The first 120 years.
The Context is Everything (1840-1848)
In 1840, when the great World Anti-Slavery Convention was held in London, four women arrived as members of the American Delegation. The convention organisers declared that the presence of women at the all-male convention was “subversive of the principles and traditions of the country and contrary to the word of God”. The women were ultimately allowed access but were restricted to a curtained gallery.
When they returned home in 1848, they called the first Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls. These conventions continued periodically in America until 1888 when, in Washington, representatives of seven countries – England, France, Norway, Denmark, Finland, India, Canada and the United States – decided to set up a permanent organisation to be known as the National Council of Women. Each country would establish its national council, and an international council would coordinate the work worldwide.
1873-1874 Royal Commission into Public Charities, Second Report, NSW Legislative Assembly, V. & P. ‘Ladies Bountiful’ referenced.
1879 – Institutionalised children (43.2% by 1879) who lived in state-run institutions. A further 53.6% lived in institutions that received government subsidies or grants.
1881 – Census of N.S.W., 1881, p.xxix. A “child” is defined as less than 15 years old.
By 1881, Sydney and the suburbs contained 81,668 children, 36.3% of the population.
1893 – Australian beginnings.
In 1893 Margaret Windeyer (1866-1939) was appointed as the NSW Commissioner to the World’s Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in that year. Records show that Miss Windeyer was extraordinary and reportedly the best woman speaker in the colonies. Her father was a judge of the NSW Supreme Court, and her mother was a leader in women’s affairs. With their support, Miss Windeyer emerged as a confident and capable woman, championing women’s rights.
Miss Windeyer and other women involved in their national councils in various parts of the world met at the World’s Congress of Representative Women in May 1893 – part of the program for the World Exposition. As a result, Miss Windeyer began to develop her plans to introduce the concept of a national council in Sydney.
1896 – First official meeting.
Along with a number of interested individuals, eleven organisations were represented at a meeting at the Sydney Town Hall on 26 August 1896. They included the following:
- Education for Deaf, Dumb and Blind;
- German Women’s Benevolent Society;
- Infants Home;
- Ministering Children’s Fresh Air League;
- Queen’s Jubilee Fund;
- Sydney University Women’s Association;
- Woman’s Christian Temperance Union;
- Womanhood Suffrage League of NSW;
- Women’s Hospital and Dispensary;
- Women’s Literary Society;
- Women’s Silk Growing Co-operative and Industrial Association;
- Working and Factory Girls’ Club.
The first committee was formed under the leadership of Lady Hampden, Consort of the Governor of New South Wales.
The establishment of the Women’s College at Sydney University and The Women’s Club are two examples of the innovative foresight of these women. Several women present were experiencing what we now call ‘lived experienced’, keen to ensure their rights and their children’s rights were progressed whilst remaining responsible citizens and providing assistance to those less fortunate.
Suffragists weren’t just limited to those from the Womanhood Suffrage League of NSW. Many women & men were keen to progress the cause before and after the 1890s, particularly as white women in the colony of South Australia had achieved full suffrage. The paternalistic and misguided separatist idea of Aboriginal people being ‘different’ and the then laws of the day meant that many were unable to advocate for their inclusion – although many worked in lots of different ways to seek ‘work arounds’, consult, support, assist, initiate discussion and work on the progress of full emancipation for all in New South Wales.
Government social services were unknown. Women’s economic activities were very limited. Teaching and nursing were the only professions considered suitable for women. The number of women working in shops, factories and offices was small, and these women generally worked under poor conditions. Many worked from home – making ‘pin money’ by offering child minding, laundering/washing, baking and other goods and services. Women could (and did) own property and businesses, yet had no ‘rights’ regarding the children they gave birth to. The colony and State of New South Wales have generally been enterprise-driven community/communities.
1897 – Lobbies for libraries and kindergartens and the inclusion of Domestic Arts in the school curriculum.
1898 – Affiliates with the International Council of Women
1902 – Support is given to the state government’s Children’s Bill
1904 – Participates in delegations to the NSW government regarding Bills for the Protection of Young Girls, State Children; Infant Protection; and Criminal Law amendments
1909 – Establishes the Alice Rawson School for mothers in Darlinghurst
1910 Proposes scheme for setting up children’s playgrounds in inner Sydney
1911 Holds conference on the subject of women workers
World War I – The Great War – The War to End All Wars.
1915 Opens Women’s War Census Depot to coordinate women’s war work
1916 Holds conference on the subject of women’s work in war times.
Representatives appointed to Film Censorship Board and Soldiers’ Repatriation Committee.
1917 First woman Inspector of Schools appointed, after 20 years of agitation by NCW.
1922 Instrumental in founding Chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Sydney
1924 Conference: Prevention and causes of war
1925 Conference: The younger girl in industry
1928 Action taken to ensure that women have the same rights as men to change nationality
1929 Founding the Board of Social Studies and Training
1930 President of NCW appointed as a member of Advisory Committee for the Relief of
Unemployed Women, Girls and Youth
The vocational Guidance Bureau established
1931 Joins newly formed NCW of Australia to bring together national councils of all states and territories
1932 Support was given to hostels for the unemployed and sewing depots for unemployed women
Children’s playgrounds set up in Sydney (first proposed by NCW in 1910)
1936 President, NCW NSW appointed Chair of Women’s Committee of the Sesquicentennial celebrations
1937 Request for restrooms to be made compulsory in factories
WORLD WAR II
1939 Involvement with Child Welfare Bill
1940 Action taken to prevent lowering of the basic wage for women
1943 NCW NSW begins Housekeeping Emergency Service to assist families in distress
1944 Presses government for formation of the Nutrition Bureau of the Department of Health.
POST-WAR AND THE 1950’s
1946 82 organisations now affiliated with NCW
1947 International Group created to interest delegates and members in international affairs
1950 Instrumental in establishing Migration Standing Committee
1953 Women’s Coronation Celebration organised as a gesture of loyalty by the women of NSW
1954 Sponsors the formation of the NSW Council for Children’s Film and Television
1960 Publication of NCW News begins
1965 NCW hosts reception for Joan Sutherland
1968 ‘Women of Achievement” luncheon attended by over 800 women
1969 President of NCW appointed as Chair of Women’s Committee of the Captain Cook Bicentenary Celebration
Organised Exhibition of Women’s Achievements in conjunction with Affiliated Organisations
NCW conference: After equality – what?
