Scattered Branches and the Sisterhood of Women: Women’s Organisations in Western Australia and South Australia, 1909-1939

Author: Bronte Gould

Gould, Bronte, 2021 Scattered Branches and the Sisterhood of Women: Women’s Organisations in Western Australia and South Australia, 1909-1939, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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The 1909 emergence of non-party political women's organisations in Western Australia and South Australia followed the success of women's suffrage in those colonies in the 1890s, and the subsequent achievement of nationwide suffrage by 1908. These organisations focussed on educating women to effectively use their vote and campaigned for social and political reform for women and children. They advocated for women’s representation in local, state, and federal governments. However, the establishment of a plethora of voluntary patriotic organisations to support the war effort during World War One challenged these groups. The disbandment of the war-time organisations provided an opportunity for the formation of non-party non-political organisations. The thesis examines, compares and contrasts Western Australia’s Women’s Service Guild and the Country Women’s Association, as well as South Australia’s Women’s Non-Party Political Association and their Country Women’s Association. It demonstrates differences in the inauguration of these organisations in their respective states, each with similar objectives of securing better lives for women and children. It also seeks to answer whether the post-war organisations were indeed political despite their non-political catch cry. As well, the thesis demonstrates the significance of transnational links and the role of vice-regal women. Included is a discussion of the progression of the women’s movement for equal rights with men during the nineteenth century that culminated in the rise of these women’s organisations during the twentieth century. Furthermore, the examination of these organisations to the eve of the Second World War in both Western Australia and South Australia is a departure from the usual eastern states focus of histories of women’s organisations and fills a gap in the historiography of women’s history.

Keywords: Women's Organisations, Women's Non-Party Political Association, Women's Service Guild, Country Women's Association, Lady Rachel Forster, Western Australia, South Australia

Subject: History thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2021
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Catherine Kevin