Personality: Samuel Marsden

The Reverend Samuel Marsden (1765 – 1838) was in many ways, the driving force behind the establishment of the Female Orphan School. Born in Yorkshire, the evangelical Anglican clergyman arrived in Sydney in 1794 and strongly opposed the existing ‘boarding out’ system that had been used to manage the problem of orphaned children in the colony. He argued that it was inefficient and often against the interests of the child. Instead, he proposed a central, state institution to care for the destitute and orphaned children of the young colony, where they could be “brought up in the principles of morality and industry”. He warned that “if some private or public establishment is not instituted for them, they will be more abandoned than their unfortunate parents; at present they are brought up in idleness and uncleanness, and robbery, and scattered up and down in every part of the settlement”. He stridently argued that these children should be instructed with a strong code of morality, based on the Christian faith. His vision was realised with the establishment of the Female Orphan School in Sydney, and he later supervised the construction of a purpose-built structure in Parramatta.