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Australian Federation of Women Voters - Help the NLA share women's voices
18 May 2021
With the help of the Australian public, the National Library of Australia will soon start work to make available online the papers of the Australian Federation of Women Voters (AFWV).
In 1921, West Australian Bessie Rischbieth convened a meeting of feminist groups that brought about the AFWV. Between the World Wars, the AFWV was one of the strongest voices advocating for Australian women’s rights.
‘This collection uncovers the work and actions of pioneering Australian women in a period bookended by the Women’s Suffrage and Liberation movements,’ Director-General of the National Library, Dr Marie-Louise Ayres said. ‘It is a collection that, “rouses the spirit of our fighting grandmothers”.’
‘Some of the women named in the collection and who fought for so much are well known to us, such as Bessie Rischbieth and Ruby Rich, but there are countless others whose names have largely disappeared from history,’ Dr Ayres continued.
Ms Emma Jolley, Senior Adviser, Collections said, ‘I thought I knew a lot about the women’s movement, but I found women in this collection whose names I didn’t know, and they were doing incredible things.’
Some of the issues raised and acted on by the AFWV between 1921 and 1983 included a blanket bill for equal status, child immigration, divorce laws, education, equal pay, human trafficking, gender discrimination and slavery. The AFWV records were donated to the National Library in two instalments, the first part received in 1970. The collection now comprises 52 boxes of material, including reports, meeting minutes, pamphlets and correspondence.
The National Library has launched an appeal to raise funds for the collection to undergo preservation and digitisation, ultimately making the collection accessible to Australians online. Dr Ayres added, ‘Although the collection is being safely and securely stored, it is at risk of being lost to time due to its current condition – and we can’t afford for these important voices to be lost.’
To support the preservation and digitisation of the papers of the AFWV, please visit our website.
Georgia McDonald, National Library of Australia