Australian Women's National League.

Also known as
Australian Women's National League. (1904-1944)
Function
Women's rights activists and Political organisation
Libraries Australia
http://nla.gov.au/anbd.aut-an36005486
NLA Persistent Identifier
http://nla.gov.au/nla.party-598652

Biographies

The Australian Women's National League (AWNL) was a conservative women's organisation established in 1904 to support the monarchy and empire, to combat socialism, educate women in politics and safeguard the interests of the home, women and children. It aimed to garner the votes of newly enfranchised women for non-Labor political groups espousing free trade and anti-socialist sentiments, with considerable organisational success. At its peak, it was the largest and arguably the most influential women's organisation in the country. By 1914 the AWNL claimed 52,000 members in three states. Closely associated with the United Australia Party, the financial and organisational support of the League was a key factor in the foundation of the Australian Liberal Party in 1944. At this point, the majority of members reconstituted themselves as the Women's Section of the Liberal Party. The League continued in a much reduced state.

The initial impetus for the formation of the Australian Women's National League came from moves by the Victorian Employers Federation in 1903 to form a conservative women's political organisation. Janet Lady Clarke was approached to sponsor this new group and held a meeting of three hundred women at her home in August 1903 to discuss forming an organisation. Nothing definite emerged, however, until the following year when another meeting, organised by Clarke's sister, Evan Hughes, was held at the Melbourne Town Hall in March 1904. A provisional committee was elected and the following month the League was formally established and Janet Lady Clarke was appointed first president.

Throughout its existence the Leagues aims were: • "Loyalty to the Throne • To counteract Socialist tendencies • To educate the Women of Victoria to realise their political responsibilities • To Safeguard the Interests of the Home, Women and Children."

Numerous suburban and country branches were subsequently formed. From 1909, the League's activities were extensively documented in its journal The Woman. An issue which attracted the early attention of the League, apart from combating left-wing politics was the provision of domestic science education for girls in schools and the establishment of domestic science as a university course. From 1905-1945 the League organised the Empire Day celebrations in Melbourne. During World War I The Woman acted as a rallying point for women in Melbourne. It encouraged women to cultivate medicinal herbs and plants, to make garments and towels for fund-raising stalls, to donate old linen, blankets, towels, bandages, toiletries and pipes to the Red Cross Society and gave advice on 'rural industries for women': poultry farming, gardening and even pig raising. After the war, the League's activities expanded considerably into the areas of women's and children's welfare. In 1918, the League inaugurated 'Baby Week' in Melbourne, which included the exhibition of healthy babies from charitable homes, displays of baby foods, pure milk and sample diets, and lectures by doctors and nurses. This led to the formation of advisory centres which contributed to the establishment of Baby Health centres and pure milk supplies in Victoria. From 1906 it ran classes in public speaking, debating and branch work for its members.

The League was initially very much committed to the belief that men and women had different, 'natural' spheres of interest and activity. Although working to provide a voice for women's specific concerns and offering some political influence for women, the League did not support the idea of women taking on political leadership. It was not until the 1920s that it endorsed the entry of women into parliament.

Both its important place in conservative politics, and its strong commitment to representing women's interests, are evident in its role in the formation of the Australian Liberal Party. In return for the support of their membership and considerable financial backing, the AWNL obtained two key undertakings from Robert Menzies: there was to be equal gender representation throughout the Liberal Party, and that the AWNL be permitted to continue within the new party's structure, as the Women's Section. Most League members thus left to form this new section of the Liberal Party. Some members, however, felt strongly that it was important for women to retain autonomous organisations and they continued the League in its original form although with greatly reduced numbers.

View the full record at Australian Women's Register

Related people and organisations

Resources for Australian Women's National League.

