First World War women by Geraldine Robertson

It is 1914. War is announced. What do you do? You are Vida Goldstein, one of the women who recently won the vote for women in Melbourne You are used to conflict, but war? I know what I would do. I know because when George Bush announced a war on terror and I feared real war on real people, I froze.

In 1914 the women in the Women’s Political Association in Melbourne did not freeze. They came together, worked out their position, and acted, communicating through their journal the Woman Voter. ‘Dear women of Australia, dear women of every shade of political and religious thought, come and let us reason together about war; the present war and war in general ... History will proclaim you false if you are silent now. Come and be separate from all that makes for war' declared Vida Goldstein in 1914. So they did.

They fought for civil liberty, opposed White Australia, supported the soldiers, demanded terms of peace be submitted to the people. They published overseas news from the women’s movement, organised demonstrations; spoke in halls, on the banks of the Yarra in Melbourne, and addressed crowds interstate. They protested against unemployment and the cost of living, lobbied incessantly, established and ran a Women’s Employment Bureau, a workers’ commune, a farming co-operative. As they were strictly non-party-political, in 1916 they created the Women’s Peace Army. They did much more - and they enjoyed doing it all! If you want to know more, have a look at First World War Women working for peace in Melbourne 1914-1919 on womensweb.com.au

Geraldine Robertson