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The International Council of Women was born at a conference in 1888 in Washington DC, to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the signing of the American Women’s Bill of Rights. The women who attended that Conference resolved to set up National Councils of Women in their own countries.
At the next International Conference in 1895, the Countess of Aberdeen was elected International President. She wrote to the Governor’s wives in all the countries of the British Commonwealth asking them to take the lead in establishing National Councils of Women, so that women’s groups could work together to improve the lives of women and their families.
The National Council of Women (NCWT) of Tasmania was founded in 1899, in response to this invitation. NCWT, with many NCWs across the world which started in the 1890s, realized that if they were to achieve needed change, women had to work together.
NCW of Tasmania flourished. It consisted of delegates from over 40 organisations in the south and by 1950, even more in the north of the state. The combined groups were the backbone behind many worthwhile changes which occurred in Tasmania from that time. For example, nurses brought their concerns for rural women to NCWT and, accordingly, the Bush Nursing Service was established. Similarly with the Ragged School, the tuberculosis hospital, the Suffragettes, Child Health Clinics, the teaching of Home Economics in schools, the establishment of the Country Women’s Association in 1928, the establishment of Salamanca Market 1971 and the saving of the Female Factory in the 1980s. Many of the female MPs who were elected before 2000 were members of NCWT and were supported by the combined women’s groups in NCWT.
From the1980s onwards, changes in women’s workforce participation reduced many women’s availability to participate in organisations such as NCWT. There are still however, many issues of gender inequality to address and NCWT continues to work to link individuals and the existing women’s organisations throughout the state to respond to these issues.
Last year NCWT engaged with State and Australian Governments on 21 major issues, including the:
NCWT held its own meetings regarding issues such as child protection, income security for women, and problem gambling.
Whatever issues women as individuals or groups bring to NCWT, the combined meeting decides whether to support action or not. A similar process occurs at the national level where representatives from state NCWs work together in NCW of Australia (NCWA) on national issues agreed at the mid-term and triennial conferences. The same process occurs at the international level via the International Council of Women (ICW), which was one of the first organisations to be accredited to the United Nations and has consultative status with several UN entities like ECOSOC.
If you or your group is interested in learning more, contact NCWT on Facebook or Linley Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dorothy Kelly at email@example.com.