Selected resources (24)

Australian Women's Register

  1. Homefires and Housewives: Women, war and the politics of consumptionVictorian Historical Journal 75 1 96-109 : Homefires and Housewives: Women, war and the politics of consumption
    Smart, Judith
    [2004]
  2. Eva Hughes: Militant ConservativeDouble Time: Women in Victoria - 150 years : Eva Hughes: Militant Conservative
    Smart, Judith
    [1985]
    Published: Penguin
  3. The Woman
    The Australian Women's National League
    [1907-1934]
  4. Constitution of the Australian Women's National League
    Published: The Australian Women's National League
  5. History of the Australian Women's National League
    Published: The Australian Women's National League
  6. 'Conservative Female Endeavour': The Australian Women's National League 1904-1914
    McCarty, Elizabeth
    [1985]
    Published: Department of History, University of Melbourne
  7. Australian Women's National LeagueAustralian feminism: a companion Barbara Caine 607 : Australian Women's National League
    Smart, Judith
    [1998]
    Published: Oxford University Press
  8. The Australian Women's National League: A Theoretical and Historical ReconsiderationRaiding Clio's Closet: Postgraduate Presentations in History Marty Crotty and Doug Scobie : The Australian Women's National League: A Theoretical and Historical Reconsideration
    Scobie, Doug
    [1997]
    Published: Department of History, University of Melbourne
  9. Alfred Deakin and the Australian Women's National LeagueLiberalism and the Australian Federation J. R. Nethercote 98-112, 344-346 : Alfred Deakin and the Australian Women's National League
    Fitzherbert, Margaret
    [2001]
    Published: Federation Press
  10. Conservative feminism in Australia: a case study of feminist ideologyWomen and Labour Conference, Conference Papers, v. 3, Australian Feminism 7-17 : Conservative feminism in Australia: a case study of feminist ideology
    Simms, Marian
    [1978]
  11. Out of the doll's house; women in the public sphere
    Encel, Sol and Campbell, Dorothy
    [1991]
    Published: Longman Cheshire
  12. Women of influence: the first fifty years of women in the Liberal Party
    Sydenham, Diane
    [1996]
    Published: Women's Section, Liberal Party of Australia Victorian Division
  13. From Vision to Reality: Histories of the affiliates of the National Council of Women of Victoria
    [1987]
    Published: YWCA
  14. 'Most eminent woman' : Lady Janet ClarkeMelbourne University Mosaic: People and Places 39-53 : 'Most eminent woman' : Lady Janet Clarke
    Bartle, Claire
    [1998]
    Published: Melbourne University History Student Research Series, no. 5, Department of History, University of Melbourne
  15. A woman's place: women and politics in Australia
    Sawer, Marian and Simms, Marian
    [1984]
    Published: George Allen and Unwin
  16. 'For the good that we can do': Cecilia Downing and feminist Christian citizenshipAustralian Feminist Studies 19 39-60 : 'For the good that we can do': Cecilia Downing and feminist Christian citizenship
    Smart, Judith
    [1994]
  17. The 'Woman Question' in Melbourne, 1880-1914
    Kelly, Farley
    [1983]
    Published: Monash University
  18. Liberal women : Federation to 1949
    Fitzherbert, Margaret
    [2004]
    Published: Federation Press
  19. A sacred trust: Cecilia Downing, Baptist faith and feminist citizenshipOur Yesterdays 3 21-50 : A sacred trust: Cecilia Downing, Baptist faith and feminist citizenship
    Smart, Judith
    [1995]
  20. Geelong Heritage Centre, Geelong City Council: Australian Women's National League, Geelong Branch (1904 - 1907)
    Membership register.
    GRS 355
  21. State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection: Couchman, Elizabeth May Ramsay, Dame [Papers and history] (1920 - 1969)
    Comprises papers of the Australian Women's National League, 1920-1945, collected by Dame Elizabeth Couchman, and history entitled "The Australian Women's Naitonal League, 1904-1945" by Elizabeth Couchman, 14 February 1969.
  22. The University of Melbourne Archives: Australian Women's National League (1904 - 1954)
    Australian Women's National League history commemorating the organisation's fifty year anniversary; photo album containing portraits of the first members of the League, photographs taken by Sarony Studios, 114 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne. NOTE: Many of the women in the photographs are unidentified.
    87/141
  23. National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection: Papers, [manuscript] 1928-1972 (1928 - 1972)
    Correspondence, diaries, subject files, speeches, minutes, reports, photographs and publications relating to her political career. There is also correspondence and printed material relating to Lady Knox and her participation in the Australian Women's National League.
    MS 5159
  24. National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection: Couchman, Elizabeth May Ramsay, Dame Papers, [manuscript] 1913-1970
    E.M.R. Couchman, Hopes of Australian women. Copy of account of women's views as supplied to the Ministry of Information by request (1945); The Australian Women's National League (1904-1945) (Historical notes, with addendum). Autobiographical notes (1970). Federal election campaign leaflet (1941) for endorsed U.A.P. candidate for Melbourne, Mrs E.M.R. Couchman; Australian Women's National League records: Explanatory leaflet (1937); programme for Empire Day Celebration (1945); statement authorized by the Executive (1945); Newspaper cuttings ca. 1934-1945; Photograph of delegates at the Liberal party of Australia Inaugural Conference, Albury, Dec. 1944.
    MS 2752

