Happy birthday! 90 years of Queensland CWA
By JOL Admin | 14 August 2012
In August 1922, with Queensland in the grip of prolonged drought, the Brisbane Women's Club sponsored a conference of women from the country to canvas ideas about how country women could best be supported. Out of this conference it was decided to follow the leaded provided by New South Wales and form a Country Women's Association in Queensland. The then Governor, Sir Matthew Nathan, was a strong supporter of the idea. He attended the conference and accepted the position of Patron of the newly formed Association.
The Association was formed at once with Mrs H. Fairfax appointed President and all the women from the conference became members of the general Committee with the power to convene branches in their own regions. The organisation grew rapidly with branches forming around the state and the formalities of drawing up a constitution undertaken at a conference in Toowoomba in September 1922 and ratified at another conference six months later. In 1926 the Association was registered as a Corporate Body making it one of the oldest existing incorporated bodies in Queensland.
Inaugural meeting of the Country Womens Association in Bowen, 1923. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 25762
The CWA has always been concerned with education, providing hostel accommodation that enabled children to attend secondary school. CWA Halls sprang up all over the state to provide, often, the only community meeting place. Hostels were built to house new mothers before they went to hospital and where they could stay with their babies before undertaking the difficult journey home.As early as 1924 the Association had encouraged members to undertake all sorts of service to women and children in rural Queensland. Branches established Rest Rooms in many country towns and some established Bush Nurse Centres and even Emergency Hospitals while other branches paid the salaries of relieving housekeepers to go into homes in time of crisis. The Association was also beginning to provide seaside accommodation at low cost so that country families could afford holidays.
Illustrated front cover from The Queenslander, 10 May 1928. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 191969
In time the Association felt the need to build more substantial buildings. Accommodation was needed in Brisbane for women visiting from the country, a project that was given urgency by World War II, when many women came to Brisbane to keep essential industries running. The CWA purchased Holyrood Hospital on Gregory Terrace and converted it for use as a Hostel. In 1960 work was completed on a new building to house the State Office of the CWA as well as an assembly room and a residential club. This building was named Ruth Fairfax House after the founding President of the Association.
It was in response to the dept for this building that the Queensland CWA launched their first State-wide Cookery Contest in 1959. The Association also published the first edition of the Lady Lavarack Cookery Book, named after the then patron of the Association, Lady Sybil Lavarack. Individual branches had previously published their own CWA cookery books, one of the earliest held in the State Library being the 2nd edition of the Bundaberg Branch QCWA cookery book from 1926. This book includes the recipe for C.W.A. cake.
Quarter lb. butter, 1 cup sugar, beat extra well; add 3 eggs (one at a time). Prepare 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 tablespoons cornflour, 1 teaspoon carbonate of soda, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, a pinch of salt, cut 1/4 lb. of crystallised cherries in round slices, sprinkle a little four and rub into cherries; then add with flour and rising, add enough milk to make a nice light sponge batter, make a nice pale pink with cochineal and flavour with strawberry essence or orange icing. Bake in sandwich tins; put together with layers of pastry and whipped cream or nice cream icing.
Women from the Queensland Country Women's Association unpacking cakes entered in a cookery competition, 1962. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image 10128-0001-0002
The John Oxley Library holds a large number of resources on the Queensland Country Women's Association. Valuable information on the history of the Association can be found in The Queensland Country Women's Association fifty years : 1922-1972.
The library also holds a number of collections of original records from the Association.
Queensland Country Women's Association Records 1923-2002
Queensland Country Women's Association Records 1926-2008
Queensland Country Women's Association Minute Books
The QCWA website has also been archived on Pandora
My creed (sheet music cover) QCWA song. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland
QWCA was inducted into the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame in 2013.
Why not wish the Queensland CWA a happy birthday when you visit their iconic tea room under the grandstand at the Ekka!
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