Mary Florence Leviny, (1869 -1939)
Mary Florence Leviny (1869 -1939) was the eldest daughter of the family and was expected to assist her mother in the running of the household and the care of the younger children. She was a keen sewer who enjoyed doing fancy needlework along with making clothes for the family.
At 21 years of age Mary was the only one of the Leviny girls old enough to sign the Woman’s Suffrage Petition of 1891. She attended painting classes in Melbourne with the artist Jane Sutherland in 1892 and later took art classes at the Bendigo School of Mines with Arthur T. Woodward. In her diary, kept between 1890 and 1896, she records a very active social life. She writes of attending balls and parties, going on picnics and outings to gather wildflowers, trips to Melbourne and the beach, as well as visits to exhibitions, concerts and lectures.
Mary had a strong social conscience and was an inaugural member and treasurer of the local Red Cross in 1914. She was involved in the Castlemaine Progress Association and in the establishment of the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum in 1913. Mary managed most of the family’s business affairs after her father’s death in 1905. She died in August 1939 aged 69.
Buda historic house and garden in Castlemaine contains a rich legacy of the creative spirit of the Leviny Family, who lived there for over 118 years. The Leviny daughters were encouraged to pursue their artistic interests at a time when women were being given more opportunities to study art and take up careers. They worked across a range of media including painting, woodcarving, metalwork, needlework and photography.
It was largely due to the foresight of last surviving sister, Hilda, that Buda was preserved as a house and garden museum when she sold the property to the Castlemaine Art Gallery in 1970. Her sisters, Mary and Kate, left a broader civic legacy through their involvement in establishing the Castlemaine Art Gallery in 1913, and assisting with the development of the gallery’s fine collection of prints in the late 1920s
Text adapted from the booklet Buda and the Leviny Family, Lauretta Zilles (2011)
Studio portrait of Mary Florence Leviny, 1895
Photograph from the collection of Buda Historic Home & Garden