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The Australian Women's Conference for Victory in War and Victory in Peace (1943)

From
19 November 1943
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
To
22 November 1943
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Occupations
Feminist Conference
Alternative Names
  • Australian Women's Charter Conference
  • National Women's Conference for Victory in War and Peace

Summary

The Australian Women's Conference for Victory in War and Victory in Peace was held in November 1943, organised around the theme 'A War to Win, a World to Gain'. In a feat of organisational excellence, given the restrictions placed on interstate travel during war time, ninety-one women's organisations from around Australia met in Sydney, Australia, to discuss post war reconstruction and the 'problems that will effect women and children in the post war period.' The Australian Women's Charter, which documents the resolutions brought forward during the conference and is considered a landmark feminist manifesto, was an important outcome of the conference.

Details

Described as 'the largest and most representative feminist conference held until that time', the 1943 Australian Women's Conference for Victory in War and Victory in Peace brought together representatives of over ninety women's organisations across a range of political ideologies to consider the problems of post war reconstruction, and the role of women within the 'new order' when peace returned. Organised by the President of the United Associations of Women, Jessie Street, the conference, held in Sydney, New South Wales in November 1943, has been referred to as 'the high point of feminist solidarity and political mobilisation in the twentieth century'. Organised at a time when planning for peace was a politically bi-partisan priority, the conference addressed the complexity of women's lives and interests but focused on one over-riding question: how would these be advanced in the planning of post war reconstruction? An important outcome of the conference was the development of a charter of rights for women in the post-war world. The Australian Women's Charter, regarded as a land-mark feminist manifesto, was endorsed by the conference and represents a moment in time when Australian women prioritised the single category of gender over other political categories.

The conference did not emerge from a vacuum. As early as 1941, the United Associations of Women (U.A.) had begun discussing the needs and roles of women in post war reconstruction. A Women's Forum for Social and Economic Reconstruction was established; this forum held several important discussions. In 1942 the U.A. called a conference to consider 'problems concerning women under war conditions'. Given the wide ranging subject matter which included: the status of Australian girls marrying American troops; the need for canteens in factories and schools; the provision of crèches and kindergartens etc. for the children of working women; the investigation of conditions surrounding rationing and the brownout, the conference attracted a lot of attention and left a lot of matters unresolved.

The women of the U.A decided that a national conference was required. A separate committee, comprised of women from the U.A., as well as non-members with connections to a wide range of women's groups, set about organising the conference. Preparation for the conference included consulting with as many women's organisations as possible prior to the conference, in order to amass the resolutions which, when adopted, became the Australian Women's Charter.

After the conference, 20,000 copies of the Charter booklet were distributed to individuals and organisations in Australia and overseas. The Australian Women's Charter Movement was established to provide concrete follow-up activity based on the resolutions outlined in the Charter. State conferences were organised, charter deputations lobbied members of the federal parliament on specific points and a follow up conference was organised in 1946. Representations of fewer organisations attended this conference, held in Sydney, New South Wales, in August 1946, however, there were a number of overseas delegates in attendance. Nevertheless, while it is true that the 1943 conference reflected the politics of unity that accompanied some forms of war-time political activism, the 1946 conference reflected the changes in the global political climate that developed in the post war period. Representatives of some of the more conservative women's organisations had difficulty finding common ground with women like Jessie Street, president of the U.A., given their leftist connections. Maintaining a united feminist front became increasingly difficult as the world plunged into a new, cold war.

In order to demonstrate the extent of unity amidst diversity that was present at the conference, the following list names all the organisations that were represented at the conference:

New South Wales:

