In 1902 Rosetta Birks, Catherine Helen Spence and other suffragists formed this umbrella group of ten affiliates, including the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and the Young Women’s Christian Association. Not a great success because of its failure to tackle thorny issues, it ceased to function soon after Spence left in 1906.

Reconstituted in 1920 by Lady Hackett (later Lady Moulden, then Dr Deborah Buller-Murphy), the council argued for pensions for widows with children, raising the marriage age for girls from 12 and other reforms. It organised receptions for royal visitors, including the Duchess of York. In 1936 it produced A Book of South Australia: Women in the First Hundred Years and was active in celebrating South Australia’s centenary. Its president, Adelaide Laetitia Miethke, was also chairman of the Women’s Centenary Council. After World War II the council agitated for equal pay and other causes. In 1962 Roma Mitchell, convenor of its Laws and Suffrage committee, persuaded Premier Tom Playford to include women in juries.

Through the 1970s the council’s conservative views on some social issues differed from those held by many affiliated organisations, which accordingly broke their links with the council. Of 123 affiliates in 1950, 46 remain in 2001.

By Pat Stretton

This entry was first published in The Wakefield companion to South Australian history edited by Wilfrid Prest, Kerrie Round and Carol Fort (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2001). Edited lightly. Uploaded 17 July 2015.

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