International Women's Day 2017
Today is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year’s official theme is #BeBoldForChange, calling on people around the world to help create a more gender-inclusive world. At the museum we collect objects that tell powerful stories of women who have helped to shape and change their world, and today we’re sharing four of those stories with you.
Mrs Ethel Bruce
Although not an obvious contender as a change-maker, Ethel Bruce, wife of Australia’s eighth prime minister Stanley Melbourne Bruce, played an important role in the life of early Canberra, and in particular the Lodge. She and Stanley were the first to occupy the Lodge as the prime ministerial couple when federal parliament moved from Melbourne in 1927. Ethel played a central part in the Lodge’s interior design, ensuring that it had service areas large and comfortable enough for the many staff needed to ensure that it ran smoothly. She was a consummate hostess who Stanley greatly relied upon. The museum holds tickets issued to Ethel for her trip to Canberra to attend the opening of Parliament House on 9 May 197, including her first class rail pass (pictured) and entry tickets to various formal events.
Britain’s militant suffragettes were a vocal, powerful group of women who, in the early twentieth century, forced change on a reluctant British government. Frequently breaking the law to draw attention to their demands for the vote, they were strongly supported in their efforts by women in Australia, who won that right federally in 1902. The museum collects suffragette objects to highlight the links between women in both countries, and this beautiful scroll is a new and welcome acquisition. It was issued by the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1912 to Nora Duval, who took part in a window-smashing raid in the heart of London and, together with dozens of women, was arrested and imprisoned. The scroll is signed by noted suffragettes Emmeline Pankhurst and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence.
Edna Minna Ryan (1904 - 1997) was a leading Australian feminist, trade unionist, activist and writer. Her career was devoted, amongst other things, to combatting gross wage inequality and advocating for better childcare and shorter working hours. As a member of the Militant Women’s Group of the Communist Party she wrote: ‘Women, if you want equality, don't wait for men to win it for you.” In 2013 the museum acquired Edna’s kitchen table, badges and these items of clothing; all played a central role in her campaigning.
Women’s Electoral Lobby banner
The Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL), which began in 1972, played a significant role in major policy changes affecting women. Its members campaigned on the equal pay legislation that in 1972 saw women awarded the male rate of pay no matter what work they performed, drafted and helped implement federal sex discrimination legislation, and pushed for rape law reform. Early in its history the group adopted the colours of the British suffragette movement – green, purple and white – a successful branding campaign that saw these colours appear on much of the WEL merchandise. This banner was made by the ACT branch of WEL for the organisation’s national conference in 1992.