1970 Involved in the Women’s Historical Exhibition ‘Pageant of Endeavour’ held at Sydney Town Hall and visited by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Princess Anne
1971 A Short History Seventy-Five Years 1896-1971. Editor – Jean Arnot
1973 International Council of Women Regional Conference held in Sydney: Population Development and the Role of Women
Involved in the Festival Women’s Committee formed to celebrate the opening of the Sydney Opera House
1976 President appointed to Women’s Advisory Council to the NSW Premier (NCW had pressed
for an Advisory body since 1960)
1978 International Year of the Child seminar held at Westmead Hospital attended by 1000 people and opened by the Premier
Presses for changes to sex offences legislation greatly improved post-rape and pre-trial treatment of victims.
1980 Endeavour: Women’s Organisation in New South Wales 1896-1976, published by NCW
1981 Seminar relating to the International Year of the Disabled
1987 Seminar: Lone Parents and their problems
1989 Seminar organised for ‘Information on AIDS’ (HIV/AIDS Information Kit for Women distributed)
1991 Hosts seminar on ageing
1993 Hosts first Jean Arnot Luncheon honouring her work towards achieving equal pay and equal work in the Public Service; and celebrating her 90th birthday
Organised seminar at NSW Parliament House: Men and Women Against Violence
1994 Organised seminar: Supporting Schools Initiatives Against Violence
1995 Organised seminar: Gender Equity Issues in Schools – Broadening the Horizons (These last two seminars were supported by the Department of School Education and were a recommended flow on from the original seminar, Men and Women Against Violence)
Organised six seminar workshops for women attending the UN World Conference of Women in Beijing in 1996
Jointly started a fund with the Business and Professional Women (BPW) and Labor Council to commission Dr Jocelynne Scutt to write a book on the long struggle for equal pay
1996 Centenary Exhibition at Parliament House (thanks to affiliated members, 12 awards of $1000 are given to university students; $14,000 for seven seats for Sydney’s Domain recreation area)
1997 Seminar: Women Taking on Technology
Three-lecture mini series: Water
Three-lecture mini series: Youth
1998 Seminar: Ethical Issues in Reproduction
INTO THE 21st CENTURY
2000 Statement refuting claims that abortion causes breast cancer
Value of being a member of the UN – a submission made to Senate Inquiry
2001 Leading the way at the Inaugural National Women’s Conference in Canberra in the area of ‘Human Rights are Women’s Rights’
President attended 45th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York as a delegate from Catholic Women’s League
2002 Youth Forum: co-hosts with the Department of Women
Commitment to education on osteoporosis
Involvement in seminars and conferences by Health Adviser
2003 Book presented to Sydney Girls High School in memory of Jessie Scotford OBE, past president and contributor to the advancement of women
Launch of From the Heart members’ experiences of living in the outback
Represented at NCW State Working Party on Trafficking
Collaboration with UNSW’s Department for Refugee Research
Seminars for visiting Japanese women on women’s rights and education
2004 International Council of Women Conference held in Perth
Correspondence with government ministers on the safety on rail transport, alcohol regulations, and the need to improve the regulation of tobacco
Represented at the Public Hearing of the NSW State Working Party on Trafficking
Participated in the Beijing+10 consultations
Joined ‘Coalition of Women’ with WEL, BPW, NSW Labor Council and NCOSS to support the issues for women effectively at the government level
Submitted to draft disability standards for access to public premises
Forum on poverty with speakers from UN, St Vincent de Paul Society and the Salvation Army
Handbook created for Advisers and Coordinators
2005 Results on research into proposed changes to Industrial Relations legislation and changes to disability and unemployment allowances forwarded to the government
Supported Domestic Violence Network work with refuges for women escaping domestic violence
Monitored plans of the Disability Advisory Building Codes Board
Funding for ATLAS (for severely disabled persons) was restored after a protest letter was sent to the state government
Long-term state of the water supply to cities and farms
Recommended Maternity Paid Leave across the board
Alcohol abuse and long opening hours, and advertising during sporting events
Concern on granting of mining exploration rights on arable land in the Hunter Valley
Violation of children’s rights with regard to a radio interview of a 14 year old
The portrayal of women in the media
The exploitation of people with regard to the 457 Work Visa
Draft women’s health matters
Women’s Health Implementation Plan 2009-12 focusing on rural health
Health Adviser’s submission to Federal Parliament on Aboriginal health, the ‘Gap’ and perinatal mortality
Submission made on food labelling laws and policies
Submission made on elderly parents caring for adult children with a disability
Submission made on effects on young girls of Tots and Tiaras TV program
Lobbying and advocacy to urge governments to ratify the convention on the protection of the rights of migrant workers and their families
Submissions made to Legislative Council inquiry into social, public and affordable housing, with emphasis on safe refuges for women and children.
Read more on the ‘About Us’ page.