Mary Anderson was a Salvation Army Officer and her first 12 years after graduating from The Salvation Army’s Training College in 1901 was in Corps work. Her concern was always for the poor, the disadvantaged and those with special problems. In 1913 she was appointed to the Melbourne Police Court to assist women and girls in distress.
The stories of her work in the courts are legend. She was never concerned with religious denomination, and she never gave up! She had a wonderfully spontaneous sense of humour and also the knowledge and tenacity of purpose to see a task through, which meant that many of the women and girls who came before the magistrates were able to be assisted and rehabilitated.
The officers of the court and police force placed great reliance on her judgement and many women were kept out of prison by her intercession and acceptance of responsibility for them. From 1917 the matronship of Salvation Army women’s shelters were added to her responsibilities.
Mary Anderson was a highly respected Justice of the Peace, was given a Life-Governorship of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, invited to become an Associate Member of the National Council of Women, appointed a Life Member of the Honorary Justices Association, and was the first Vice-President of the Probation Officers Association of Victoria.
Mary Anderson, in 1943, was the first Australian woman to be awarded the Order of the Founder. The Order of the Founder is The Salvation Army’s highest honour.
She retired in 1935, but continued her police work for a further 11 years, and was honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours of 1956, receiving the MBE from the Governor of Victoria.
Mary Anderson (“the Little Major”) died in 1956. On the day of her funeral all of the Courts in Melbourne closed for the morning, and many judges and magistrates attended her funeral service at the Melbourne City Temple.