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 58 to 68 Women Opposing WW1 PREVIOUS PAGE NEXT PAGE



WPA - The Woman Voter

Woman Voter
, No. 1 August 1909:
As the Women's Political Association is non-party, we get no assistance from the party organs The Age and The Argus. They are always courteous to us, but naturally we cannot expect them to blow our trumpet as they blow the trumpets of the party organisations they respectively support. In order, therefore, that the general public may be able to form a fairly accurate idea of the scope of the Association's work, we propose to issue the Woman Voter as a monthly leaflet, which will give some details of our activities.

WPA - Race of Armaments – A Ministry of Peace

Woman Voter
17 March 1914:
Every country is trying to get ahead of the other in the matter of armaments. The war department is the department of every government.

What a wretched commentary on 2000 years of preaching the gospel of the Prince of Peace! Let us suppose that now we try and practise what we preach. Let us have our department of Peace, as well as our War Department. Let a Minister of Peace tour the country in the interests of Peace.

Printed with kind permission of Women's International League of Peace and Freedom, Australia

Eleanor M. Moore - “In August 1914, the managing Directors of four Great Powers in Europe announced that a war had been arranged and that fighting would begin at once.

It did, and it went on for four years and three months. This conflict has been given the unsuitable name of ‘The First World War’. It was far from that. Not even the whole of Europe was engaged in it ...”

The Quest of Peace as I Have known it in Australia, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom 1949

WPA - Finding Other Means of Settling International Disputes

Woman Voter
4August 4, 1914:
The War - This must be the last war between civilised peoples. The woman movement, which is growing in every nation, will force upon Governments the necessity of finding other means of settling international disputes.

It is awful enough that millions of men are standing face to face with violent death. It is more awful that all the rest of the people of the world are in danger of starvation. The food supplies of the world must cease when the hands that reap and sow are occupied in the work of slaying men. Instead of the highways of the world bringing foodstuffs, they are given up to the carrying the means of bloodshed and death. The millions that war costs must be paid ultimately, and by the weakest, and these are the women and children of the working classes, who will pay with hunger and cold and cruel privations.

There is no real cause for the war! Great Britain has no quarrel with Austria, France none with Germany or Russia. Do we not owe to every European Nation, and they to us, the advance in art and learning that should make for everyone more happy and complete? It is because every nation has been armed to the teeth, and the idea of war has been before them for so long: because the value of life has been obscured, that this terrible disaster, when all the evil forces of hatred, greed and violence are to be let loose, has fallen upon us.

Women know the cost of life too well to risk it lightly. Olive Schreiner writes: “There is, perhaps, no woman, whether she has born children, or been merely potentially a child-bearer, who could look down upon a battlefield covered with the slain, but the thought would rise in her “So many mothers’ sons!”

Woman Voter 4 August 1914:
Ten thousand Anglican Churchmen will hold a conference in September to discuss the possibility of women entering the priesthood of the Church. (Cable Age 22/7/14) Archbishop Clarke, of Melbourne, makes the following
comment -

“There can only be one answer to it. It is an impossibility, not only for scriptural reasons, but in view of the traditions of the Church.”

WPA - Women Will Stand Together

Woman Voter
11 August 1914:
Vida Goldstein - “I think that it is a fearful reflection on 2000 years of Christianity that men have rushed into war before using every combined effort to prevent this appalling conflict. It is my earnest hope that women in all parts of the world will stand together, demanding a more reasonable and civilised way of dealing with international disputes.

The time has come for women to show that they, as givers of life, refuse to give their sons as material for slaughter, and that they recognise that human life must be the first consideration of nations. By the present development it seems that human life is held of no importance in comparison with property and aggrandisement of territory. The enfranchised women of Australia are political units in the British Empire, and they ought to lead the world in sane methods of dealing with these conflicts.”

WPA - Women of the World! Unite!

Woman Voter
11 August 1914:
At a meeting of the Executive Committee of the W.P.L. held on the 7th inst. the following resolutions were passed unanimously -

1. That this Association expresses profound sorrow that the Statesmanship of civilised nations has proved unequal to the task of averting a war that will bring misery and ruin to millions of innocent people, already overburdened by unjust social and industrial conditions.

It is, nevertheless, gratifying to think that the theory that armaments are a guarantee of peace has been annihilated, and this Association hopes that women everywhere, the life givers of the world, will work henceforth with one mind to destroy the perverted sense of national honour, that can only be satisfied by the murder of men, and demand that international disputes shall be adjusted by arbitration.