Resources by Australian Women's National League. (13)

  1. Woman (Melbourne, Vic.)
    Australian Women's National League
    [ Periodical, Microform : 1907-1934 ]
    At 3 libraries
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 44.648)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 44.648)

  2. Australian Women's National League : [prospectus]
    Australian Women's National League
    [ Book : 1910 ]
    At State Library of NSW
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 39.695)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 39.695)

  3. Australian Women's National League records
    Australian Women's National League
    [ Unpublished : 1904-1910 ]
    Possibly online
    At WA State Library
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 36.987)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 36.987)

  4. Constitution of the Australian Women's National League
    Australian Women's National League
    [ Book : 1911-1926 ]
    View online
    At 2 libraries
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 29.769)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 29.769)

  5. Report of annual demonstration and the proceedings of the proceedings of the league / Australian Women's National League
    Australian Women's National League
    [ Book : 1905 ]
    At State Library of NSW
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 20.591)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 20.591)

  6. Annual report / Australian Women's National League
    Australian Women's National League
    [ Article : 1900 ]
    At National Library
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 15.952)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 15.952)

  7. History of the Australian Women's National League
    Australian Women's National League
    [ Book : 1954 ]
    At National Library
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 15.795)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 15.795)

  8. RECORDS OF AUSTRALIAN WOMEN'S NATIONAL LEAGUE
    Australian Women's National League
    [ Unpublished : 1904-1954 ]
    View online
    At Uni Melbourne Arch
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 14.185)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 14.185)

  9. Woman's paper (Melbourne, Vic.)
    Australian Women's National League
    [ Periodical : 1900 ]
    At 3 libraries
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 13.642)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 13.642)

  10. Baby Week campaign : Melbourne Town Hall and Athenaeum Hall ... / Australian Women's National League
    Australian Women's National League
    [ Book : 1918 ]
    At State Library of VIC
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 10.992)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 10.992)

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Resources about Australian Women's National League. (29)

  1. Woman (Melbourne, Vic.)
    Australian Women's National League
    [ Periodical, Microform : 1907-1934 ]
    At 3 libraries
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 42.344)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 42.344)

  2. Australian Women's National League : [prospectus]
    Australian Women's National League
    [ Book : 1910 ]
    At State Library of NSW
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 39.098)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 39.098)

  3. Australian Women's National League records
    Australian Women's National League
    [ Unpublished : 1904-1910 ]
    Possibly online
    At WA State Library
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 36.026)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 36.026)

  4. Constitution of the Australian Women's National League
    Australian Women's National League
    [ Book : 1911-1926 ]
    View online
    At 2 libraries
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 29.377)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 29.377)

