Crookwell CWA 90 years of achieving

The early years:
Nanjing Night Net

On the 18th April, 1922, an “open conference of country women” was held at the country club, Castlereagh street, Sydney. Among the women specially asked to attend, and to address the conference was Mrs. Stephen Laver, from the Crookwell area. On April 20th, the COUNTRY WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION OF NSW officially came into existence. And Mrs. Laver was elected to the Executive as Vice-President. Mrs. Laver hurried back to Crookwell, called a meeting of the women of the district, and formed the first branch on the new association, on the 26″‘ April 1922. To the best of our knowledge Mrs. Con Hewitt was the very first member. We are privileged to have two of these foundation members still in our branch for our diamond Jubilee: Mrs. Hettie Bensley and our current president Mrs Adah Laver, who joined as a junior member. Her mother Mrs. W.J. Armstrong was a foundation vice president. Mrs. Laver had always been interested in the welfare of country women, particularly mother with young children who had no place to go with their children when they came into a township to do their shopping. The men had their local hotels, but the women where at a loose end. When Mrs. Laver lived in south Gippsland, Victoria, in the small township of Loch she founded the first rest rooms which proved such a boon to the women. Obviously, she was a logical choice fora foundation member of this new Association.

Unfortunately the first minutes, with the list of Foundation members had been destroyed, and the early minutes where very, very brief. Mrs. Laver was the Foundation President, from Aprill922 to July1924, when owing to ill health, she had to resign, and Mrs. Moreton McDonald presided up to the Annual Meeting of 1925, when Mrs. Laver was re-elected, and served in this capacity until 1926. During these formative years there was no set pattern of meetings, they where held as and when convenient. The ladies struggled along in their horse drawn vehicles, sometimes leaving their horses and getting a ride with those fortunate enough to have a car, then harnessing up a setting off for home, quite often in the dark. It was a common sight to see firewood stacked on the back of the buggies to help ward off the bitter winter chills. Mrs. Hettie Bensley tells the story of walking in from her property, “Norfolk Rise” on the Laggan road with her good shoes in her bag, and changing when she arrived at the meetings. Her shoes could have been either covered in mud or dust, but she got to the meeting on time!

In 1925, at the annual meeting, Mrs. Laver pulled no punches about the apathy and lack of attendance at the meetings, (the first flush of enthusiasm had evidently started to wear thin). However, new members were recruited, new projects started, and the branch continued to function and to flourish.

A very close Association with the A.P&H. Society was built up, which continued for many, many years. The Branch raised money fora glassed in stand for cooking exhibits at the show, and the large sum of 259.2.8 pounds was raised to help them acquire their new showground.

In 1928 Mrs. Cullen, the president, reported that the baby health clinic had been established in March. A great milestone in a very short time.

Mrs. Sawer, the state President, made the first of her many visits to Crookwell in October, and was given a reception. The members were finding the expense of the Healthy Centre rather heavy, as they had to contribute to the sister’s expenses, her I” class return fare once a month had to be found, plus a night’s accommodation in Crookwell. The mothers’ attending the centre were asked if they would contribute towards this, and eventually a box was placed in the clinic, the mothers contributed quite happily in this way.

As these were the depression years, C.W.A was asked to assist in the distribution of clothing material grated by the government for needy people, and gifts of primary products were given to those in need at Christmas. This assistance was given as long as it was needed, the government turning to the local C.W.A branches for their help.

In 1934 the membership of C.W.A had risen to over seventeen thousand. (Not a bad effort in 13 years).

In May 1935 the branch was saddened by the death of Mrs. Stephen Laver, and silence was observed in her memory. A tree was planted in memory of Mrs. S Laver in the Jubilee avenue in Goulburn Street.

A good idea brought forward in February was that all members not wearing their badges would be fined 3 pence! I wonder if it was policed. (We would have quite a little windfall at our meetings now!)

In 1937 Mrs. Goodhew was awarded the George VI coronation medal, a well deserved honour, and her branch was loud in their congratulations. A baby show and C.W.A ball were held to raise funds for the rest room. The “Gloomchasers” orchestra was engaged for the ball. (What a lovely name for an orchestra, particularly considering the state of the economy at that time!)

The war years:

In July 1939 the executive met some of the men of the district to discuss ways and means of acquiring a rest room, as it was realised that more money was needed than the ladies could raise in a short time. The men formed an organizing committee, and it was intended to have a big sports day early in the spring. As the war broke out in September, this had to be shelved for the duration.

