Women's Web
stories actions




some Australian Women's responses to war

From 1909 to now, including
two women, two organisations, two journals during WWI


11-13  PREQUEL
11.  Two Women, Two Organisations
13.  Our Herstory Before WWI


18.  The British Empire on Trial


19.  AWNL - Federal Platform
20.  Do Not Seek Place or Power


21.  The Empire on Its Trial

23.  World Domination
23.  The British Empire on Trial
24.  Patriotic Meetings
26.  Fight or Work Campaign
26.  Patriotic Resolutions
27.  What the AWNL has Done
27.  Enemy Within the Camp
28.  Christmas of Faith and Hope

29.  Appalled Tades Hall Council
30.  Appeal to the Women
30.  The Striker and the Shirker
31.  I Didn’t Raise My Musket
32.  The Prime Minister in England
32.  Australia’s Honour at Stake
33.  Strikes are Rife in Australia
33.  Empire Day Demonstrationl
34.  Petition for Conscription
35.  22,000 Signatures Five Days
36.  Australia or Germany
36.  League Appeal to Women
38.  Defend the Empire’s Trade
39. Woman’s Influence

40.  War Savings Patritic Scheme
41.  The War Drum of Unionism
41.  Australia Finances Two Wars
42.  Suggestive Thoughts on Thrift
43.  1917 Petition for Conscription

44.  A Magnificent Demonstration
45.  Women’s Vote Responsible?
45.  Falling Birth Rate – Nat. Peril
46.  Disloyal Utterances
46.  Parents’ Consent
46.  A War-Time Election
47.  The Red Flag
48.  Trade Vigilance Committee
48.  The Power Behind the Throne
49.  The Armistice – and After

51.  Thankfulness to God
51.  Madness that is Bolshevism
52.  Those Who Will Never Return
52.  Peace Terms - Versailles

56.   War is Women’s Business


57.  Vida Goldstein


58. The Woman Voter
59. A Ministry of Peace
60. Settling Intrenational Disputes
61. Women Will Stand Together
61. Women of the World Unite!
62. Shall the Mothers Rejoice?
63. Women, Bethink Yourselves
64.  Fighting for Civil Liberty
65. Women of the World are One
66. An Outrage on Civilisation
66. White Australia Policy Done
66.  A Scheme Help Unemployed
67.  War and the People’s Bread
68.  Christmas Message All


69.  No Secret Imperial Policy
69.  W.P.A. Women’s Bureau
70.  Women Seeking Work
70.  Proposals for Work
71.  The Unemployment Bureau
71.  Women’s Farm
72.  A Farm Has Been Taken
72.  Labour Bureau New Office
73.  Women’s Conference Hague
74.  A Free Press
75.  Women’s Labour Bureau
75.  Attempt to Annihilate Bureau
76.  Defence of Their Own Rights
76.  Cost of Living Deputation
77.  Parliamentary Rebuff
78.  Members Frightened of Us?
79.  Deputation Minister Defence
79.  Form a Women’s Peace Army
82.  Congress of Women - Hague
83.  Mothers Fight
84.  Necessitous Women
85.  WPA Requests Prime Minister
86.  Asiatic Deprived of Work
86.  Tabloid Philosophy - Patriotism
87.  Venereal Disease
87.  I Didn’t Raise My Son Soldier
88.  Peace Mandate
89.  Our Bureau at Christmas Time
89.  Women Continue to Sing It


90.  Soldiers Attack Mr Katz
90.  Who Loses the War?
91.  War and Rights of Citizens
92.  Mr Hughes Incites to Murder
93. Condemns Authorities
93.  WPA and the Prime Minister
97.  The Little Nations
97.  War Profits, Food Prices
97.  Not Breeding Machines
98.  The Children’s Peace Army
98.  Almost Without Bread
98.  Peace Proposals
99.  Conscription by Proclamation
100. Justice Blind in One Eye
100. Women's Farm
100. Unemployed Women
101. Letter from a Prisoner of War
101. Yarra Bank Meeting
104. Who Profits War? Mining
104. Distress Amongst Women
105. Social Evil Convention
106. Women’s National League
106. Church and Social Questions
106. Women Belligerent Countries
107. State Govt. Compels Women
107. So Mr Hughes Hopes
108. Opposing Conscription
108. Peace Army Leaflets
110. Child Labour
111. Manifesto Peace Army
112. New Premises
113. Colours
114. 6,000 Processionists
114. Persia - New Agreement
114. Secret Mission to London
115. Proclamation Annulled!
115. Women for Permanent Peace


