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 29 to 39 Women Supporting WW1 PREVIOUS PAGE NEXT PAGE


AWNL - Appalled at the action of the Trades Hall Council

The Woman
1 January 1916:
Mr W. M. Hughes, Prime Minister of Australia, has stepped boldly out in his latest offer to the Motherland to send 50,000 additional men to the 50,000 already promised by June next, making 100,000 in all.

He, as the responsible head of Australia’s destinies at this momentous time, intends to see to it that Australia shall do her part, realises the extreme gravity of the present situation, and wishes us all to realise also that the future of this infant continent depends on the issue of the struggle taking place along the far-flung battle lines in Europe and Asia Minor ... 

The manner in which we face this terrible crisis now will decide what responsibilities we are fit to undertake in the future. Shall we fail, and be handed down to history as a people who went under in the supreme test, a people undisciplined and self-indulgent, who lost their place on the map because they would not heed the call of Empire?

Aye, indeed, more than the call of Empire – ‘tis the call of the freedom and liberty of the whole world; ‘tis the call to save the whole fabric of civilisation! And so every decent citizen in Australia was appalled at the action of the Trades Hall Council in passing the following resolution – “That this Council recommends to the members of the trades unions which are affiliated with the Trades Hall Council to ignore the card which the War Council have been instructed to be sent out.”

We are glad to say that Mr Hughes has been strong enough to insist that every man shall answer his recruiting card, by force of law, if necessary. And further, every man and woman in Australia with a spark of moral sense in them stands aghast at the number of serious industrial troubles that are rife amongst us at the a time when all disputes should be silenced by the one great national need, the one great dispute – the great war.

AWNL - Appeal to the Women from our President
(reprint from The Argus of 15th January)

The Woman
1 February 1916:
Sir, In connection with the women’s meeting on Tuesday evening next in the Melbourne Town Hall … may I appeal to my fellow-women of Australia to face the stern and great responsibilities now laid upon us without flinching?  The time has come when there must be no “hanging back”. Some of our mothers, wives, sisters, and sweethearts are today “hanging back”, and in most cases in the name of “love”. They cannot let those dear to them go.

Is that “love” in the highest, purest sense? No, it is the spirit of self-overshadowing love, which withholds consent and holds them back when duty and King and country cry “Go!”  Ah, let it not be at our door that our men do not respond to the call of those in dire need today. Our own kith and kin, our noble Allies, are calling aloud for help in the hour of terrible stress and trouble. Women of Australia, they must not call out in vain.

AWNL - The Striker and the Shirker

The Woman
1 February 1916:
We all scorn the man who strikes in war time, retarding the manufacture of munitions and equipment, holding up transports and clogging the wheels of industry at a time when every ounce of energy is needed, and every man should be conscious of his responsibility. But is not the man who shirks this great Empire duty, who turns a deaf ear to this new and urgent call for recruits, who heeds not the fact that every available man is needed – is he not worse than the man who strikes?

Are not the striker and the shirker very much the same type? And the flower of the Allied nations are fighting and suffering, battling and dying for such as these! Thank God that for the honour of Australia, the strikers only form a small section of the community. To strike or lock-out now, against an award of an industrial court is a scandal and sin against humanity - against his better self, which may be will one day in the future rise up and confront him - when it is too late. As M. P. Bauld puts it -

AWNL - I Didn’t Raise My Musket to my Shoulder

I didn’t raise a musket to my shoulder 
I didn’t even figure in the fight,
I left it to the better men, and bolder, 
I knew, of course, that they would be alright;
I watched the crowds of other fellows leaving,
I cheered ‘em loudly steaming out to sea -
A most inspiring sight; blood of OUR blood going out to fight.
But I overlooked the fact they wanted “ME”.

I wonder if, in after years, I’ll ponder -
As the younger generations come along -
On the splendid work we “all” did over yonder -
“WE ALL DID!” No, you’ll pardon me, I’m wrong;
And the truth will strike me harder when I’m older,
If I have to tell the youngster at my knee
That I didn’t raise a musket to my shoulder -
That among the sturdy stay-at-homes was “ME”.

The thought of it will haunt me then, I reckon -
The thoughts of it, they haunt me even now,
As the legions of our buried soldiers beckon,
Nobly pointing out the way for me to go.
And it’s “ME” they meant – not younger men or older,
The call was not for Smith or Jones – but “ME”,

For the spirits of the dead seemed to hover round my head -
Seemed to penetrate the future, and to mock me when I said -
“I didn’t raise a musket to my shoulder”.

AWNL - The Prime Minister in England

The Woman
1 April 1916:
The Right Hon. W. M. Hughes, Prime Minister of Australia, has received a tremendous welcome in England, and his force and eloquence, added to his strong Imperialism, have apparently made a great impression. According to the cables, every minute of his time is “one crowded hour of glorious life” and we have no doubt that the experience he is gaining will be of great benefit to Australia, whose destinies are under his guidance and command in the most fateful moment of its history.

