23 July 1890 Geddes was charged with being drunk and disorderly and described in the court as an habitual drunkard. In May 1891 she was back before the Ballarat East Court of Petty Sessions charged with thieving two fowls to the value of 3/-, the property of Too Chee, and sentenced for one month’s imprisonment. In September 1891 Geddes pleaded guilty to a charge of being drunk and disorderly in Bridge Street, and was fined 5/-. She was in Collingwood in 1896 getting assistance for a short time from the Melbourne Ladies Benevolent Society and died eight years later, at the age of 71, having been a resident of the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum. Geddes was buried in an unmarked grave at the Ballaarat Old Cemetery on 25 February 1902.