116. Women’s Terms of Peace
117. WPA and Russian Revolution
118. War is Out of Date
119. Workers Never Wavered
120. Raid on Parliament
120. The Strike
121. WPA Established a Commune
122. We Lead - Conscription No!
122. Hugely Successful Meetings


123. Press, Pulpit Purse
124. It is with Great Regret
124. The ‘Shirker’ Class
124. Meeting Guild Hall
124. Protest against Profiteering
125. President Wilson’s Speech
125. The Dawn of Peace


127. WPA Peace Buttons
127. Women’s Peace Congress
127. Delegation to Europe
129. Starving Babies of Germany
130. Peace Congress Zurich
131. Rule of Force and Spoilation 
131. Old Order is Not Changed
132. Peace - Unspeakable
134. Hatred Treaty of Versailles
134. Colour Caste’s a Lie
134. Pagan Rites Ended
135. It is War, It is War
135. Congress Deep Regret
136. Zurich and Versailles
137. Old-Time Despotism
138. Order Out of Chaos
139. The World is Sick unto Death
139. Misunderstanding and Hate
140. Not Enough Return Passage
140. This Publication Ceases


144-148 SEQUEL
144 Women in Black
145 Beyond the Garden Gate

149-177 APPENDICES - 1 to 9

178-180 INDEX 




Pages 11 to 16 Prequel PREVIOUS PAGE NEXT PAGE


When we feel we are under attack, how should we react? Should we try to reason with, or crush, the attacker? It depends on your perception of the reasons for the attack, of course.

This book documents the way two groups of Australian women in the past responded to war, trusting this will illuminate the present.

For me it began on Sept. 20, 2001, when I heard President George Bush announce the ‘War on Terror’. My reaction was to ask:

'What is a war on terror? Who is the enemy? How can you have a war on terror? Can you invade it, defend it, bomb it, shoot it, kill it? It isn’t even rational. What type of primitive thinking is this, turning that terrible, horrible crime into a war? How can people support this?'

I felt an awful sense of déjà vu, recalling the First World War (WWI) - another war started by a criminal terrorist act and where we were involved although not directly or immediately threatened.

Some of the issues those women confronted are issues that we still face today. It isn’t only concern about war that we have in common with them, but losing gains that have been made with equal pay; who should be allowed to live in Australia; what it means to be Australian; economic injustice and wealth distribution are also examples of common concern.

Two Women, Two Organisations, Two Journals

At the outbreak of war 1914 there were women in Australia who opposed the First World War (WWI). They were part of an international suffrage movement, supporting and being supported by women worldwide and accustomed to look to women internationally. Vida Goldstein (appendix 5) and the Women’s Political Association (WPA) were active and vocal in their opposition and we have a record through their journal - Woman Voter.

On the other hand, Eva Hughes (appendix 5) and the Australian Women’s National League (AWNL) were active and vocal, too, enthusiastically supporting the war. They saw themselves as national, valuing loyalty to the British Empire above all. They supported ‘their’ men and looked to them for advice and support, seeing themselves as what they called ‘helpmeets’. Their journal was The Woman.

Both were from the same class, shared the same history, were the same culturally and racially, and would have received news from the same sources. How did they reach such different conclusions?

I went to the State Library of Victoria feeling like an amateur detective, where I found The Woman and the Woman Voter were published throughout the war years. Eureka! Both these journals give us a first-hand account of some Australian – or at least Victorian - women’s responses to war, from the beginning of that war to when the ‘peace’ agreement was signed at Versailles. (When you read Prejudice and Reason I think you will understand why I put the word ‘peace’ in inverted commas.)

I share what I found here in the hope that these stories enhance and illuminate your life as they have mine. If they don’t, I trust you will find it a rewarding history – or herstory!

Our Herstory Before WWI

We cannot look far at our herstory without running into opposition if we are looking at women and the vote. Some anti-suffragists - men in this case - were vitriolic. They articulated sentiments such as

‘suffrage would cause women to become men; upset brewery interests and the Bible.’ (Judy Maddigan, talk at Suffrage Conference Melbourne University 2007)

That is not all they said enfranchised women would do, either!