AWNL - Australia’s Honour at Stake

The Woman
1 April 1916:
Protest by Australian Women’s National League -
Australia’s Promise Broken -

At the weekly meeting of the executive committee (Mrs. F. G. Hughes in the chair) … the following resolutions were unanimously carried, viz

1. That the following cable message be immediately despatched to Mr. Hughes, Prime Minister of Australia – “Australian Women’s National League protests that the Acting Prime Minister has broken your pledged promise to Britain and her Allies.

2. That the executive of the A.W.N. League expresses the greatest regret and astonishment that the Acting Prime Minister should suggest that Australia could go back on her promise to provide 30,000 men by June next. While sinking all party differences, it is for us to see that Australia’s name is not dishonoured, and it is earnestly hoped that the people themselves will make the most strenuous effort to provide the Acting Prime Minister’s proposed deficiency of 90,550 men.

AWNL - Strikes are Rife in Australia

The Woman
1 May 1916:
At the April Council meeting the following resolution, moved by Mrs. Arthur Robinson, was carried unanimously –
“The A.W.N. League deeply deplores the fact that at this time of Empire crisis, when our very existence as a nation is being fought for on the far-flung battle lines in three Continents – Europe, Asia, and Africa – that strikes are rife in Australia, and painfully so amongst the industries that are vital to the prosecution of war. That this conference of the A.W.N. League and People’s Party strongly resent the action of the Federal Government in fixing the price of foodstuffs and bread, as this must, to be effective, lead to further reduction in the price of wheat and produce, and will create a breach of faith made under the wheat scheme.”

AWNL - Empire Day Demonstration – Melbourne Town Hall

The Woman
, 1 June 1916:
Mrs F.G. Hughes, in her welcome and opening remarks, said “My Lord Mayor and Fellow Citizens. It gives me great pleasure in the name of the Australian Women’s National League to welcome you here at our annual demonstration in Honour of Empire Day. We ask the speakers tonight to strike no note but the note of Imperialism – of Nationhood …

I am sorry to say there are men amongst us whose ears are deaf to the call of duty; there are women amongst us who will not let those near and dear to them take their part in defending our liberty and their country’s honour. Will such as these ever realize that our country is in terrible danger at the present moment? …

A woman the other day, with a small boy, two years old, told me she was going to re-join her mother. She said her husband had long ago wished to go to the front, but she had kept him back until one evening he returned home, and asked her if she ever looked at the recruiting posters. She said “No,” she had no interest in them. He asked her to look at the poster which affected him most sadly – a little boy asking his father - “And what did you do in the war, Daddy, in the great war”? He pointed to his little child and said “I would have to tell our boy that I hid behind his mother’s skirts.”

Her husband enlisted the next morning, and she was a happier woman, even though he had gone. She and he had “done their bit” …

The dark cloud of war hangs over us – so dark that some wonder that the God of Christians stays his hand, but we think again. We believe that out of the present evil, good must eventuate. We know that our cause is just and honourable. Right, and not might, must rule, and so this terrible war that was forced upon Britain and her allies will cease in due course, and the spirit of militarism must be purged from the earth.

War, as it is carried out today will, we trust, be banished for ever, and the fair lands of all nations which have been steeped in blood, will have redeemed their past, and a Council of Nations shall decide great  international questions, and peace between nations throughout the globe will thus be secured.

AWNL - Woman’s Petition for Conscription

The Woman
June 1 1916:
To the Honourable the Speaker, and the Honourable Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.

“We, the undersigned women of Victoria, citizens of Australia and electors of the Commonwealth, most respectively petition you regarding the immediate need for universal compulsory military service.

“In this moment of supreme crisis the Empire’s call is for every fit man to go forth and fight for freedom, liberty, and honour - say, that civilisation itself may be preserved.

“The voluntary system has failed to supply the requisite number of men to win the war, and, in addition, the shortage of men has caused enormous sacrifice of life amongst those who have gone forward at their country’s call. Notwithstanding the valour of the men of Anzac, whose deeds will ring down the ages to the glory of Australia, we know that this land has not yet put her full fighting strength into the struggle in which her very existence is imperilled.

“It has been truly said that Australia stepped into the majority of nationhood on the heights of Gallipoli one short year ago.

“We respectfully pray that you and your ministers, on whose shoulder falls the burden, and on whose guidance in this great hour our new born nation so greatly depends, will fearlessly - and with the knowledge that the whole people of the Empire must realise that the war cannot be won under the voluntary system - bring in conscription.

“If necessary let Australia lead the way, so that, when the annals of this great war are written on Empire History, it may be said she was ripe for nationhood in the widest sense worthy of the men who had won her a place amongst the nations.

AWNL - 22,000 Signatures in Five Days

The Woman:
July 1916
Annual Report 30th June 1916 – This League felt that as recruits were not coming forward in the desired numbers, and that many men who were eligible were holding back, the only fair way to deal with this would be to have Conscription, they drew up a petition praying Parliament to bring in Conscription. This was a woman’s petition, over 22,000 signatures being obtained in five days. This petition was presented to Parliament by Mr Joseph Cook when the Federal Parliament opened in May.

