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Frances Martha Hill (1863–1955)

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Frances Martha Hill, née Ruffy (also known as Ruffy-Hill) (1863-1955) elocutionist, trade union official and women’s activist

Birth: 19 November and baptised on 27 December 1863 at Anglican Christ Church, Chelsea, Middlesex, London, England, daughter of Christopher Edgar Ruffy (1827-1893), accountant, and Mary, née Smith. (1828-1912) Marriage: 11 September 1886 at Suva, Fiji, to Harry Arthur Graham Hill (-1928), an excise officer. They had two daughters. Death: 12 April 1955 in hospital at Perth, Western Australia; usual residence The Esplanade, South Perth. Religion: Anglican. 

  • First arrived in Australia in 1884 to visit relatives in Victoria, where she met her husband, the son of a planter in Fiji.
  • Her husband transferred to the Customs Department at Fremantle, Western Australia, and the family moved there about 1900. But Frances was back in Melbourne in 1902 and 1903 speaking on women’s issues. In June 1902 she spoke at a meeting of the newly-formed Carlton and Fitzroy Women’s Progressive League urging women to use the franchise. In March 1903 she lectured publicly on 'Woman’s Duty to the State’ at the Footscray branch of the Australasian Women’s Association.
  • In Perth, Ruffy-Hill was president of the women's section of the Sewerage Employees' Union, a composite union which also sought to eliminate sweating for female outworkers in the clothing trades.
  • In 1912 she gave lectures in Sydney on the evils of the 'White Slave Trade' which caused sufficient controversy as to require a detective/bodyguard.
  • 1925 she was linked with the North Suburban Women's PLP (Australian Labor Party).
  • Also was a foundation member of the Women's Service Guilds, WA president 1926-1927.
  • Elocutionist and noted Shakespearean actress: “her ‘Lady Macbeth’ was praised by professionals. Reputedly “trained by G. B. W. Lewis”.
  • Cause of death: cardiac failure (weeks), hypertension (years) and arteriosclosis (years); contributory cause: fracture of 1st left metatarsal (2 weeks).

Daphne Popham (ed), Reflections: profiles of 150 women who helped make Western Australia’s history (Perth, Sydney, 1978).

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Citation details

'Hill, Frances Martha (1863–1955)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Ruffy, Frances Martha
  • Ruffy-Hill, Frances Martha

19 November, 1863
London, Middlesex, England


12 April, 1955 (aged 91)
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Organisations
Political Activism