My maternal grandmother Agnes Littleproud, started a branch of the QCWA in Canaga, about 20k north east of Chinchilla, in early 1920s. Among others, she signed up my mother Emma, then aged 16, and my aunt Nita, about 14. That branch survived for many years.
After my mother married, she and my father settled at Oak Park, about half way between Chinchilla and Canaga. I have photos of Mum and my older siblings, having beach holiday at ‘Linga Longa’, in the late 1930s. I believe it was a CWA property, somewhere near Brisbane
Mum, then Emmie Redgen, helped to start a branch of the CWA at Oak Park, and it flourished over many years. The membership probably never rose above 10, and all the offices were rotated among the members. At various times Mum was President, Secretary, and Treasurer. When I was about 16, I joined as a Junior member, and still cherish my membership badge.
Oak Park Branch held its meetings in the afternoons, in the ‘lunch shed’ of our local one-teacher, one-roomed school, with its 10 to 12 students. We students were glad to see them, as it meant some mothers would take their children home in the car, rather than letting them walk. That didn’t help me, as I had a bike or a pony to get back to the farm, ready for tomorrow morning.
Their major fund-raising effort was to cater for cattle sales in the nearby town of Chinchilla. That meant manning a small kiosk, from early morning until late afternoon. They sold hand-made ham and tomato sandwiches, and slabs of home-made cake, along with uncounted cups of strong tea. The buyers were the men who worked around the yards, from the drovers and truck-drivers who, early in the morning, delivered the cattle to be sold; the yardmen who decided which cattle would be in which part of the sale; the buyers who attended to purchase stock for their own farms; the professionals who bought for the meatworks; the auctioneer and his assistants; and any wives and children who came along for the day. It was a hectic but friendly occasion.
Before electricity was attached to the kiosk, water for the teapots and washing up was provided by boiling kerosene tins over an open fire. Thankfully, later, they were able to use electric jugs and urns for that job. I did help sometimes in the background, during school holidays.
I have special reason to remember the QCWA with gratitude. When I sat for our ‘Scholarship’ exam, at the end of Primary School, I won the Bursary awarded by the Maranoa Division. That was in 1956.
Mum later moved to Chinchilla and joined the branch there. She continued as a member of the CWA right up to the final years of her life. I have a photo of her being entertained by the Chinchilla branch on her 90th birthday. She attended many conferences around the state over the years, and counted many of the other members as her best friends.
I have lived in Adelaide for more than 50 years now. I did once visit the state headquarters of the CWA in South Australia, as the guest of a friend who had moved to Adelaide from a country town. At that stage, there were still suburban branches in Adelaide.
Long may the CWA continue to support the women of Australia