2. This Association resolves to cable to the President of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, asking that women of all nations be urged to support the action of President Wilson, and plead for immediate arbitration.

Members expressed cordial approval of the Premier’s determination to deal instantly with any attempt to exploit the people by raising the prices of the necessaries of life, and with the Chief Secretary’s decision to repress any manifestation of hooliganism.

WPA - Shall the Mothers of the World Rejoice?

Woman Voter
11 August 1914:
Shall the mothers of the world “rejoice”? Shall they not rather weep?

The reports from Europe which reach us lead us to suppose that Britain and her allies have been victorious over the German arms. Twenty five thousand casualties are reported, though it is denied that there has as yet been a naval engagement of importance. Our own losses and those of the nations allied with us are not reported ...

The press asks us to “rejoice” over these victories over the 25,000 men who have paid the price of human hate and human greed. We cannot rejoice in the victory without at the same time applauding the carnage. We must pay for victory with death. The thunder of shot and shell, the shouts of victory, cannot drown in women’s ears the wailing of children left fatherless in a stricken country.

Not all the bands and banners, not all the patriotic demonstrations, or the pride of conquest can make us forget that every man who lies dead on the field of battle, or mutilated and dying in the hospitals, represents for his father and mother their pain, love, their toil and care, and their humanity – the hope and promise of the future ...

Why and Wherefore?  And all for what? - The wisest apologists for this war can only tell us that Germany must be crushed because she and her military oligarchy threaten European liberty and peace. We may indeed crush Germany but are we then to see the end of military tyranny? We know that by carrying our campaign to victory we shall crush the German peasant who works to give us food, the German artisan who makes our clothing, the German student who in art and science and music could do much to make life full and happy for all the world.  

We know that by starvation and by dire poverty we can crush the German women, the mothers and young girls, and the little German children upon whom the future depends. But are we sure that with an impoverished, industrial population, militarism will be destroyed?

The Russian Menace - Crush German arms and exalt the power of a much more complete system of militarism and tyranny, that of Russia.

WPA - ‘Women, Bethink Yourselves’

Woman Voter
18 August 1914:
The victors, even if they be of our own country, will have no share in the spoils. The spoils go to the few who make the wars, but do not fight themselves …

Women! The success of one nation means the defeat of another.  And success means that one or the other nation has murdered more than the other.

Women! Does the news that the Germans have lost more than 30,000 men mean nothing to you? Are you delirious with joy when you hear that thousands are slain? Do you not know that German mothers are torn with grief and anguish that the sons of their wombs are slain? …

So let the cry from every heart be “My country must be right, not by might but by loving her neighbour as herself?”

WPA - We are fighting for Civil Liberty

Woman Vote
r 16 Sept 1914:
Military Censorship – The blank pages in last week’s issue of the Woman Voter show that our paper has come under the ban of the Military Censor. We had been informed by letter that the two previous issues contained matter that should not have been published. As we have only made a plea for the teachings of Christianity to international disputes, and we were not told what we might publish about war, we put a specific question to the censor.

In last week’s issue we published the correspondence, a brief appeal to mothers, and a quotation containing a statement by Ruskin as to the responsibility of women for war.

On 9th instant an armed guard, with fixed bayonets, a commanding officer, a detective, and police, took charge of the establishment of our printers, Messrs. Fraser and Jenkinson, 343 Queen Street, seized the first prints of the Woman Voter and the correspondence etc. referred to above was destroyed.

We are told that we may publish anything that will “stimulate military enthusiasm” which is explained by the “Military Journal” as developing a “desire to kill.” We shall continue to publish articles that plead for love instead of hatred, for arbitration instead of bloodshed, and for the observance of the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”.

Our civil liberty and the freedom of the press are in jeopardy, and we are prepared to fight for both. We ask you to stand by us. The new government will take office almost immediately, and we must appeal to them to safeguard the rights of the people. We shall ask them to receive a deputation, and we urge you to accompany us when we interview the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence. Much more, however, is necessary.

The Woman Voter is the only paper that has even attempted to make a fight for civil liberty, and we urge you to help us in that fight.

Take extra copies of this week’s issue, distribute the paper widely, get new subscribers. We are fighting for Civil Liberty and against Military Despotism in Australia. We may have to suffer in many ways and we appeal for moral and financial support, so that the Woman Movement may grow stronger because it has taken this stand for righteousness.

WPA - The Women of the World are One

Woman Voter
29 September 1914:
Cecilia John - Well may the readers of the Woman Voter look with pride on the white spaces in our little paper, and keep the copies as another sign of the emancipation of women. The blank spaces will stand forever as a monument of the first fight against a military despotism in Australia - a fight led by a woman, and that woman the editor of our paper.

