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Alice Maud Winspear (c. 1866–1898)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

This entry is from People Australia

Alice Maud Caroline Winspear, née Drake (1866-1898), secularist and “free love” advocate 

Baptised: 23 December 1866 in St Paul’s Church, Knightsbridge, London, England, daughter of Charles Drake, scripture reader, later insurance agent, and Caroline Zelia Ford Stokes, née Horn. Marriage: 24 December 1885 in Newcastle registrar’s office, to William Robert Winspear. They had two daughters and three sons. Death: 30 October 1898 at St Peters, New South Wales. Religion: Secularist.

  • A domestic servant, aged 16, Alice arrived in Sydney from Portsmouth on 29 September 1883 with her father, a widower, and her brother Frank as assisted immigrants aboard the Smyrna. Her two eldest brothers had arrived in the Orontes the previous year.
  • She settled in Hamilton, Newcastle, with her father, who took an active interest in local affairs. He was secretary of a committee to form a union for wharf labourers and twice stood for election to Hamilton municipal council. He was also prominent in the temperance cause, as was his daughter, both being being members of the Court “True Freedom” of the Independent Order of Friends of Temperance. Charles Drake also frequently delivered lectures in the Hall of Science on scriptural subjects. In November 1885 he delivered a lecture “The Bible not reliable” at the Lambton Secular Society, of which W. R. Winspear was secretary.
  • After marriage Alice lived at Hamilton, in Newcastle, where she helped her husband publish the first issue of the Radical in March 1888. Later renamed The Australian Radical, in April 1889 it included an article ‘Ingersoll on Marriage and Divorce’ by “Alice Win”. It seems almost certain that this radical view of marriage, espousing the freedom of men and women “to love where they like”, was written by Alice Winspear.
  • The family lived in Melbourne for a time, then about 1890 returned to Newcastle, where her eldest four children were born. They then moved to a cottage in St Peters, Sydney, and her youngest child was born there in August 1898.
  • Her father had died in January that year. In September her husband was sentenced to 18 months in prison. In very bad health and financial difficulty, she had to support her five children. A month later, while the two daughters were at Sunday School, having put the baby to sleep after breakfast, she committed suicide by hanging herself with a leather waist strap from a nail over the mantelpiece, apparently in the hope that the government would be forced to provide for her children. She was found by two of her sons. She was a total abstainer.
  • Alice was buried at Rookwood general cemetery. Her baby died in the Benevolent Asylum on 14 December 1898. His cause of death was given as diarrhoea. The surviving children were cared for by relatives until her husband was released from prison.

Bob James, A Reader of Australian Anarchism, 1886-1896 (Canberra, 1979).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Winspear, Alice Maud (c. 1866–1898)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 July 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Drake, Alice Maud

c. 1866
London, Middlesex, England


30 October, 1898 (aged ~ 32)
St Peters, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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