On this page: Zara Wildenaur, Edith Morgan, Hellen Cooke, Yvonne Smith,
Women's Health in the North, Thelma Prior, Pamela Curr,
Marion Harper, Joan Coxsedge
They were very volatile times, in Poland in the 1930's.
My older brother escaped and came to Australia. I remember his German
work- mates speaking of their envy at his 'going away' party.
I came out later, landing at Brisbane on the 23rd August
1939. The rest of my family perished.
I joined the Country Women's Association. They weren't
really interested in peace issues at the time, but there was nothing else
until the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).
This picture was taken at a WILPF demonstration when
I was visiting a friend in Melbourne in 1953.
We still have religious and ethnic hatred and war, why?
I believe most people want to live a peaceful life, but they don't have
the structures to work through, such as, for example, a Department of
Harmony. Not that, necessarily, but something similar. OPAC 2004
- My dad was a socialist. He had an immense effect on
our family. He was very clear on some issues, for example, the antiwar
stuff in 1914 when they had those first world war posters like the "WHAT
ARE YOU DOING FOR YOUR COUNTRY?" posters.
I wasn't alive then, of course. He was quite involved
in the anti-conscription campaign. He was a strong figure in the union.
He used to work down at Spotswood and if people were in trouble they would
say "go and talk to Coldy, he'll know what to do (our name being Coldicutt).
Peace was the issue at that time. Dad took us all to
Festival Hall when the Dean of Canterbury (the Red Dean) was here, who
was a strong socialist advocate of the Soviet Union, and so forth.
- ... I got involved in many campaigns through the Communist
Party during and after the Second World War. Then I joined the Union of
Australian Women, too. I was there at the inaugural meeting.
A strong nationalist feeling came in Australia after
the war, an interest in Australian literature and films. There was that
wonderful play that has never been properly shown. It was a musical, "Reedy
River", written by somebody called Dick Diamond, I think. There was a
strong peace campaign.
There was some contradiction between where we had been
fighting fascism and peace. It was very difficult for some, that issue,
because it was very important fascism was defeated. I think people generally,
even those who would be strong antiwar activists like Joan Coxsedge, would
have been out there in campaigns against Hitler.
There was a small amount of money available
from the Government for the International Year of Peace and the Non- Government
Organisations came together to decide how to use it.At
these meetings I found out that people who come together for peace are
not necessarily peaceful. In fact, some young men wanted to take the word
peace out of the International Year for Peace.
We weathered a few meetings by sticking
to the agenda and these young men got bored with us and left. But then
the head of the Returned Soldiers' League came in. He, again, seemed hell-bent
on removing the word peace. A friend of mine, an ex-headmistress, had
enough of this - she spoke up and said 'Will you be quiet?' He was.
Stella Cornelius - a member of Women's International
League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) - came in. She was an absolutely
unflappable woman. The RSL man said she must not criticise the men involved
in the war games we were having at that time. He called these men 'the
brave boys who would fight the wars'.
She just said, 'Yes, I really want to help
the brave boys. I don't believe their lives should be risked wantonly,
so I propose that before we have war games we should have peace games
- serious peace games'.
She won me over. I still correspond with
her. So, Helen Caldicott and Stella Cornelius became two heroines of mine.
back in time – when the Vietnamese people were struggling for independence,
the UAW had been in touch with the Vietnam Women's Union. They sent us
much information about the nature of their struggle – we knew what
was happening and were active in support for them.
And although it was a very important issue – it
was to become even more so with the conscription of Australian young men
– my feeling at the time was that the antiwar struggle had taken
over the UAW at the expense of women's specific issues and problems.
I hadn't formulated what those problems were as the Women's
Liberation movement did later, such as challenging the role of the family,
the sexual revolution etc. but I just had an uneasy feeling that we were
becoming the women's adjunct of the peace movement.
When Save Our Sons was formed following the introduction
of conscription this single issue organisation was able to take on the
role that was needed. That was great. Once again a lot of UAW women supported
Health in the North
- OLDER WOMEN'S DISCUSSION - We are in the middle
of a revolution of the most pernicious kind which is trying to undo the
culture of peace and justice put into place by the likes of us.
To develop a culture of peace, you must first develop
resistance against those who create monopolies, oppression and war. To
peacefully (even though we're angry) exist, we need to set up alternatives
- to peacefully undermine the pyramid.
The older women who participated in the focus group saw
the notion of peace in global terms: I asked my group yesterday what
their idea of peace was, said one woman, and nearly all of them
said world peace.
