Macarthur-Onslow, Elizabeth (1840–1911)

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Macarthur-Onslow, Elizabeth (1840–1911)

Australian property owner and businesswoman . Born on May 8, 1840, at Camden Park, Menangle, New South Wales; died on August 2, 1911, while visiting England; only child of James Macarthur and Emily (Stone) Macarthur; granddaughter of Australian wool industry pioneers Elizabeth Macarthur (1767–1850) and John Macarthur; married Arthur Alexander Walton Onslow (a navy captain), on January 31, 1867 (died 1882); children: six sons and two daughters (one son and one daughter died in infancy).

The only child of James Macarthur, scion of an Australian family that had amassed a fortune in the sheep industry, and Emily Stone Macarthur , Elizabeth Macarthur-Onslow was born on May 8, 1840, at the family estate of Camden Park in New South Wales. She was educated at home and as a young adult spent four years on a European "Grand Tour" with her parents. In January 1867, she married Arthur Onslow, a captain in the navy. With her father's death later that year, she inherited a share in Camden Park as well as valuable real estate elsewhere in the state. Her husband died in 1882, and at the end of that decade she lived abroad for several years with her surviving six children while studying recent improvements in the dairy industry. Around 1890, the deaths of two childless uncles brought the whole of the Macarthur property into her possession.

Macarthur-Onslow (she legally adopted this name in 1892) returned to Australia and established profitable dairies and a central creamery at Camden Park. The dairies were set up in a semi-cooperative style, with workers and their families provided with housing, equipment, and 60 head of cattle each. The resulting milk, cream and butter were heavily promoted as "hygienic" due to the use of steam processing. Macarthur-Onslow also planted mulberry trees at the estate to use in breeding silkworms for raw silk, and was a member of the Women's Cooperative Silk-Growing and Industrial Association and the Victorian Silk Culture Association. A local philanthropist, she contributed to the Agricultural Society, Camden's School of the Arts, and Macarthur Park, and was a member of the women's branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Possessed of sharp business acumen, she converted the family estate into a corporation in 1899, naming her children as shareholders and thus consolidating the fortune.


Radi, Heather, ed. 200 Australian Women: A Redress Anthology. NSW, Australia: Women's Redress Press, 1988.