Effie Julia Margaret Cardale was well known as a welfare worker in Christchurch, New Zealand, between 1914 and 1955. She was born at Christchurch on 20 May 1873, the daughter of Alfred Cardale, a stock owner, and his wife, Flora Emily Coward. Effie grew up in a large family and was educated privately. The mainspring for her welfare work came from her long association with the Anglican Church of St Michael and All Angels. She was a daily attender at church services and after teaching Sunday school for many years, responded to a request for women to do parish visiting. By 1910 she was designated parish visitor with an annual salary of £10. This work provided scope for her considerable energy and organisational abilities. When she relinquished the position in 1915, her salary had increased to £30.
Effie Cardale began her welfare work in the wider community in 1914 when she was appointed inspector and visitor for the Canterbury Patriotic Fund. Her role was to investigate applications and visit wounded and needy soldiers and sailors, and their families. The fund operated between the wars and Cardale was involved until at least 1949. About 1914 she also became secretary-visitor of the mayor's Coal and Blanket Fund. She later chaired the fund and may have represented it on the Citizens' Benevolent Association with which she was actively connected. In 1916 she was made secretary and inspector of the Canterbury branch of the New Zealand Society for the Protection of Women and Children (NZSPWC). Cardale maintained her links with St Michael and All Angels. In 1929 she became the first woman to be elected to the vestry, serving until 1955. She was also secretary to the Mothers' Union – an unusual office for an unmarried woman to hold.
The Coal and Blanket Fund and the NZSPWC both gave help only in accordance with rigorous moral principles. In 1920, for example, applications to the Coal and Blanket Fund were declined on grounds that included drink, immorality, untruths and thriftlessness. The NZSPWC attempted to redress immorality and violence, but its work also included assisting widows and deserted families, assessing homes for adoption, and caring for children at risk from mothers classed as 'moral degenerates'. Cardale was the first delegate from the Canterbury branch of the society to the newly revived National Council of Women of New Zealand in 1917, and was president of the branch from 1948 to 1954.
Through all these groups she was able to see the effects of unemployment, and found that women and children were often the first victims. In 1935 and 1936 she worked on the Christchurch Women's Unemployment Committee, which trained girls in sewing and cooking. While on the committee she argued that unemployed women should have the same rights to benefits as unemployed men.
Effie Cardale was actively connected with many other societies, including the Prison Gate Mission, the Crippled Children Society and the Hospital Lady Visitors' Association, which she chaired from 1939 to 1954. She was a member of the North Canterbury Hospital Board from 1929 to 1931. During 1931 she became a justice of the peace and in 1939 was appointed conciliator to the court under the 1939 Domestic Proceedings Act, which allowed welfare workers to mediate in divorce cases. Effie Cardale's work for women and children was recognised in 1949 when she was made an MBE.
Effie Cardale never married. She spent her last years in Sunnyside Hospital where she died on 19 October 1960. Her funeral was at St Michael's and she was buried in Linwood cemetery. Although she was the daughter of a gentleman landowner, it is said that she lacked social graces, wore dowdy clothes and lived frugally. After her death she was found to be a very wealthy woman. Most of her estate was bequeathed to St Michael's. However, her wish that her house be used to accommodate elderly Anglican women was not fulfilled and her money was invested commercially. She also requested that the church continue her custom of paying for two children at St Michael and All Angels School: this Cardale Assistance still helps children in adverse family circumstances to stay on at the school and makes it possible for new pupils to attend.
The nature of Effie Cardale's work and her own concept of morality and worthiness meant that she was often seen as formidable and uncompromising; just, but lacking in compassion and understanding. However, in the course of her work she had helped many people in need.