Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Housewives in Uproar!

Most of the tracks left behind by my ancestors in newspapers relate inevitably to tragedies - mostly Death and Funeral notices, but also the occasional account of their death. Never have I found anything containing the general humour of life (mentioning my ancestors anyway) till now. This article describes a meeting of the Housewives Association, of which my great grandmother Ruby Amelia 'Millie' STANILAND nee EWER (1887-1969) was a member. She was also very musically talented as a singer and piano player, and this comes to the fore in this account of a riotous meeting of the Association, particularly under the 'Rivalry for Piano' section. I'm sure it was a very stressful day for everyone involved, but the scene it describes seems perfect comedy to me.

Sydney Morning Herald
1 November 1942


Four policemen were called in to quell the uproar which raged for more than an hour at a meeting of the Housewives Association yesterday afternoon, punctuated by scenes of extraordinary rowdiness and bitterness.
When a little calm had descended, two plainclothes police arrived and remained until the end of the meeting, while uniformed men stood guard outside the closed door.
The trouble started when an attempt was made to compel the departure of five members - the founder, Miss Portia Geach, Mrs. Ruby Duncan, Mrs. Edith Reeve, Mrs Ella Griffith, and Miss Ethel Walker - who had been expelled by the council because they had arranged a deputation to the Chief Secretary, Mr. Baddeley.
From the moment that the chairman Mrs. Eleanor Glencross refused to open the meeting while these women were present, until the police had conducted the women named by Mrs. Glencross from the meeting, there was a bedlam in which it was almost impossible to hear what anyone was saying. There were continual interruptions and protests, and for ten minutes two women spoke simultaneously  in an endeavour to gain control of the meeting.
The membership card of every woman who attended was carefully scrutinised before she was allowed into the meeting. After she had shut the door at 2 o'clock, Mrs. Glencross settled down to read a newspaper, but her calm was soon interrupted.
"We are not going to be dictated to by the paid chairwoman" called Mrs. G. Slocombe.
"If you were a member of that deputation you are automatically expelled," said Mrs. Glencross.
"She wasn't!" yelled several voices.
"Get out and keep quiet. I am in charge of this meeting." said Mrs. Glencross. "This meeting has been packed. There are more than a dozen women here who have never been here before."

Whiel Mrs. Glencross was speaking, Mrs. R.A. Stanland hastened towards the piano, apparently in the hope that a little music might soothe the temper of the meeting. But Mrs F.M. Railton was in charnge of the piano, and she was joined by Mrs. Anita Davis.
In the commotion which followed, and while Mrs. Glencross was absent from her chairman's seat, Mrs. Davis took possession of the chair. The uproar reached its peak, and Mrs Glencross shouted "Send for the police!".
There was further altercation as to who should preside, and supporters of both sides started pushing tables and chairs into position. A vase was broken, flowers were thrown on the floor, water was spilled, and while Mrs. Davis talked from behind one table Mrs. Glencross talked from behind the other.
Mrs. Amana Anderson, formerly president of the Housewives' Association of Western Australia, tried to get a hearing. 'No wonder Western Australia didn't want you!' said Mrs. Glencross, as she moved to take the bell from Mrs. Davis.
"Sit down! Sit down! Sit down! Sit down!" said Mrs. Edith Reeve, but her voice was drowned in the enthusiastic cheers which greeted the arrival of the police.
Half a dozen women tried to tell their story at once to two policemen, while the others stood guard at the door.

Miss Geach, who was obviously upset by the stampede which went on around her, left the meeting. As she was escorted to the door by the police, Mrs. Duncan said that she was leaving only because Mrs. Glencross had insisted upon it. Later Mrs. Duncan said she objected to the association being controlled by the paid officer, and that vested interests should not play a part in an organisation which had been built up by voluntary work since 1918.
After the expelled members had left the meeting, there remained Mrs. Davis, secretary of the Australian Housewives' League, who flourished her pink membership card, and firmly sat down. Disorder grew around her. Mrs. Glencross said that as secretary of another organization Mrs. Davis had no right to attend the meeting.
The din was terrific. Women tried to make themselves heard above the piano, where Mrs. Staniland was now in control and playing non-stop selections from popular melodies.
After considerable argument, Mrs. Davis left and went downstairs to attend a meeting of the expelled members.
Mrs. Glencross resumed her position as chairwoman. There was some singing to Mrs. Staniland's playing for "For She's a Jolly Good Fellow".

The meeting settled down to the general business of discussion of taxes, the price of meat, and a protest about the proposed visit of Mr. Wilson, M.P., and other Parliamentarians to England.
"As things have turned out I am glad we did not have our guest speaker to-day" said Mrs. Glencross.
The uproar threatened to break out again when Mrs. Dorothy Maddick sought to move a resolution. She wanted the council's motion of expulsion rescinded, and the women who had been expelled reinstated.
Mrs. Glencross said that notice of the motion must be given in writing seven days before a meeting of the council. Mrs. Stewart Watson jumped to her feet and said that this had not been done in the past.
Mrs. Glencross looked at the clock, saw that it was 10 minutes past four, said it was time for tea, and had the last word when she declard the meeting closed.

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