Annie Lock

Annie Lock was a woman of many strengths, possibly less than an average amount of human flaws, and a personality most peers found too abrasive to work with, but her commitment to God and her zeal for humanity’s salvation was never in doubt.

Lock was born on August 1st 1876 in Rhynie, South Australia, the seventh child of Ann and Walter Lock. Until 1901 she worked as a dressmaker before enrolling in Angas College in Adelaide where she was trained to be a missionary. She joined the New South Wales Aborigines Mission (later turned Australian Aborigines Mission, then United Aborigines Mission) in 1903 and thus began her mission work among the Aboriginal people of Australia.

Sending a single woman to the missions field was becoming an ordinary practice of the missions board and feeling called to the field, Lock had no qualms about aiding and ministering to the less sought after aboriginal people who were spoken of as being “too dirty and nobody can do much with them,” (Bishop, 1991). She spent the next 34 years cooking, cleaning, nursing, and protecting the people she felt called to evangelize. In that time, Lock lived in 10 different mission camps in four states.

When it was reported to her that there were children being neglected, she would bring the news to the attention of the mission and would likely soon have new children to care for. (Bishop. Appendix E; Locks letters, Oct. 5 1910). Lock requested food and clothing for the people in her care, and gave ample thanks in her letters for both prayers and provisions. Sometimes, as when natives came from other areas for a meeting (letters; Sept. 7 1914), Lock “gave out 80 lb. of flour, 12 Sugar, oatmeal & rice from my own stores so as to prevent them begging too much in the town.” She referred to her living quarters on the reservation as “home” and wrote of many touching moments with the children; “It was getting quite dusk when we turned homeward, and the thought just came to me to wonder whether the child would be frightened in the darkening shadows. In answer to my thought a little hand stole into mine, and a little voice appealed to me – ‘God will take care of us, won’t He Miss-?’ So we hummed the comforting chorus for the remainder of our walk” (letters; 02/28/1910).

Annie Lock image from Women’s Museum of Australia and Old Gaol Alice Springs.

34 years is a long time to camp in the Australian bush and would require a colossal commitment to one’s belief in one’s work. Those responsible for inquiring into the Coniston Massacre labelled her ‘a woman missionary living amongst naked blacks thus lowering their respect for white people’, possibly due to her role in helping to publicize the massacre. She also made no friends when she stood up against the abuses the whites inflicted upon the Aboriginal women. The whites brow beat her for letting the native children sit on her lap, and for sharing so intimately with the native people as to even drink from the same cup. Lock endured it all until she found love in 1937 and at the age of 60 married for the first time. They retired to Eyre Peninsula and six years later she died of Pneumonia.

Catherine Bishop’s 1991 Master’s Theses on Annie Lock

Catherine Bishop Postdoctoral Fellow. (2021, October 20). Hidden women of history: Annie Lock was a Bolshie, outspoken Australian missionary, full of contradictions. The Conversation. Retrieved February 18, 2022, from https://theconversation.com/hidden-women-of-history-annie-lock-was-a-bolshie-outspoken-australian-missionary-full-of-contradictions-167781

Herstory. Women’s Museum of Australia. (n.d.). Retrieved February 18, 2022, from https://wmoa.com.au/herstory-archive/lock

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