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Mary Grant Roberts

Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women logo
Mary Roberts

Awarded for service to the Community

Born: 1841

Died: 1921

Entered on roll: 2006

Mary Roberts (nee Lindsay) was born in 1841 in Hobart, the youngest child of the family. She married Henry Roberts in 1863.

In 1877, Mary and her husband used two acres of land to build Beaumaris. In 1895, she opened the Beaumaris Zoo, which primarily housed birds. Although Mary had not undertaken any professional scientific training, she had great skill in animal husbandry.

The Zoo soon became well known for exhibiting birds as well as thylacines, which she obtained throughout the state. She sold some of the thylacines to zoos in England and America. In 1910, she was the only Tasmanian zookeeper at that time to draw international interest and was invited to become a corresponding member of the Zoological Society of London.

Carrying out chores deemed unsuitable for a lady of the period, Mary personally purchased the animal food, fed the animals and handled all animals in her Zoo including the thylacines.

She was also known as the first to breed Tasmanian devils in captivity and published a study about this in the Zoological Society of London’s Proceedings in 1915.

She founded the Anti-Plumage League and the Game Preservation Society and was responsible for the Royal Society of Tasmania campaign to strengthen Tasmania’s legislation regarding animal welfare.

Mary’s interest in many issues led to her giving time and support to numerous groups and organisations in Tasmania. She was a council-member of the Art Society and the Mother’s Union; a delegate to the Tasmanian National Council of Women; and a committee member of the National Club and Young Women’s Christian Association. She also assisted in setting up the Girl Guides Association of Tasmania. Mary belonged to many other groups dealing with animal and human rights.

Mary had strong moral views, regularly attended church and was also extremely patriotic. She raised funds to erect a statue to King Edward VII and ran charity afternoons at her zoo during World War I.

Mary died in Hobart in 1921, survived by two sons and two daughters. After her death, the Zoo was presented to the Hobart City Council and relocated to the Queen’s Domain. The Zoo was closed in 1937.

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