WPA Organisational History: 1916 February-June

17 February 1916

The WPA reconvened after the summer break. Their meeting was held in the Ladies Reading Room of the School of Arts, with the committee meeting half an hour before. Clio Jensen was elected president. She was one of the ‘advanced’ woman, one of the university graduates of the ‘New Woman’ and had an MA. Resolutions to the prime minister were drafted and discussion focussed on relief work, relief work in the form of clothing to be sent overseas to England and distributed through the Society of Quakers. Donations and requests for speakers were coming in from various branches of the WPO, Women’s Political Organisation.[1]

7 March 1916

The main business was to prepare for a public meeting to explain the aims and policy of the movement. Three resolutions were finalised: to Mr Hughes (PM) and the Brisbane based Industrial Council on terms of peace at the Imperial Conference and against conscription; that the PM ‘induce’ the Imperial Conference on the importance of the enfranchisement of women as a way of obtaining permanent peace; and to protest against the widespread ill-treatment of Germans in Australia.[2]

9 March 1916                     PUBLIC MEETING, Brisbane

Margaret Thorp presented ‘The Aims and Policy of the Peace Movement’. Held in the School of Arts, and chaired by Mr R V Smith, at the conclusion, the meeting of at least forty people resolved that:

  • The Australian people ‘be taken into the confidence’ of the Commonwealth government about measures they were favouring to permanently establish peace;
  • The Australian government make representations to the Imperial Government that open [not secret] ‘real’ parliamentary control was held on foreign policy.[3]

16 March 1916

Members of the WPA, notably Margaret Thorp and Emma Miller, continued to speak to other groups; they reported on a successful talk at Wynnum. Other members were active in relief work and in distributing ‘literature’.

 

30 March 1916

The WPA agreed to affiliate with the Australian Peace Alliance. Delegates appointed were Emma Miller, Clio Jensen, Mrs Watson and Margaret Thorp. Emma Miller was to attend a conference in Melbourne. A sub-committee was formed to distribute copies of a pamphlet ‘Australian and the Coming Peace’, ‘to educationalists, MPs, and all the leading publicists and doctors, etc’. [4]A ‘quotation’ meeting, members were asked to bring extracts by great minds on ‘peace’. They farewelled a member, Mrs Sampson, on her move to Townsville.

4 May 1916                         PUBLIC MEETING, Brisbane

Clio Jensen presented ‘Women’s Part in the Permanent Abolition of War’ at the School of Arts, which was followed by discussion.

18 May 1916

Thorp accused the School of Arts committee of ‘autocratic tyranny’ when they decreed that the WPA could no longer hold their meetings there, despite her extended defence.[5] It seems that it was Adela Pankhurst’s reputation as an ‘anti-loyalist’ that was their key objection. Incoming correspondence requested more public meetings in Gympie, Ipswich and Maryborough. Letters continue to arrive from ‘headquarters’ of the WPA in the Hague. It was agreed to have membership cards.

 

1 June 1916

Fortnightly Thursday night meetings were held at the Concordia Hall. Correspondence included a letter from Billy Hughes the PM. The Congregational Union refused WPA’s offer of a speaker. Planning and arrangement continued for events and activities in the forthcoming months.[6]

 

14 June 1916

A social gathering of songs and dancing, as a reception for the return of Emma Miller from her visit ‘down South’ to Melbourne and Sydney, included speeches by ‘prominent political supporters of internationalism’. The expatriate Russians of Brisbane gave a Cossack dance in costume.[7]

 

22 June 1916

Emma Miller took the chair, in Clio Jensen’s absence. Rather than present a paper, Margaret Thorp gave the floor to Emma Miller who, ‘in her own spirited way’, outlined the work of the Victorian WPA, which was not ‘charitable’ rather paid union wages to those in the ‘workshop’ or on the women’s farm.[8] She described ‘her keen delight’ at being associated with Vida Goldstein, Cecilia John and Kathleen Hotson. She spoke of the ‘straight home truths’ administered to Labor movement leaders and the Sydney WPA she met with. Six new members signed up.

 

[1] ‘Women’s Peace Army’, Worker, 24 February 1916, p. 4.
[2] ‘Women’s Peace Army’, Daily Standard, 7 March 1916, p. 2.
[3] ‘Women’s Peace Army’, Daily Standard, 10 March 1916, p. 5.
[4] ‘Women’s Peace Army’, Worker, 6 April 1916, p. 9.
[5] ‘Is it Victimisation? Women’s Peace Army, School of Arts Committees Quibbles’, Daily Standard, 22 May 1916, p. 4.
[6] ‘Women’s Peace Army’, Daily Standard, 10 June 1916, p. 4.
[7] ‘Men and Matters’, Worker, 15 June 1916, p. 10.
[8] ‘Women’s Peace Army’, Daily Standard, 27 June 1916, p. 7.
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