It did not take long for C.W.A to become involved in war work, and in November head office was beginning to get organised, with a service register for emergency help already drawn up. Crookwell devoted it’s time and energies to war work, starting off in a practical way by knitting socks. Sheep skin vests were also made, but they deeply excelled in the making of camouflaged nets and the growing of herbs. Their work with the camouflaged nets was tremendous; several hundreds of nets were made with Mrs. Gay and Mrs. Hopkins as netting secretaries. I am sure there are many ladies who still remember their netting days. The herb committee also worked hard, Mrs. Leary raised over 1000 plants for seeds, and distributed them all round the district. School children, junior farmers and the members of the public all grew herbs, dried and bottled them. Up to 1943 -2311p 33/4 ozs of dried herbs were sent off to the herb headquarters in Melbourne. A fantastic effort and probably a little known form of a very important aspect of war work.

At the Annual meeting in 1941 Mrs. Aubrey Laver presented to the branch a President’s chair on behalf of the Laver family, in memory of Mrs. Stephen Laver. This beautiful chair is still in use at our meetings.

The need to have their own hall was stressed by the shire President and the President of the Graziers Association, but this of course, had to be differed until after the war.

In 1945 Mrs. Hopkins was elected as secretary, a position she held for nearly 10 years, and Mrs. Goodhew commenced her 11th year as President. Even though the war was over by August 1945 there were many appeals from post-war organisations, to which Crookwell responded readily. The returning service men and women were welcomed back with banquets and dances, and slowly the community returned to their normal activities.

Post war:

The first mention of the C.W.A broadcasts over 2 G.N. was in 1946, and, to the best of my knowledge, they have been continuing ever since. The new Crookwell hospital was under discussion, and the President of the hospital Auxiliary visited C.W.A and explained that there was no provision for isolation or children’s ward in the plans. C.W.A immediately went into battle about the lack of these two important wards. Binds Branch opened on the 10th August 1946, Crookwell attended to give encouragement to their neighbour.

The silver Jubilee of the Association was a time of great celebration and rejoicing throughout our state. As the actual date of the formation, 20th April, fell on a Sunday, the state President asked all members to make a point of attending church this day. Many people responded to this and visited the church.

Taralga branch was formed in 1948; Mrs. Goodhew had the honour of opening it. They had an initial membership of 40, very good fora small community. Resolutions were being put forward to the group quite regularly, some of which are still applicable, such as using the petrol tax for the upkeep and sealing of roads. In July all members were asked to contribute to Princess Elizabeth’s wedding cake. I wonder how many members remember that.

In 1949 Crookwell suggested a new section for the A.P&H show, a morning tea tray, they donated the prize money. This is still part of the show schedule, and even though the prize is not now donated by C.W.A, it is a well supported and popular item.

Rest room at BHC:

The baby health centre, after being held in a room at the shire chamber for 20 years, had to find a new home, as the shire needed the room, owing to the expansion of their staff. This brought home once again the need of their own rooms, which had not been forgotten, indeed was at the back of their minds all the time. The immediate pre-war years were of course, the depression years, when it took them all their time to keep their heads above water, and to help those who badly needed help, which was never refused.

It was decided after a lot of discussion and investigation to sell the house on Robertson Street, and approach the shire council re the block on the corner of Spring and Robertson Street to see if it was available. The council, as always, lent a sympathetic ear to their request, and the block that the present rooms are on was purchased for 500.0.0 pounds. The house in Robertson Street was offered for sale, and eventually was sold for 1075.0.0 pounds. Now of course the first priority was to raise the money to build. The shire President was asked to call a public meeting for the purpose of forming a building committee to raise the necessary finance for the erection of the baby health centre and the rooms.

In April 1955 the building committee opened a special appeal for funds, this was combined with the foundation Stone Laying Ceremony. Mr. Aub. Seaman was a great help as a member of the building committee, and guided the branch through the many crisis’s that arose, which always happens when building.4000.0.0 pounds was borrowed from the commonwealth bank, the foundation was laid on the 5th November 1955, with Mrs. Goodhew laying the stone. What a great occasion for her! After all this time, at last the building was becoming a reality. On the 23d May 1956 the first meeting was held in their own rooms, what a thrill that must have been. Mrs. Laverty and her members would be justly proud that all their hard work had resulted in rooms to be proud of.

At this point, mention must be made of the help received from the community in general, and the service clubs in particular. Without the help of the community, the dream of the rest room and the baby health centre would have taken longer to come to fruition, and the apex and rotary clubs for their very practical help, in cutting wood for use in the baby health centre, and for floor finishing and earth filling ect. So much help was given in so many ways, that it is impossible to mention them all, but it was all appreciated by the members.

