The Home Mission Society of Victoria was established in circa 1871 by the Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church to undertake mission work in city and country. Under the auspices of the Home Mission Society, the Central Dorcas Society, later called the Wesleyan Church Neglected Children's Aid Society, ran Livingstone House in Carlton.
In 1884, the Home Mission Society appointed Mrs Varcoe as its Biblewoman. Along with religious tracts and counselling, the Biblewoman provided money for rent and food, clothing, advice on Melbourne's charities and support for the sick and aged.
By 1888, the Home Mission Society was employing eight Biblewomen - two at Wesley Church, and others at churches in St Kilda, Prahran, South Melbourne, Richmond, Fitzroy and Collingwood. The Biblewomen were supported by local Dorcas Societies, operating in Wesleyan congregations in the 1880s and providing the Biblewomen with money, clothing and food. Mrs Varcoe was given the title of Senior Biblewoman.
In 1888, over one hundred women met to establish the Central Dorcas Society, a women's organisation within the Methodist Church. Its aims were 'to help the poor and look after waifs'. In 1888, Rev. Crisp, Chairman of the Home Mission, authorised a committee from the Central Dorcas Society to run Livingstone House in Carlton, under the auspices of the Home Mission Society. The Home Mission Society made it clear that the ladies committee had to raise its own funds for the Home, and not draw on those of the Home Mission.
Sources used to compile this entry: Howe, Renate; Swain, Shurlee, All God's Children: a centenary history of the Methodist Homes for Children and the Orana Peace Memorial Homes, Acorn Press, Kambah, ACT, 1989.
Prepared by: Cate O'Neill and Ann McCarthy
Created: 8 May 2009, Last modified: 31 October 2017