AWNL - Australia or Germany

The Woman
October 2 1916:
A most momentous question will be presented to the citizens of the Australian Commonwealth on 28th October by Referendum. We shall be required to record an answer to the following question -

“Are you favour of the Government having, in this grave emergency, the same compulsory powers over citizens in regard to requiring their military service, for the term of the war, outside the Commonwealth, as it now has in regard to military service within the Commonwealth?” ...

The resolution of the Executive of the AWNL League on 4th September shows that the organised power of the League will throw its weight into the scale in favour of conscription.

The resolution is as follows - “As it has been decided to ascertain the will of the people by a referendum on the question regarding conscription, this meeting urges that every member of our League do all in her power to see that a large affirmative vote is given.”

AWNL - Australian Women's National League Appeal to Women

To the Editor of the Argus 24 October 1916,
“Sir - May we appeal to the members of the Australian Women’s National League to prove their right to bear the name National; to prove that the motto under which we work "For God and Country” does not mean lip service only, but that we live up to it and strive to carry out the spirit of those few words in our actions and daily lives.

The issue on October 28, we are told, lies chiefly in the women's hands, their voting strength being by far in the majority. The cry "Do not send another woman's son to death" has surely, been answered over and over again, as also the other most frequent cry, "No compulsion for free and democratic Australia!"

Why has the word suddenly become so objectionable? Only because applied in connection with the word military. Every action of our daily lives is more or less compulsory from the day we are born. Up to the present, thank God, there has been no need for compulsory military service but provision was made for what might be.

Men were liable to be called up for compulsory military service within Australia. If we wait for that, at the present juncture, we will wait too long. "Too late" are ominous words. The freedom and destiny of Australia is being decided now - this very hour - on the battlefields across the sea. Members and women, "Vote Yes" on October 28.

Prove that the women of Australia can face the sacrifice demanded. In many ways women have to be strong for men. Put all your strength into this great question - the greatest Australia has ever had to face - urge your men to be strong "in the courage of their fate."

The silly cry that it is Britain's war, not Australia's, let us fight it: we are part of the glorious British nation. The tie of kinship should bind us all with iron bands. Without Britain and her fleet behind us there would be no "free and democratic Australia to-day."  Preach that gospel between now and the 28th. Realise it yourselves; make your men realise it - your young men - those who repeat what they hear unthinkingly, spread for the most part by the German, the pro-German.

The youth who has fear in his heart and seeks to justify himself to himself and satisfy a conscience that is just pricking, and, we hope, will go on pricking until it bursts through and the brave Australian heart asserts itself and the clouded brain is cleared. From the time it was decided that this issue should be submitted to the people the Prime Minister has set us all a fine example of grand determination, grand courage. Let us be behind him in determination, in energy, and courage: give him loyal support in his unflagging efforts.

In conclusion, we appeal to women to send their men forward with "God-speed" to encourage the faint-hearted (we all need encouragement sometimes to do right). We appeal with confidence, not to send another man to death, but to send another life to save a life for the honour of Australia, for the honour of our nation, for "God and country."  

Eva Hughes

Defend the Empire’s Trade

The Woman
1 December 1916:
The idea of renewing trade with Germany after the war grows more and more repulsive to Australians as the awful brutality and malignancy of German warfare becomes more widely known, and our knowledge of German treachery towards friendly, hospitable, and unsuspecting nations is more clearly understood.

Mr W M Hughes has set himself the Herculean task of destroying the tentacles of German trade, which will be sent out for the purpose of again enveloping the Commonwealth of Australia in an endeavour to rebuild the German Empire after the war at the expense of the manufactures and industrial workers of this fair southern continent.

AWNL - Woman’s Influence

The Woman
1 December 1916:
A Few Thoughts for my Fellow Members - We have heard much of “Woman’s Part in War Work”, “Woman’s Influence” etc. If ever our woman’s influence be needed it is now and here in Australia – not so much to influence politics, but our fellow women – to practise self-restraint – to be self-respecting.

I have been to meetings for women only. What have I seen? A chance word, or a speaker, has transformed a quiet, nice looking face into that of a fury – Womanhood, Motherhood forgotten – clenched fists, stamping feet, curses on lips that should speak gently. What of the children seated on lorries, going through the streets of beautiful Melbourne in procession, crying their meaningless “Yah, Yah” …

What will their memory of the “Voice of the People” be? Do those who arrange such spectacles think for one moment of the terrible effects of scenes that were witnessed that day on the minds of Young Australians and the future Womanhood of Australia?

Surely No.  What would the soldier husbands and fathers think if they could see - as I have seen – their wives, their little children (innocent even under such surroundings, as they ought to be) – for the time being forgetful of all that should be remembered, and giving freedom and utterance to all that is reprehensible in woman or man.

The members of our League have a duty laid upon them in our fourth plank – To protect the fourth plank “To Safeguard the interests of the Home, Women and Children”.

Take heed and let us not be found wanting.