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Page 4 A. EARLY DAYS - THE TIMES OF VIDA GOLDSTEIN
22-28 on this page
22. 1915 FOOD PRICES UP, UNEMPLOYMENT, POVERTY
By August 1915 food prices were up 41%, according to the Commonwealth statistician. Unemployment and poverty was a real problem for many women. Vida Goldstein became bitter at public indifference to the suffering of unemployed women:
"Collect in the streets for Belgium and eight thousand, eight hundred pounds is the result; collect for unemployed women - ten pounds sixteen."
Women, Class and History ed. Elizabeth Windschuttle, Fontana 1980 p.266
The number of necessitous women on our books grows daily, and those who are working here are very inadequately helped. We see them growing thinner and shabbier every day, and it is of the greatest moment that the well-to-do should assist us in our work.
We hear complaints by women that the Government is slow to utilise their services for the prosecution of the war, and to them we say: "The most valuable munitions of war are men who bear arms and the mothers who bear children. Every hour sees the birth of potential men and women, under conditions which make it impossible for them to live to maturity. Surely it is women's duty to provide for these future citizens.
Instead of knitting and sewing for the soldiers, let the Government provide all that is necessary for the troops, paying fair wages for the work - and pay your income tax without complaint. Surely you will forego luxury, that others may have men and women worthy of your race in the future. Do not make shirts and socks at home or in the trams and trains, but pay for them to be done by those who need the work.
Six hundred mothers here are starving for what you will not give. Is this your patriotism - that you will see your own fellow women, of your own blood, starve? If you want to sew, make us a maternity set, which will clothe a naked baby, and a suffering woman to whose mother's agony is added cold, hunger and despair.
Help the women and children of Australia who are the backbone of the British race. Women, your country needs you. Stop knitting and send in your orders for socks at once. God save Australia's people.”
Woman Voter, August 26th 1915 University of Melbourne
(Vida Goldstein) responded indignantly to the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Daniel Mannix, who had criticised women for the declining birth-rate. Although she had been addressing the issue since 1901, the war heightened her passionate defence of women's right to choose not to have children.
"Women are not going to be made breeding machines for the god of war ... for women will increasingly refuse to give life that men may take it ..."
Janette M Bomford That Dangerous and Persuasive Woman Vida Goldstein Melbourne University Press 1993 p.166
23. 1915 WPA (WOMEN’S POLITICAL ASSOCIATION) WOMEN'S LABOUR BUREAU
Distress in Melbourne –
A Scheme to Help Unemployed Women ... 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.
Woman Voter 23 Feb 1915 December 15 1914
WOMEN SEEKING WORK Housewives enquire - Apprised by a statement from Miss Vida Goldstein of the Women's Political Association appearing in these columns yesterday, that the services of charwomen could be obtained through the association's employment bureau, several housewives made application today, and were supplied with the help needed.
Miss Goldstein is of the opinion that if housewives will make a practice of applying to the association in this way, many distressed women will be able to earn enough money to keep the wolf from the door. Even if a housewife needs a woman for an hour only, she need not hesitate to apply. Arlington Chambers, 229 Collins St., Melbourne Central 8013
The Herald February 18 1915
24. VICTORIAN ASSOCIATION OF BENEVOLENT SOCIETIES BETRAYAL
The Victorian Association of Benevolent Societies seemed to think this was a good opportunity to find cheap servants:
To the Editor, Sir, The question of finding work fork for women is receiving much thought at the present time. It were wise that women would realise that we are at war, and, like men, play their part. We know that many opportunities are offering in the domestic sphere… At this time, all honest work is work done for the country...
When peace comes, I think we shall find ourselves little the worse for wear for our experience in manual work, though we may not have been able to command the same return. We shall feel all the better, realising that we have assisted our country by solving a problem which women alone are able to do. Let us accept this as our part in the national burden.
Find all the work possible, and let the unemployed accept it in the spirit in which it is found, even if it be less remunerative, and not as congenial as that to which they are accustomed. I suggest they (unemployed women) register with the Ladies Benevolent Society ...Yours etc. Jessie I Henderson, President, Victorian Association of Ladies Benevolent Society, 89 Harcourt Street, Hawthorn.
