Singer, Actor, Composer, and Sidney Myer Business Woman
1885 – 1957
I see clearly, now, that my life has not been in vain. There are many women in executive positions these days. For me, it was so hard – but I must have made the way easier for others.
Adeline May Keating was the seventh child of William and Ann Keating. Adeline was privately educated with her sisters. Her musical talents were encouraged. By the age of 19, she was well-known across the district having won many singing and composing competitions. Invited to audition for the Wood-Williamson Company in Melbourne, stage fright got the better of her, and she gave up the theatrical world.
In 1914, after a sequence of jobs from pianist, to a barmaid, with periods of unemployment and illness, she was employed By Sidney Myer the day his Bourke Street Emporium opened in 1914.
Employed in the children’s toy section of Myer’s basement, earlier hardships were replaced with prejudice and frustration but Adeline continued to work with dedication and persistence. In 1916, she was promoted to head of the Toy Section with a pay rise.
On one unforgettable occasion, she overheard Sidney say that Miss Keating was worth more than two men to the business.
As the buyer of children’s toys for the store, further promotions and opportunities for travel appeared. Sidney was now convinced that Adeline was married to the store.
From 1919, Adeline purchased stock in Asia, America, and Europe, which included some time living in Paris as a full-time buyer. Within ten years, she was the highest-paid business woman in Australia.
Success brought adversaries amongst both female and male staff. It was rumoured that Adeline was having an affair with Myer, for there must be some reason why a woman gets the best trips. Her reaction to this jealousy was to encourage Sidney Myer to allow other department managers to do their buying, both male and female, for she had every confidence in them. Yet further gossip about Addie and a female friend became unbearable and Addie resigned in 1932.
In 1928 Adeline created an electrified animated toy zoo on the third floor that has become an annual display in the windows of Myer’s Bourke Street store.
After resigning from Myers, Adeline opened a small factory producing wooden toys of her design. In two years she had established a thriving business with fourteen employees and had orders from major stores across Australia for her toys.
In her late fifties, after a serious stroke, Adeline retired. Her health remained poor though her spirit revived. She lived several more years and died in 1956 aged 72.
As the first Australian woman to enter her field she fought her battles for all women, defying tradition in every area of Myers Big Store business, just as she had challenged the theatrical critics in her youth.
Biography provided by The City of Greater Bendigo
Celebrating Bendigo Women 2016
Hellegers (1987) Against the Current; Pub JM Dent Knoxfield, Victoria.
Myer store, Bendigo
The first Myer store! Myers Bendigo was opened by Sidney and Elcon Myer in 1900. The brothers opened a second Bendigo store in 1908. In 1911 Sidney Myer bought adjoining properties on Melbourne’s Bourke Street and opened the Myer Emporium.
Acknowledgement:The City of Greater Bendigo is on Dja Dja Wurrung and Taungurung Country. We acknowledge and extend our appreciation for the Dja Dja Wurrung People, the Traditional Owners of the land past, present and future. We extend our respect to all first nations people living in the region.