An Ulladulla heroine is one of three women from the district who feature prominently in a South Coast historian’s latest historical book.
Historian Robyn Florance has released Shoalhaven Women Heroines of WWI, which documents the efforts of many thousands of South Coast women during the war and their efforts at home and aboard.
Agnes Gruer was born at Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1876 a daughter of William Gruer, a carpenter, and his wife Bridget (nee Ward).
The family moved to Ulladulla when she was only two-years-old. Her siblings were Elizabeth May, Catherine Margaret, John ‘Jack’ James Milne and William.
READ MORE: Shoalhaven World War 1 heroines highlighted
She was a cripple and had to be wheeled about in a chair. Agnes worked tirelessly throughout the war years and her efforts were recognised. An article published in the Ulladulla and Milton Times of April 28, 1917 acknowledged her valuable work.
The Times said Agnes was an “excellent substitute” as Ulladulla was without a branch of the Red Cross Society.
“She herself has been devoted to all work connected with the relief of distress associated with the war and has as well drawn to her aid the co-operation and assistance of a number of the residents,” it said.
“Through Miss Gruer’s hands the following goods have passed; Australia Day fund 139 articles; Red Cross, 121; Belgian Babies 123; babies of the Allies 309; for soldiers in the trenches 119; on hand 226. In all 1037 articles.”
Agnes collected a number of letters from the secretaries of the headquarters of the several organisations helped by her, all speaking in highest terms of appreciation of her work and conveying to her and those associated with her the thanks of all concerned.
When we consider Miss Gruer’s physical disability her good work stands out the more conspicuous. Under her supervision the school children gave considerable help, Ms Florance writes.
At a meeting held in the Milton School of Arts on May 1, 1917 the Ulladulla branch of the Red Cross Society was formed with Mrs N. Miller elected president, vice-president Agnes Gruer, and joint secretaries Agnes Gruer and Mr R.A. Bate.
It was decided that the ladies would meet on Wednesday afternoons at 3.30pm. At a public meeting at Milton in May 1917, it was decided to launch a Queen Competition in aid of funds for the Y.M.C.A. Red Triangle Day and hold athletic sports on June 25 at which the elected Queen would be crowned.
This was a State-wide appeal and it was decided that four candidates were to be elected from the district.
The four candidates were Miss Gladys Cork (Milton Town Band nominee) 9,677 votes, Miss Margaret Buchan (Dramatic Club) 6,078 votes, Miss Agnes Gruer (Ulladulla Red Cross) 4,048 votes and Mrs Riley (Milton Red Cross) 3,821 votes.
Agnes’ efforts were rewarded in May 1935 when she was awarded a Red Cross Medal for her work in the district over a period of 20 years and especially during the war.
Agnes continued her self-sacrificing work until she had to relinquish due to illness. She died at the Milton and Ulladulla Hospital on August 6, 1958 aged 82 years.
She was buried beside her parents at Sandridge Cemetery where a headstone marks her resting place.