  5. Report of annual demonstration and the proceedings of the proceedings of the league / Australian Women's National League
    Australian Women's National League
    [ Book : 1905 ]
    At State Library of NSW
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 20.302)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 20.302)

  6. Alfred Deakin and the Australian Women's National League
    Fitzherbert, Margaret
    Liberalism and the Australian Federation
    [ Article : 2001 ]
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 10.656)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 10.656)

  7. Class, status, party : a theory of political participation, with a case study of the Australian Women's National League / Roslyn A. Omodei
    Omodei, Roslyn A
    [ Thesis : 1983 ]
    At UNSW Library
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 9.958)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 9.958)

  8. Papers
    Couchman, Elizabeth May Ramsay Dame
    [ Unpublished : 1913-1970 ]
    At National Library
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 8.642)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 8.642)

  9. Liberal women : federation - 1949 / Margaret Fitzherbert
    Fitzherbert, Margaret
    [ Book : 2004 ]
    At 79 libraries
    Liberal women : federation - 1949 / Margaret Fitzherbert
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 8.413)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 8.413)

  10. Defending "the purity of home life" against socialism: the founding years of the Australian Women's National League
    Quartly, Marian
    Australian Journal of Politics and History
    [ Article : 2004 ]
    View online
    At Monash Uni Repos
    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 8.106)

    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 8.106)

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    The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954) Wednesday 9 September 1925 p 16 Article
    ... AUSTRALIAN WOMEN'S NATIONAL league. At the annual council meeting of the Australian Women ... best interests of Australia. (2) The Australian 'Women's National League of Victoria aud Jtivcrina ... 237 words
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    Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 - 1954) Saturday 8 October 1904 p 3 Article
    ... AUSTRALIAN WOMEN'S NATIONAL LEAGUE The monthly meeting of the .South Melbourne branch of the ... Australian Women's National League was held in the Concord ia lla!l on Tuesday afternoon. The president (Mrs ... 146 words
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  3. Australian Women's National League.
    The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954) Tuesday 23 November 1915 p 8 Article
    ... Australian Women's National League. The following resolution was carried at a meeting of the ... executive of the Australian Women's National League yesterday morning: — That the executive of tho ... 111 words
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  1. Abridged report : 5th - 11th October, 1985, theme: "Thy Kingdom come" / Catholic Womens League, Australia, 32nd National Conference
    Catholic Women's League, Australia. National Conference Melbourne, Vic.) 1985 :
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    At State Library of VIC
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  2. Brief history : voluntary war service of the National Defence League, Women's Auxiliary / compiled by E.M. Loudon
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    Australian Women's National League. Western Australia. Sussex Branch
    [ Book : 1900-1999 ]
    At WA State Library
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    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 4.537)

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    Catholic Women's League
    [ Conference Proceedings : 1997 ]
    At Veech Library
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  1. Membership register
    Australian Women's National League. Geelong Branch
    [ Unpublished : 1904-1907 ]
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    This resource is very relevant to your query (score: 7.387)

  2. [Australian Women's National League [Victorian Nationalist Party leaflet]]
    [ Published : 1929 ]
    At APMC
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  3. [Women's Reform League : programs and related material collected by the National Library of Australia]
    [ Published : 1900 ]
    At National Library
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  1. National Women's Basketball League Grand Final 1986 Nunawading Spectres vs Australian Institute of Sport
    National Women's Basketball League (Australia)
    [ Video : 1986 ]
    At National Sport IC
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  2. WNBL finals series / ABC Sport
    Australian Broadcasting Corporation
    [ Video : 1990 ]
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  3. WNBL grand final : Bulleen vs Canberra
    Australian Broadcasting Commission
    [ Video : 2011 ]
    At LaTrobe Uni Melb
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  4. Interview with June Healy, retired officer of the Women's Royal Australian Army Corps, Deputy National Secretary, 1981-1992, and National Secretary, 1992-1994, of the Returned Services League of Australia / interviewer, Terry Colhoun
    Healy, June, 1934-
    [ Sound : 2001 ]
    At National Library
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