Just a small handful of women had the intuition to see that it was but the first step of militarism in curtailing the liberty of the press, and our little Woman Voter was the first paper in the whole of Australia to fight against this oppression. The Censor’s staff told us that they had more trouble with our little publication than with any other paper in Melbourne. Exactly.

We opposed the censorship of articles that pleaded for peace and love instead of war and hatred, not for the sake of opposition, but from an inward conviction that we were only doing what was demanded of us by conscience. It was a fight for liberty, fought, not with weapons that take life, but those that give it. Life without freedom to choose the right is but a living death. And are the women to choose a living death because their country is busy taking human life? A thousand times, No!

Vida Goldstein - We believe that the women of the world are one, and we, as political units of the British Empire, which is in a state of war, feel that we are privileged to call upon all women everywhere to unite in working for peace, in making it an integral part of our woman movement.

The men of all nations have made war and the preparation for war an integral part of their national policies. They have put “Fear of Foreign Foes” as the first plank of their political programmes. No wonder that the thing they greatly feared has come upon them! Open Letter to the Women of Australia, Vida Goldstein, Text Appendix 6

Woman Voter
5 October 1914: This association protests against the European War as an outrage on civilisation, and pledges itself to carry on a campaign of education, in the interests of peace through international arbitration.

WPA - White Australia Policy Done For

Woman Voter
27 October 1914:
White Australia Policy Done For - There are many Australians who have defended a “White Australian Policy” on economic grounds, without a thought of racial hatred, but their self-respect will no longer allow them to uphold the principle when we accept the aid of India and Japan in killing our white ‘enemies’. If we make East and West one in times of war, we cannot make them two in times of peace ...

So, there endeth the White Australia policy.

WPA - A Scheme to Help Unemployed Women

Woman Voter
, 15 December 1914:
Distress in Melbourne - A Scheme to Help Unemployed Women -
We wish to impress upon our readers that Australia is in a very precarious condition. Efforts are being made which deprive the community of the benefits which the devotion of many lives has won.

There have been wholesale dismissals of employees, which, in many cases, are quite unjustified. When there is a season of bad trade, due to drought or war, there must not only be a shrinkage in wages, but a shrinkage also in profits …

We want to take some practical steps. Charity is useless and harmful. The WPA, therefore, will attempt to organise the women workers in industries from which they themselves will draw the sole profit. For this purpose we are asking for -

1. The names and addresses of all unemployed women.
2. The names and addresses of wives of unemployed men.
3. Suggestions from members and friends with regard to work that might be carried out by women on a co-operative basis.

We call the earnest attention of our readers to this project, for it is of the utmost importance to the movement and the State.

WPA - War and the People’s Bread

Woman Voter
, 15 December 1914:
WPA and the People’s Bread –

A well-attended meeting of the WPA was held at the rooms on the 7th inst. to protest against the action of the State Government in refusing to continue the steps taken at the beginning of the war for the regulation of food prices. Miss Goldstein said that war had been declared on the people’s bread, and the WPA felt that concerted action by women was needed.

The suggestion made by Miss John, that the Labour members of the State Parliament should refuse to take their seats until the Governments redeemed its pledges to the people was drastic, but it would take more than hundreds of meetings to rouse the country ...

Miss John said that if the Labour members were not prepared to take the drastic step of “going on strike” to protect the people’s bread, the women should take the drastic step of refusing to pay the extra charge when they paid their bread bill.

It was resolved to ask the Premier to receive a deputation of women, to urge that prices should be fixed, and to hold a series of open air meetings of protest against gambling in food supplies.

WPA - Christmas Message to the Women of All Nations

Woman Voter
22 December 1914:
Let Us Go Forth To Fight For Peace On Earth, Good Will To Men. Let Us Unite In Demanding -

1. Representation on a democratic basis of the men and women of all countries at the Hague Conference.

2. That all international disputes shall be settled by a tribunal on which people are represented as above.

3. Abolition of compulsory military training.

4. Government control of the manufacture of armaments, and prohibition of their export to foreign countries.

5. Abolition of secret diplomacy under submission of treaties to a referendum of the people.

6. Government prohibition of the export of capital to foreign countries except for peaceful purposes.

We pledge ourselves to offer to the women of all nations our loyal support in their efforts to destroy war.

We greet them in the name of our common womanhood, and express our faith in their will and power to destroy within their own country the forces making for the destruction of human life, which to the free, awakened women of the world is sacred.