Post war years:

Although the building was the first and foremost thought in the member’s minds, other activities were not neglected. Crookwell had its own choir in 1944, and in 1949 Mrs. Bensley and Mrs. Frear re-formed it. During the late 40’s Crookwell was pressing for housing commission house to be built in the district, and many letters were sent off to hurry the commission up.

At the group council meeting in May 1951 Crookwell voted for the division of the group, a change of feeling since 1947, when they were against it. Crookwell was not afraid to change its mind when they felt it was for the good of their members.

In 1953 the Crookwell Amateur Dramatic Society (C.A.D.S) suggested that the C.W.A Drama Club join with them in presenting a variety show, which they did, and I am sure that this was very well received. In 1954 the “hobbies club” was formed, and this ran for several years. They were of great assistance to the main club, and by their efforts contributed substantially to the furnishings of the rooms; indeed they purchased the first piano.

The rooms were very popular, and were rented out for many various functions, all of which helped to reduce the over-draft and pay for the upkeep. It was hoped to be able to have the rooms opened for the use of the mothers and children during the day, but unfortunately, this proved to be impractical. The baby health centre was well attended, and I am sure the mothers appreciated the roomy waiting room, and the furnished clinic. The hobbies club gave very practical donations, the Venetian blinds for the kitchen, useful kitchen utensils and tabletops and trestles.


Once again, the matter of dividing the group came up for discussion in 1960, but this wasn’t finally accomplished until 1963, when the present Monaro group was formed.

September 1962, combined with a handicraft day, these were continued up until 1969, when it was decided to hold an autumn show in 1971, this was the last show held by the branch.

A house committee was formed in 1966 to look after the up-keep and maintenance of the rooms, which they did very well. Fluorescent lights were put in the main hall, cement paths and steps were put down, and the rooms were painted in 1967.

Crookwell took care of its own people well, as is shown by the help given to Miss Helen Spackman who was working at a mission station in Goroka, New Guinea. And a parcel of the goods most needed by her was sent off.

The children’s ward at the district Hospital was now established, and a donation was forwarded to assist with the furnishings.

Wool promotion days were held in Goulburn, and Mrs. Hilda Selmes covered us all with honour and glory by winning the knitting competition 2 years running.

This is a good opportunity to mention the work the 3 schools do for our international projects. They enter some very imaginative and well done projects and models, and have often won group awards. We are very proud of our schools and their involvement with C.W.A.

Harley Nursing Home patients and staff had also been guests of the branch at some of their Christmas parties. The senior citizen club were regular users of our rooms from 1972 till their own rooms were built in 1980, we were glad to be helping them in this way, and the close relationship has still continued.

‘Meals on wheels’ started in Crookwell in 1975, and naturally our members were the first to participate.

Once again it was decided to hold a baby show in 1976, and the proud mothers brought along there beautiful children. A prize was given to all competitors; it would have to be a brave judge who couldn’t fmd one section a baby could win!

We were all very grateful to the lions club who spent many a weekend painting the outsides, of the rooms, and the interior of the baby health clinic. This inspired us to finish off the job, it took us a while to get up the strength and courage to takle it but finally 4 or 5 members and 1 husband painted the kitchen, hall and meeting room. A mighty effort, as most the painters were well past the bloom of youth. This, as any renovator knows, shows up other things that need doing, so new lino was put down.

We all look at the rooms now with pride, they are bright and shiny and a joy to behold.

We are looking forward to the next decade in Crookwell, we feel that interest is coming back to the basic fundamentals, land cookery is thriving, our handicraft are becoming well known, our drama (cultural?) group is bringing in younger members, and our international work is making us well known to the school children-the members of tomorrow. The friendship generated in the branch and group means a lot to us all. The close relationship we have with the other Associations and activities in Crookwell is also very meaningful, the day care centre & Harley Nursing home are two of our interests which are important to us, and will continue to be so. In looking back and comparing 1982 to 1922, many changes have occurred in the Association. In the early days there was only the country women’s association; it was all things hospital auxiliary, P&C, general spokesman for the rights and needs of women of the community. There are several clubs, associations and auxiliaries working for their own interests. C.W.A still has its part to play however, and it is still an important part of community life. The aims and objects are still there, they are well to the fore when there is work to be done, a cause to be fought, and comfort and friendship to be given. The pioneers, Mrs. Munro, Mrs. Laver, Mrs. Sawyer and the other members of the first executive, laid the foundations well and firmly. From that small beginning see what we, the association, have grown to. We area force in the land, our advice is sought by the government of our country, the rights and privileges of women and children are our main concern, not only in our own country but all over the world. We are all proud to be known as a member of the Country Women’s Association.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.