Gloucester CWA is 90-years-old

CWA State president in 1952, Mrs JM Gordon with Gloucester's foundation members Mrs TH Higgins, Mrs F Lowe and Mrs I Hooke and the current Gloucester president, Mrs E Hoy at the opening of the CWA rooms
CWA State president in 1952, Mrs JM Gordon with Gloucester's foundation members Mrs TH Higgins, Mrs F Lowe and Mrs I Hooke and the current Gloucester president, Mrs E Hoy at the opening of the CWA rooms

The strength and determination of country women has been an integral part of Gloucester for 90 years.

Kicking off in March 1929, the inaugural members of the first Country Women's Association in Gloucester, known only by their husband's names, forged a path to creating a better place for women and children to live.

Their first course of action was to build public toilets, which were officially opened in November that same year. Being country woman, they knew the importance of having a place for women to go when waiting in town, a place to change or feed their babies. It's little changes like this that the CWA is known for, looking for ways to make things easier and working toward making the improvements happen.

Perhaps that's why so many women got involved when it started up in Gloucester. According to Gloucester Branch's current secretary, Christine Bolton the group attracted 50 members.

Gloucester CWA day branch members who attended a meeting in 1972.

Gloucester CWA day branch members who attended a meeting in 1972.

"I would think that was a large number," Christine said. "They must have done a good job getting to word out that they wanted to start it up."

With plans for a 90th morning tea event to be hosted by the Gloucester Branch and Gloucester Evening Branch on Saturday June 15, Christine has been looking through the archives.

Stored at the CWA Rooms on Church Street are old exercise books listing things like what items needed to be purchased for different cooking events and who was going to buy them; there is also a book listing items the group had collected and handed out to families in need.

"We don't keep those kinds of details anymore," Christine said.

"During the war, they were making camouflage nets and there are listings of how many were sent away each month."

Christine has a close attachment to the group, having joined the Gloucester CWA Younger Set in the late 1950s, when she was 19 and single. This facet of the organisation was formed in March 1950 and was mostly for unmarried, working women. In those days, not only would a wife take her husband's full name as her own but she was expected to quit her job as well.

Gloucester CWA day branch members who attended a July 1987 meeting.

Gloucester CWA day branch members who attended a July 1987 meeting.

For Christine, joining the Younger Set was a way of organising a social life for all the single women. "Every year we had a Valentine's Day dance in the RSL," Christine smiled.

Now, 60 years later, she is still an active member, along with Dorothy Kirk and Judy Hopkins, who started with her and Marie Laurie and Jess Burley, who've been involved even longer.

Like many CWA members, Christine has remained a member because of the amazing work the group does.

We're a worthwhile organisation. We support a variety of programs to help enrich the lives of country women, both in Australia and overseas.

Christine Bolton

"We're a worthwhile organisation. We support a variety of programs to help enrich the lives of country women, both in Australian and overseas," she said.

In October 1971, the Younger Set was disbanded and the Evening Branch was formed. Christine was Gloucester's first president. When she moved out of town, she transferred over to the day branch, as the meeting times were better for her, and she remains a member today.

On Saturday, June 15, both branches will host the anniversary celebration at the CWA Rooms which their forebears worked for 23 years to build.

Members from both the day and evening branches who joined together for the annual International Day celebration in July 1987.

Members from both the day and evening branches who joined together for the annual International Day celebration in July 1987.

There will be cake, which has been baked for the ladies by a non-member, giving them a day off after all the years of baking for others. There will be memorabilia, including the old exercise books and the tablecloth that holds the signatures of many members from over the years.

Did you know?

The Country Women's Association of Australia is the largest women's organisation in Australia. It has 44,000 members across 1855 branches.