In 1857, at the age of 42, John Mason died (cause unknown). This left Catherine Mason, then 35 years old, to bring up eight girls on her own. As this newspaper article from The South Australian Register, Tuesday June 2 1857 shows, she was soon in a desperate plight:
This was her first application to the Destitute Board, which provided relief to those who had no other means of support. The family were still receiving relief in March 1858, and possibly again in August 1859, although there isn't enough information provided on this later occasion to tell if it was the same Mrs Mason.
Approaching the Destitute Board could not have been an easy thing to do. An editorial in The South Australian Register April 1 1857 gives an insight into the attitudes displayed by some members of the Destitute Board towards the applicants.