Women have power. Whether they use that power for good or evil is up to them. Women’s History Month focuses on the women who used their power for good. We should remember what happens when women use their power for evil. It can change lives, such as what happened with Anne Hamilton-Byrne when she used her power to create the destructive cult in Australia called The Family.
Anne Hamilton-Byrne Early Life
Little Evelyn Grace Victoria Edwards was born in 1921. She spent most of her childhood in an orphanage or with absent parents. Her father worked as an itinerant worker, which meant he traveled to find work. Also, doctors diagnosed her mother with schizophrenia. Her behavior made having children in the house dangerous.
At the age of 20, Evelyn Edwards changed her name to Anne Hamilton and married her first husband. They had one child together and planned to adopt another when he died in a car accident in 1955. At this point, Hamilton emerged as a yoga teacher for women in upper-class neighborhoods. Her students felt she was a great teacher.
In 1965, she tried marriage again but divorced a year later. Finally, she met and married Bill Byrne. Together they changed their last name to Hamilton-Byrne. Bill was the man in a time when men held the power. Yet, Anne Hamilton-Byrne wielded real power in the relationship.
In 1962, Anne Hamilton met a doctor named Raynor Johnson. Dr. Johnson wanted to experiment with the use of LSD. During one experiment with the drug, Johnson said Hamilton looked divine and called her the Messiah. To him, she was the second coming of Jesus Christ. Hamilton took that power and ran with it.
Dr. Johnson became a devoted follower of Anne Hamilton. She had also gathered devoted followers through her yoga classes. These followers were not extremely young and confused people. No, she attracted rich women and gay men struggling with their lives. These people had established lives and worked as doctors, lawyers, and other professionals. Through these people, Hamilton acquired millions of dollars and property.
She also acquired something else she wanted, children. With these people she adopted many children, often putting her name down as the birth mother. Also, she fostered children from her followers. She claimed these children would rule the world after the apocalypse and kept them on a strict vegetarian diet and schedule. According to some children who left the cult, any child that misbehaved in any way could be punished by beatings and/or starvation. Through the doctors that followed her, she also drugged the children into compliance.
All her followers and children worshipped her. The older followers regularly took LSD. She introduced the children to the LSD when they turned 14 years old. Anne Hamilton-Byrne used the drug to remind her followers of her divinity. There is no evidence that Hamilton-Byrne took LSD herself. She only required that of her followers and older children.
The End of The Family and Anne Hamilton-Byrne
For twenty years Anne Hamilton-Byrne controlled her followers and her “children”. She kept them from society by isolating them on property and homeschooling. Then one of the teenaged children, Sarah, went to the police and told them about the abuse and drugs.
Using the information from Sarah, in 1987, police raided the property and broke up The Family. Anne Hamilton-Byrne escaped for a few years before captured and returned to Australia. Yet, the police did not charge her for the abuse. They could only convict for tax evasion. She paid a small fine and was let go.
In the end, the children of the cult received helped and returned to their families if possible. Bill Hamilton-Byrne, the husband, died in 2001 and Anne Hamilton-Byrne entered a nursing home in 2004 with dementia. She died in 2019. While some people may still worship Anne Hamilton-Byrne, the cult, The Family, has essentially ceased to exist. Though some scars continue long past her death. Women have power for good or evil that changes lives. Be careful how you use that power.