  • Austral India League
  • Australian Institute of Sociology
  • Australian Railways' Union - Women's Auxiliary
  • Australian Labor Party (Official)
  • Australian Labor Party (State)
  • Australian Labor Party (Concord West Branch)
  • Australian Federation of Women Voters (N.S.W. Committee)
  • Australian Association of Scientific Workers (N.S.W. Division)
  • Australian Women's Party
  • Amalgamated Hospital Employees' Association
  • Amalgamated Engineering Union
  • Board of Social Studies
  • Balmain Council - Alderman Gallimore
  • Bankstown Women's Committee
  • Communist Party
  • Care of the Child in Wartime Committee
  • Commonwealth Temporary Clerks Association
  • Council for Women in War Work
  • Christian Social Order Movement
  • Domestic Employees' Union
  • Fellowship of Australian Writers
  • Friendship with Russia League
  • Federation of Infants' School Clubs
  • Friday Club
  • Girls Friendly Society
  • Glebe Council - Alderman Pitt
  • Greenwich Women's Committee
  • Guildford Comforts Fund
  • Granville Mothers' Club
  • Hairdressers' Union
  • Hotel, Club and Restaurant Employees' Union
  • Humane Movement
  • Ironworkers' Union
  • Municipal and Shire Council Employees' Union
  • National Council of Jewish Women
  • New Education Fellowship
  • Our New Order
  • Presbyterian Women's Federation
  • Printing Industries Union
  • Roseville Group, United Associations of Women
  • Recreation and Leadership Movement
  • Seamen's Union, Women's Auxiliary
  • Sheet Metal Workers' Union
  • Sydney Women's Cooperative Guild
  • Teachers' Federation
  • Textile Workers Union
  • Travellers' Aid Society
  • United Associations of Women
  • Women's Christian Temperance Union
  • Watson Labor Women's Auxiliary
  • Widows of the A.I.F. Association
  • Women for Canberra
  • Y.M.C.A.

Country

  • Newcastle Housewives Association
  • Newcastle Social Hygiene Committee
  • Women' Auxiliary, Coal and Shale Employees Federation, Newcastle
  • Crippled Children Society, Newcastle
  • Newcastle Trades Hall Council
  • Katoomba P. & C. and Mothers' Clubs
  • Katoomba Crippled Children's Society
  • Katoomba R.S.S.I.L.A., Women's Auxiliary
  • Katoomba Congregational Church, Women's Guild
  • Lithgow Child Care Committee
  • Democratic Housewives Association, Wollongong
  • Goulburn A.R.U. Women's Auxiliary
  • West Maitland Branch, United Associations of Women

Queensland

  • National Council of Women
  • Y.W.C.A.
  • Women's Auxiliary, Townsville Trades and Labor Council
  • Women's Auxiliary, Maryborough Trades and Labor Council
  • Federated Clerk' Union
  • Storemen and Packers' Union
  • Town and Country Women's Association

Victoria

  • Women's Christian Temperance Union
  • Council for Women in War Work
  • Communist Party
  • Munitions Workers Union

Tasmania

  • Housewives Association
  • R.S.S.I.L.A. Guild of Remembrance
  • National Council of Women
  • Council for the Mother and Child
  • Women's International League

South Australia

  • Adelaide Jewish Women's Guild
  • Jewish Red Cross Society
  • Women's Christian Temperance Union
  • League for the Protection of Aboriginal Women
  • Communist Party

West Australia

  • Hotel, Club and Caterers' Union
  • Council of Churches
  • Housewives Association

Sources used to compile this entry: Lake, Marilyn, Getting Equal: The History of Australian Feminism, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, New South Wales, 1999, 316 pp; Radi, Heather (ed.), Jessie Street : documents and essays, Women's Redress Press, Broadway, N.S.W., c1990, 293 pp; Saunders, Kay and Bolton, Geoffrey, 'Girdled for War: Women's Mobilisations in World Wat Two', in Saunders, Kay and Bolton, Geoffrey (eds), Gender relations in Australia : domination and negotiation, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Sydney, c1992, pp. 376-397.

Related entries

Related Cultural Artefacts

Related Women

Archival resources

Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales

  • United Association of Women - Records, c. 1930 - 1970, MLMSS 2160; The United Associations of Women (1929 - ); Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales. Details

National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection

  • Papers of Jessie Street, 1914 - 1968, MS 2683; Street, Jessie Mary Grey (1889 - 1970); National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details
  • Records of the Australian Women's Charter, c. 1944 - 1967, MS 2302; Australian Women's Charter (1943 - ); National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details

Nikki Henningham

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