The only relative on my father’s side that I ever met apart from his mother, was Les Bailey, Linden’s cousin. Adelaide Ridgway was Ella’s sister, born in 1864, eleven years before Ella. She married Charles Bailey in 1886 and had four children including Leslie Owen Bailey who was born in 1890, seventeen years before my father.
I actually got to meet this much admired relative in the flesh one day around 1959 when we drove to Hopewood in Bowral. I was told this was a home for war orphans who had excellent teeth because they ate good food and had no lollies or sugary drinks. When my dentist filled all my decaying molars with amalgam my father was beside himself with rage as I would now never rival the children of Hopewood.
The meeting was brief. We drove the truck into the sweeping driveway. Les Bailey talked a while and we drove away. Maybe my father told him we were now living in the area but I never saw him again.
Years later Les Bailey hit the headlines. He had died by that time (in 1964) and was no longer considered to
be the wonderful reformer he once was. He was accused of mistreating the orphans and even of keeping them from their rightful parents. Using information from the “Find and Connect” site I have tried to convey his controversial legacy.
Above is a digital copy of an image reproduced on 30 August 2012 from Jack Dunn Trop in A Gift of Love: The Hopewood Story.
In the late 1930s L.O. Bailey, a wealthy lingerie and clothing manufacturer, decided to test his ideals of ‘natural living’ and ‘natural health’ by conducting an experiment. He founded the Youth Welfare Association of Australia (YWAA). Bailey gathered 43 male and 43 females from unmarried mothers from 1942 until 1951 and raised them at Hopewood, and at smaller institutions in New South Wales, using his principles of ‘natural health’.
The 86 ‘Hopewood Children’, or ‘Hopewoods’, were told they were orphans and raised as ‘brothers and sisters’, although they were not adopted, or legally fostered. Bailey fed them all a vegetarian diet of mostly raw food, never allowed vaccination and avoided modern medicine. He recorded their progress, with assistance from doctors and dentists, and published widely about the success of his methods.
‘Hopewood’ was a grand mansion, built in 1884 for Ben Marshall Osborne, who named it after his own son, Hamilton Hope. The YWAA converted the flower gardens to vegetable patches to feed the children, closed in the verandahs and converted the stables to The Pavilion, to make room for the children. The new Hopewood Home was officially opened by Acting Prime Minister Frank Forde in November 1944. A full-time staff was hired and Bailey and his assistant, Mrs Cockburn, visited weekly.
The Hopewood diet was of food ‘in its natural state’: milk, salad vegetables, fruit, nuts, dates, honey, dried fruits, linseed and wholemeal porridge, bread or biscuits, cooked vegetables, molasses, wheat hearts, prunes, cheese, soya beans, treacle, eggs, butter and unpolished rice.
There were problems of course. Getting adequately trained staff who would not abuse the children was difficult. The children had to attend school and from there they would pick up germs and become sick. Then as they became teenagers there was the problem of what to do with them. They were moved into group homes, in Maroubra, Manly, Narrabeen, Mosman and Canberra. Some of these children remained under supervision, but as one woman who grew up in Hopewood reported to the Senate Inquiry Into Institutional Care, girls were also sent out as servants, or placed in the Convent of the Good Shepherd. By the late 1950s Bailey had stopped publishing about the children’s health. By the early 1960s, the only children left at Hopewood were boys who were studying or running the dairy.
Bailey died suddenly in 1964, but his ideas continued to be promoted by Mrs Cockburn. The YWAA gave Hopewood, together with money for its restoration, to a Catholic order, the Society of St Gerard Majella.
Bailey’s ideas live on in the Natural Health Society, which maintains a strong stance on vegetarianism and against vaccination, and in Hopewood Retreat, a vegetarian health spa.
Although the Hopewood children grew up close, it seems that rifts have developed in the group over time. While some Hopewoods feel certain they were loved and raised well by ‘Daddy’ Bailey and his assistant, Florence ‘Madge’ Cockburn, others recall abuses and feel exploited by Bailey’s experimentation. Some have found adult life to be extremely challenging, leaving a sad legacy for their own children and grandchildren. The differences in the memories of the Hopewoods is a source of pain and confusion.
As with many institutions it seems that all was not as it seemed at Hopewood and the children were not prepared adequately for life in the real world. Les Bailey has fallen from grace as revered benefactor to the perpetrator of a failed eugenic vision of a new order.