LEADING LIGHTS: Clio Jensen

Clio Jensen spoke at least four languages: English, German, Danish and Italian. She promised ‘to do all in her power to help the movement’, the international movement of women for peace, when she was elected the first president of the Women’s Peace Army in early 1916. One of the new generation, an ‘Advanced Woman’, highly educated with an MA, and presumably of Danish origin, Clio Jensen was the Classical mistress with Brisbane Girls’ Grammar. She had taught at Ipswich Girls Grammar for five and a half years of ‘efficient and faithful service’ until the end of 1912, when she resigned to take up her position at BGGS.

Early in her role as WPA president she presented an eloquent and considered paper, wide-ranging and scholarly, at a public meeting hosted by the WPA in the School of Arts. The aims of ‘the world-wide movement amongst women’, she outlined, were ‘the permanent abolition of war amongst civilised nations’. In her presentation she queried:

  1. Is it a good object, worthy of the best efforts of all women;
  2. Is it possible of realisation;
  3. If so, what are the best means of attaining it.

The Daily Standard published ‘Abolition of War. Women’s Part in the Future’ in toto.[1]

The very day after Clio Jensen’s paper was published, the WPA, ‘The Petticoated Peace Army’ was attacked in the media. ‘So that it should be accepted as a non-party, non-political association’, opined the journalist, ‘it was decided to appoint as president some woman who had not been associated with political propaganda. Choice finally fell on a lady who has earned the right to carry the letters MA as an appendage to her name’, but continued the journalist, ‘the WPA submitted to the ‘boss-ship’ of Mrs Ernest Lane, who ‘so thoroughly monopolies that erudite but far too modest lady’s presidential functions and powers that she reduces her to the position of a mere onlooker’. What Clio Jensen made of the scurrilous attack of the Truth journalist, we might only be able to imagine, but it will be worthwhile considering the whole article in toto, in a separate blog given the need to address representations of the WPA in the media. Enough here to note that there were a number of benefits for the WPA in Clio Jensen taking on the presidency. The women’s movement in Queensland had divided over the issue of votes for women; there had been three key suffrage organisations. Labor women, socialist women were possibly aware of the need to build bridges with the progressive intellectual sections of the women’s movement, especially as the women’s movement was further divided over responses to World War One.

Clio Jensen had links with the international women’s movement. Later that year, 1916, she translated the account ‘Women’s Peace Chain’ of Louise Wright’s participation? at the International Committee for Permanent Peace at the Hague in April 1915.[2] Louise Wright, philanthropist, Christian and Danish pacifist (1861-1935) on her return to Denmark had helped form the Danish Women’s Peace Party, or Women’s Peace Chain.

Clio Jensen also had links with intellectual and feminist elite in Brisbane; she continued to attend social functions at the Women’s College, University of Queensland, for example. And she continued to publish occasional journalism, in the Daily Standard with a further piece on Hans Christian Andersen. And elsewhere? Historian Hilary Summy provides a much important view on why Jensen may have taken up the presidency; apart from her own commitment to ‘permanent peace’, Clio Jensen and Margaret Thorp were such good friends and got on so well together that Margaret Thorp moved into Clio Jensen’s home in May 1916.[3]

[1] 1916 ‘ABOLITION OF WAR. WOMEN’S PART IN THE FUTURE’, Daily Standard (Brisbane, Qld. : 1912 – 1936), 13 May, p. 14. (SECOND EDITION), viewed 07 Apr 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article179847382

[2] 1916 ‘WOMEN’S PEACE CHAIN.’, Daily Standard (Brisbane, Qld. : 1912 – 1936), 29 November, p. 7. (SECOND EDITION), viewed 07 Apr 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article181090479

[3] Hilary N Summy, Peace Angel of World War I : Dissent of Margaret Thorp, Brisbane: Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, 2006, p. 80.

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