The Argus February 22 1915
(The Ladies Benevolent Society still existed when Edith Morgan was working as the first social worker at Collingwood Council in the1970’s).
By the time I came to Collingwood Council Singleton's Health Clinic was run by the Ladies' Benevolent Society and I saw some horrific things happening.
There was a man who was sent home without treatment. He was found sitting at home, dead, a week or so later.
The gangrene in his leg was so bad he hadn't been able to leave the chair since he crawled back from Singleton's.
Women's Web - Women's Stories, Women's Actions www.womensweb.com.au
25. RESPONSE FROM THE WOMEN’S POLITICAL ASSOCIATION
Woman Voter, 23 February 1915 p.3:
Sir, your plea on behalf of unemployed women will, we hope, result in something practical being done immediately. We have urged at the outset that the employment problem intensified by was should be dealt with by a central board ... subsidised by the Commonwealth and State governments ...
It is futile to think that the unemployment problem as it affects women will be solved by offering them domestic service.
The majority who are suffering most severely are widows, or deserted wives with young children dependent on them, or married women whose husbands are out of work or unmarried women who have not the physical stamina necessary for domestic service ...
If employers will take women with one or two young children, we can supply any number of them from our Women's Bureau. The women want work, not charity.
For Love or Money a pictorial history of women and work in Australia Penguin 1981 p.69
26. WOMEN’S LABOUR BUREAU DEFUNDED BETRAYAL
The government granted 45 pounds per week to the (women’s labour) bureau, until July 1916 when the pacifism of the Women's Political Association became intolerable in the atmosphere of wartime hysteria. The bureau was forced to close and its activities taken over by the establishment-endorsed "Ladies Benevolent Society."
Women, Class and History ed. Elizabeth Windschuttle, Fontana 1980
27. 1915 AGITATING AND LOBBYING - UNEMPLOYED WOMEN
The Women's Political Association held a meeting on unemployed women's situation on 22 February 1915. Women's Political Association:
At a meeting of the Women's Political Association held last evening at 229 Collins Street the question of unemployment was discussed. Miss Vida Goldstein presided.
The need for immediate organisation of the forces endeavouring to find work for the unemployed, and to give relief in cases of great distress was emphasised, and the following concrete proposals were agreed to:
1. That the Commonwealth and State Governments be asked to co-operate in meeting the problem of unemployment.
2. That a control board of men and women be appointed by the Governments to organise all those seeking to alleviate the conditions of the unemployed.
3. That a policy of decentralisation be entered upon.
5. That the work should be financed by a graduated tax, starting at 5% on incomes of and over three hundred pounds per annum.
6. That facilities be provided for training women to domestic science, farming etc.
Argus 23 February 1915
The Woman Voter 3 June 1915:
The procession created a sensation, as this was the first time in history women had made any sort of political demonstration in defence of their own rights.
Then the speakers, unemployed women, spoke of their situation: "Dear Sir, we are here because we want work, not charity. My father wouldn't let me learn a trade or go in for any profession, because, he said, the home is the women's place, but I lost my home because the landlord doubled the rent ...
For those of us who have no other source of income, two days’ work is not enough."
For Love or Money a pictorial history of women and work in Australia Penguin 1981 p.70
28. NOT ONLY WOMEN
During the wharf labourers strike the Women's Political Association established a commune, supported by donations, to help the strikers' families. Kitchens, a restaurant, boot shops, barbers, grocers and baker shops were established by voluntary help. Boots were mended and hair cut free. Over 1,500 meals were supplied and 5,000 people were given groceries.
Woman Voter No 268 4/10/17 and 273 18/11/1
Day’s End - Lesbia Harford
Little girls -
You are gay,
Little factory girls
At the end of day.
There you stand
On the back of a tram,
Having taken your dose.
And you go
through the grey
And the gold of the streets
At the close of the day.
Blind as moles:
You are crude,
You are sweet – little girls -
And amazingly rude.
But so fine
To be gay,
Gentle people are dull
At the end of the day.
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