Mr Frank Madden MP (Assembly 1895):
'Woman suffrage would abolish soldiers and war, also racing, hunting, football, cricket and all such manly games.  We may depend upon it that a compulsory 8 hours Bill would be at once taken up, and with it a minimum rate of wage made law ... Women suffragists are the worst class of socialists. “Thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee!” This law is clear and plain. Their idea of freedom is polyandry, free love, lease marriages and so on. Are these qualifications for the franchise? ...  Are we to allow women who would sap the very foundations of a nation have votes?' (Women’s Sphere 1901)

There was concern that enfranchised women would destroy their breweries. At the start of the 20th century Vida explained this in the Woman Voter:

'There is always a close connection between anti-suffrage and the liquor traffic. In Victoria it is an open secret that at the bottom of the hostility to woman suffrage of many members of the legislature who are largely interested in breweries and hotels, is the deadly fear that when women get the vote prohibition will rule the land.' (Women’s Sphere August 1901)

They were clearly worried. A decade or so before WW I some of them had changed tactics, aggressively attempting to crush the women’s movement as well as socialism (which some of them seemed to see as much the same):

Victorian Employers’ Association - Political Manifesto, Melbourne 'the defensive attitude hitherto maintained … must now be abandoned in favour of a policy of opposition ... To successfully accomplish these reforms it is necessary that all employers and producers should combine in sending into Parliament members pledged to these reforms.' (Brisbane Courier 14 April 1902)

They did. And men in the Victorian Employers’ Association and in Parliament established the Australian Women’s National League (AWNL) to be their mouthpiece amongst women. (Appendix 1) In Woman Suffrage in Australia, a gift or a struggle the historian Audrey Oldfield said they ‘envisaged the women’s organisations as adjuncts of the male Australian National Leagues, which were concerned with electing right-wing Liberal men to Parliament, but the movement quickly took on a life of its own.’ (Audrey Oldfield Woman Suffrage in Australia, a gift or a struggle University of Cambridge 1992 p.155)

It did. The AWNL started out clearly as an adjunct to the male National Leagues, but by WWI when it was chaired by Eva Hughes it did assume an identity of its own, though it was still anti-socialist and still anti-feminist in many ways, and members still saw themselves as pro-nationalist and part of a world-wide family – the British Empire. (see Appendix 2 AWNL timetable) This example is from Eva Hughes (1856?-1940) showing support for WWI:

'This is a war of spiritual against material forces for world domination. It would be a false peace indeed that was purchased at the sacrifice of honour.' (Woman Voter 8 August 1914)

And when ‘peace’ was declared:

'The awful struggle and bloodshed is over. The world is free. The forces of a great morality, of simple justice and Right, have waged an unequal war against the evil forces of immorality, brute ravening strength, injustice and might. And Right has prevailed.' (The Woman 1 December 1918)

On the other hand the response to WWI of Vida Goldstein (1869-1949) and the women in the Women’s Political Association (WPA) was just the opposite. Vida said she believed that war is a degradation of motherhood, an economic futility and a crime against civilisation and humanity. The WPA journal Woman Voter asked:

'Women, the success of one nation means the defeat of another. And success means that one or the other nation has murdered more men than the other.' (Woman Voter 8 August 1914)

'War is out of date. Under modern conditions it cannot accomplish what those who support war want it to accomplish. Every deadly weapon is met with the invention of a still more deadly weapon. Today, neither strategy, steel nor  chemical decides the issue. Food is the final arbiter.' (Woman Voter 12 April 1917)

And when the armistice was declared:

'Peace has come. Let those who can still deceive themselves celebrate it. It is unspeakable, what there is of it. We have saved the world from the Germans. Heaven send something to save the world from us.' (Letter from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom to Vida Goldstein Woman Voter 3 July 1919)

'The world is sick unto death and the sources of Government – if we may put it so, polluted.' (Woman Voter 18 December 1919)

I concentrate on Eva Hughes and AWNL to represent women who supported WWI and Vida Goldstein and WPA to represent womenwho opposed WWI for convenience, not meaning to undervalue or neglect the work of others.Prejudice and Reason is a book of quotes. They are in chronological order so the story can develop in the same way it did for the women at that time. They are on a shaded background when they are from a different source other than The Woman or the Woman Voter, such as a newspaper, or time of the quote is outside the period of the war, or it is not in chronological order. Everything is a quote unless I signed it. I found my sources at the State Library of Victoria unless otherwise noted. Geraldine