Community, both local and global, was a crucial element
in the women's definition of peace. Peace to me means safety - my children,
my home, my community, offered one woman. If I feel safe personally, I
will be at peace. And if everybody I know and love is safe, then I have
peace. If everybody in the community was safe, then how peaceful would
For this group of women who equated their personal peace
with global peace, a sense of disempowerment was the main issue that prevented
To become a peaceful person, you need first to sort
out the problems confronting your everyday life, said one woman.
I'm not sure what's happening to me, said another,
but I can't accept that all the bits and pieces that we do individually
and locally for peace or on behalf of peace make a difference. Women's
Health in the North
- Education, information and a sense of injustice will
prompt action in the individual, then in the community and ultimately
instigate social change.
Peace is made and it is fought for. It is not something
you can just sit back and expect. We are a complicated species and we
are both competitive and cooperative and we need to keep these two parts
of ourselves in balance. Political action needs to be appropriately activated.
- In 1956 I was elected
by my workmates to represent them at the Second World Peace Conference.
The workers at my factory helped to pay my fare. Peace was something these
girls understood - many of their people had been killed in the war.
I nearly did not
get back to Australia. On arrival back in England, I, with two other delegates
had to go to Court at the Old Bailey to contest the Australian Menzies
Liberal government's Order of Deportation.
The English judge
told the Australian government that they did not want us - so we were
allowed to come home. We had our Australian passports taken from us in
Most of the people in Australia were opposed to going
to war in Iraq. Even when war commenced, still more than half were opposed
to it and nothing that has happened since then has made them change their
That war has not made the world safer. There has been
a lot of spin-doctoring about the reasons why we went to war. But there
are enough intelligent people in this country - even though they are informed
by this biased media - who have come to their own conclusions.
That again is the role of the left, the dissidents, the
activists in our society. To stimulate people to look outside the arguments
put before them and to come to intelligent conclusions.
At the moment I am working with the Victorian Peace Network.
I am also the national spokesperson for the Greens for refugees, but even
if I weren't, I see myself as one of the many refugee activists.
Some of us are aligned to groups and some of us are not.
We are all in communication through email. This is a campaign that has
been connected through email.
to go to work. Jim had become a tram driver. The pay was not very big
and we had a lot of expenses with 4 children, as a result of my involvement
in the peace movement, through the Party, I became involved in the Unitarian
James was the minister of the church at the time and I was involved in
the planning of the big meeting with the Red Dean at the Exhibition Building.
I became very involved with Frank Hartley, Victor James and Alf Dickie
- who were the three ministers who worked together in the peace movement.
result of working with them, Frank Hartley offered me a job in the Victorian
Peace Movement. So I worked for the peace movement for quite some time.
Early on there were some great campaigns there. It was interesting.
The 1980s was the
era of women's peace camps and I was very privileged to take part in three
of them. The Women for Survival Peace Camp took place in 1983 outside
the gates of Pine Gap near Alice Springs to draw attention to the presence
of this very secretive electronic surveillance base which is run by and
for the United States. Part of a global network, it sucks up information
like a giant vacuum cleaner and operates completely outside normal governmental
and legal constraints.
The camp lasted for
a week and was creative and colourful and full of determined women prepared
to have a go. I would have dearly liked to stay longer but had to return
to Victoria to take part in an 'Equal Opportunity' debate!
Earlier in that same
year, when I was in Washington DC visiting some anti-snooping comrades
in CounterSpy, I was invited to join a weekend of protest at a women's
peace camp at Seneca Falls in New York State. The governor had declared
a 'state of emergency' and called out the national Guard, so I saw the
US security state at first hand and it wasn't a pretty picture.
The following year,
I went to Greenham Common, the famous Women's Peace Encampment. In 1981,
a group of gutsy women had marched from Cardiff to this US cruise missile
base in Berkshire and set up a permanent presence around its edge, quickly
becoming a symbol for peace activists around the world. Greenham Common
was non-hierarchical and and had no traditional structures.
There were various
gates around the perimeter named after the colours of the rainbow, each
with its own political flavour, allowing women to join the grouping of
their choice. I took along a swag of food and ciggies and a great deal
of admiration for their incredible courage. Apart from police brutality
and cruel harassment from local yobs, the weather conditions were often
horrendous. And yet, these women, ordinary mortals like us, stayed there
like the women of Greenham Common, we must continue working for a better
world. I want my grandchildren to live in a society that has a spirit
of independence, that puts people before profits and looks after the environment.
Back to top