Mrs Gleiber’s Boarding House: a ‘rendezvous for the lowest characters’ in early twentieth-century Adelaide

Anita Stelmach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, hundreds of boarding and lodging houses competed for paying guests in Adelaide. One such establishment was a city boarding house business operated by Mrs Annie Margaretha Gleiber on the western side of North Terrace from approximately 1893 to 1920. This article uses the example of Mrs Gleiber’s boarding house to provide insight into Adelaide’s boarding house industry, in which hard work and financial uncertainty were the norm for Adelaide’s guest house keepers during this period. This article also investigates reasons for the decline of Mrs Gleiber’s respectable boarding house business into a disreputable ‘common lodging house’ where early twentieth-century social anxieties converged. These anxieties relating to class, gender, morality and race were heightened in 1918 when the police detected a ‘low class’ of male lodgers and numerous prostitutes frequenting Mrs Gleiber’s property. The police also discovered that her premises accommodated an ‘illicit’ sexual liaison between a white woman and a black man, which
resulted in Mrs Gleiber being charged with keeping a ‘disorderly house’. This official response came at a time when interracial relationships were considered taboo for contravening the principles of the widely accepted Australian
population ideology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-69
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of the Historical Society of South Australia
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • boarding houses
  • boarding house business
  • Adelaide
  • Annie Margaretha Gleiber
  • boarding house industry
  • Nineteenth century
  • twentieth century
  • Class and race relations
  • gender
  • interracial relations
  • Australian population


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