Winifred Kiek

Winifred Kiek (1884-1975), Congregational Church minister, was born in Manchester, England, daughter of Margaret (born Harker) and Robert Jackson, who were Quakers. She won a scholarship to Manchester Pupil Teacher Training Centre at 16, matriculated in 1904, graduated BA from the Victoria University of Manchester in 1907 and then worked as a teacher. In 1911 she married Edward Sidney Kiek, Congregational minister at Newcastle-under-Lyme. She severed her connection with the Society of Friends and became a Congregationalist. She had three children: Sidney Noel (1912), Margaret Lucy (1914) and Laurence Edward (1918).

In 1920 Edward Kiek was appointed principal of the Congregational seminary, Parkin Theological College, Adelaide, and the family moved permanently to Australia. From that time, Winifred Kiek's career flourished. Her academic, ecclesiastical and creative achievements, as well as her leadership of many local, national and international women's organisations, are a testimony to her remarkable ability, energy and spirit. They are also testimony to material and personal circumstances which combined to give her opportunities that were not available to many women: she had domestic help for most of her life and she had a husband who expected her to be his intellectual, spiritual and emotional companion. However, she did not shirk traditional female roles and from time to time acted as housekeeper to the students of Parkin College. She took seriously the task of parenting and published her ideas in Child Nature and Child Nurture (1927).

In 1923 Kiek became the first woman to graduate BD from Melbourne College of Divinity. In 1929 she was awarded an MA by the University of Adelaide and in 1930 lectured part-time at Parkin College. In 1927 she was ordained as a minister of the Congregational Church, thus becoming the first woman to be ordained to the ministry of any church in Australia. She believed that exclusion of women from the ministry was 'unfair to them, unfair to the churches, and may even be a sin against the Holy Spirit' and had published these views as early as 1921. She ministered at Colonel Light Gardens from 1926 until 1933, at Knoxville from 1938 to 1946 and preached somewhere on most Sundays for the rest of her life. Several of her sermons were published in the Christian World Pulpit. She held executive positions in the Congregational Women's Fellowship of Australia, and the Congregational Union in South Australia honoured her by twice electing her as its vice-chairman.

Kiek joined the National Council of Women, the Women's Non-Party Association and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in 1920 and remained active in these organisations most of her life. In all of them she assumed leadership roles, convening committees, leading deputations, lobbying, researching, writing and attending conferences. Her chief areas of work and interest included legal rights of women, especially in relation to marriage and divorce, moral education, the welfare of children, the operation of the Children's Court, with which she was involved as a probation officer from 1926 to 1946, increased parliamentary representation for women, the abolition of the 'white Australia policy' and, above all, peace. She was a life-long crusader for peace and championed internationalism, supranational law, collective security and the internationalisation of colonies and munitions factories. She was a key figure in the Peace Week organised by the International Peace Campaign in Adelaide in 1938, and prepared papers for the Campaign's Women's Peace Conference in 1939. Her contribution was acclaimed by peace workers, including those who did not share her Christian convictions.

Kiek's work for the Australian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches in the 1950s on the role and status of women in the church was commemorated by the establishment, in 1965, of the Winifred Kiek Scholarship which provides specialised training for Christian women from Asia and the Pacific.

Kiek was a delegate to international conferences of the International Alliance of Women in 1949, 1955 and 1960, of the World Council of Churches in 1952, of the Pan-Pacific and South East Asia Women's Association in 1952 and the Asian Church Women's Conference in 1966. She died in 1975 aged 90.

Judith Raftery

Margaret Knauerhase Winifred 1978.