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An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

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John, Cecilia Annie (1877 - 1955)

Born
5 November 1877
Hobart Town, Tasmania, Australia
Died
28 May 1955
Godalming, Surrey, England
Occupation
Opera singer, Feminist and Pacifist

Summary

Cecilia John, who sang 'I Didn't Raise My Son to Be a Soldier' until banned by the government under the War Precautions Act of 1915, founded the Women's Peace Army with Vida Goldstein. Interested in social questions, John was a member of the Collins Street Independent Church, the Women's Political Association and wrote for the Woman Voter. She established the Children's Peace Army and ran a women's co-operative farm, the Women's Rural Industries Co. Ltd, at Mordialloc, providing employment to women in financial need.

Details

The daughter of Daniel and Rosetta (née Kelly) John, Cecilia John came to Melbourne during her early teens to study music and singing. To pay for her training she established a poultry farm at Deepdene. By 1911 John was a successful teacher of singing and voice production as well as a poultry expert. She also joined the Collins Street Independent Church, distributed anti-conscription literature for the Australian Freedom League and supported Vida Goldstein in her campaign for election to Federal parliament in 1913.

A member of the Women's Political Association she wrote for the Woman Voter and with Goldstein established the Women's Peace Army and became its financial secretary. At anti-conscription meetings she sang 'I Didn't Raise My Son to Be a Soldier' until banned by the government under the War Precautions Act of 1915. She also formed the Children's Peace Army and the People's Conservatorium. Along with Ina Higgins, John ran a women's co-operative farm, the Women's Rural Industries Co. Ltd, at Mordialloc, providing employment to women in financial need.

Following World War I John attended the Women's International Peace Conference at Zurich with Goldstein. She also worked for the International Red Cross in Geneva and the Save-the-Children Fund in London where she became involved with the Dalcroze Eurhythmic system of dancing. In 1932 John became principal of the London School of Dalcroze Eurhythmics, a position she held until her death on 28 May 1955.

Sources used to compile this entry: Bomford, Janette M., That dangerous and persuasive woman: Vida Goldstein, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, Vic., 1993, 264 pp; Caine, Barbara (ed.), Australian Feminism: A Companion, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1998, 607 pp; Gowland, Patricia, 'John, Cecilia Annie (1877 - 1955)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006, http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A090484b.htm; Sparrow, Jeff and Sparrow, Jill, Radical Melbourne : a secret history, the vulgar press, Carlton North, Vic., 2001, 223 pp.

Related entries

Friend and Colleague

Related Women

  • Goldstein, Vida (1869 - 1949)

    Celicia John supported Vida Goldstein in her bid for Federal parliament in 1913 and established the Women's Peace Army with her in July 1915

Archival resources

National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection

  • Industrial Workers of the World Correspondence [manuscript], 1897 - 1919, MS 3516; National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details

National Library of Australia, Reading Room

  • Miss Cecilia John on "why I am a Bolshevik"., 1919, ROSSpam 911; John, Cecilia Annie (1877 - 1955); National Library of Australia, Reading Room. Details
  • Scheme of proposed Women's Rural Industries Co., UApam 816; National Library of Australia, Reading Room. Details
  • Unemployment / W.P.A. Women's Labour Bureau., JAFp SOC 2790; National Library of Australia, Reading Room. Details

Anne Heywood

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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