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Girls Social and Political Union

"The inaugural meeting was held at Hindmarsh Buildings on the evening of Thursday July 30th, when the chair was taken by Miss Hotson. There were 16 present. Miss Walker read an outline of the work of the proposed society. Miss Hotson spoke of the inspiring fortnight through which she had just passed, mentioning the earnestness of the Labour party as she had seen it displayed. She also mentioned a meeting of the International Peace Society at which she had been present. Miss Walker told how the Women's Political Association (non-party) had paassed a resolution in favour of Lord Abercrombie's amendment of the British Naturalisation Bill and had cabled it to England. . ."

The social activism of quite young women is graphically captured in this handwritten minute book of a Girls Social and Political Union (SRG 513/1) which flourished between 1914 and 1917. It was a discussion group formed by Ellinor Walker in 1914, when she was just 18, with a friend, and around 20 other young women. The aims of the group were to promote mutual awareness of matters South Australian, Australian, Imperial and international to make the most effective use of their voting rights.

According to the State Library's Prue McDonald, 'The minute book of the girls union shows issues of concern to the socially and politically aware young women of the day, and are remarkable for the time.'

Extracts from the minute book given below show the range of social, political and economic topics discussed, some of which bear currency today—'large pensions being granted to Government servants at the present time of so-called economy'; sweated labour; the wheat scheme, land values taxation.





July 30

Inaugural meeting


October 8

Topics discussed included equal pay for equal work


November 5

Paper on patriotism


November 19

Talk on women's municipal powers in South Australia, the British constitution compared with Australia, state and federal constitutions


December 3

Discussed proposal for forming a depot for trained domestic helpers, on the system of employment and payment by the hour ... the need for legislation to compel the registration of Employment Agencies


February 11

The present year marks the 'coming of age' of South Australian women's enfranchisement


February 25

Explanation by Miss Dorothy Vaughan of the principles of Proportional Representation. With the aid of a blackboard she made clear the whole slightly intricate process, and pointed out its very great desirability. A mock election was then held to illustrate the rules and was most successful


March 25

Discussed newly formed Women's Peace Party in America. Also an article from McCall's magazine on how the Japanese women are awaking, just as the British and American women have awakened. The women's movement in Japan is slow to progress and meets dreadful opposition, but there as elsewhere it is the beginning of great things


April 22

Miss Chartier gave an interesting paper on Land Values Taxation; paper on Matrimonial Causes Law of South Australia, showing inequality of the laws dealing with men and women in the matter of marriage and divorce; paper on Policewomen-the need for women and the special work they would do


May 6

Information as to the way in which the State Government is striving to provide work for the unemployed-roadwork, tramway extension, woodblocking; American paper on National Prohibition: the Temperance movement is now 100 years old


May 20

Political activities in other states; growing influence of women shown in article in Daily Herald; growth of Europe-article from the Young Age; discussion on current events, Manufacturers Week, need to attempt to insure a lasting peace after the Great War


June 3

Miss Horton suggested a scheme for a Women's Strike which might stop the present war


June 17

The science of organisation


July 16

Appointment of women Justices of the Peace in South Australia


July 29

ead an article from Everybody's journal showing how the German nation lacked in respect to its women and kept them at a low point of status; great Panama exposition—article in Daily Herald by Mr Pritchard—address on woman's place in the new civilisation


August 26

The Great Pyramid


September 23

Study Circles; Democracy-contrasted with Bureaucracy, for example Germany


October 7

Miss Walker gave a talk on the seven Australian Parliaments, with a summary of the constitution of South Australia, the method of work of the Assembly and Legislative Council, and the passage of a Bill


October 21

Possibility of a World Federation of Women being formed


December 2

Miss Walker had led a deputation to the Attorney-General representing this Union and the Social Reform Bureau concerning giving power for judges to assist where men bequeath everything away from good wives and dependent children


February 10

Letter from the Feminist Club of Sydney was read re the establishment of a National Bureau of Science and Industry...motion to the Prime Minister that 'women should be included upon any committee or managing staff which is appointed in connection with such a bureau'


March 9

Large pensions being granted to Government servants at the present time of so-called economy; article from Australian Women's Weekly on the sweating of women in the English munitions factories; Baby Week in America


June 1

The wheat scheme


June 15

The woman voter (Woman's Political Association (Non-Party) in Victoria) is now available in the press gallery of Federal Parliament, the first time for a woman's paper


October 5

Notice from the Woman's Non-Party Political Association of a Women's Parliament to discuss a bill for equal pay for equal work; Mr Herbert gave a talk on Social Evolution, especially interesting the Matriarchate and the way in which power passed away from women to man


April 12

Delightful time was spent listening to Miss Whittam's talk of her experiences in England during the year 1911. She was in London at the time of the beginning of the militant suffrage movement and was impressed with the enthusiasm of the supporters of the women's suffrage who were led by Mrs Emily and Miss Christabel Pankhurst. It was rather amusing to hear that Miss Whittam was unable to hear Lloyd George speak, as women were not admitted to his public meetings, owing to the heckling the members of Parliament, especially Mr Asquith, were being subjected to by the suffragettes. She mentioned having been present at many interesting lectures hearing most of the leading people of that day, getting in touch with those happenings through visiting the educational, political and social societies


May 10

Looking at lives of women pioneers in movements of world wide influence, the first being the life and work of Catherine Helen Spence


May 24

This was the last meeting, the 55th of the Girls Social and Political Union. The Minutes were signed by Ellinor Walker, President, on June 14.


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