Wednesday, March 25, 2015


This continues on from the story of the inaugural dinner of the Soroptimist Club of Perth. This of course took place prior to Mrs Rutter's departure from Perth.  Some of this section also  took place prior to her leaving here and the rest of it on her return to Perth before heading for England.

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME' by Gertrude Ruston.   (pp 137-139)

"Miss Muriel Wieck, one of our Founder Members of whom I have previously spoken, wrote an article in "Milady" at this time in which she drew attention to the natural artistic skill of native children.  In order to see this for herself, Mrs Rutter visited an aboriginal settlement at Carrolup near Katanning, where the native boys were boarded.

They were in charge of a teacher whose name, I believe, was Mr White.  He used to take them for rambles in the bush and, on their return, asked them to draw from memory something they had seen.

Mrs Rutter was most impressed by their clever drawings and obtained the permission of the Education Department to give special crayons to some of the most gifted boys with which to draw her some pictures which she published later in a book called "Little Black Fingers".  The book gave an account of the boys' activities as well as prints of their drawings, with their names and ages.

*This venture was entirely apart from Soroptimism and at great cost to herself.  She exhibited the books in England and the Continent and arranged with the Education Department here that any profit which might accrue from the sale of the books would be sent back to be used for the encouragement and benefit of aboriginal children.  When she arrived home, she spoke at many meetings about her tour and exhibited novelties and treasures she had collected.  As her daughter was then living in Holland "Little Black Fingers" even reached the Dutch Royal Family.
 Miss Margaret Battye died very suddenly in November, 1948, only a very short time after becoming President of Perth Club.  Mrs Masel, First Vice-President, became Acting President for a short period but was unable, for personal reasons, to accept the position of President.  Dr Hilda Kershaw, who was Second Vice-President, then became the President, and retained the position until she want to England with her daughter Kathleen, about eighteen months later.

Margaret Battye had given voluntary legal service to many organisations in the community, including the Women's Service Guilds, and that organisation set up a memorial fund in her memory.  About £300 was collected and it was agreed that a corner of the library at the Women's Univeristy College, when completed, would be set aside for this memorial.  Our own Deva Levy (now Mrs Deva Clark) was Honorary Treasurer of the fund.

Considerable money was needed to complete the Women's University College and, before she died, Margaret asked us, as the Soroptimist club's first service to the community, to raise funds towards the completion of the college.  We had accepted this as our first service effort, and carried it out by running a produce stall at the University Fete each year while the need remained.

Mrs Win Fry, one of the Founder Members, who was the head of W.A.Produce and Hardware Company, and a member of the University Women, obtained the major part of the goods as donations to the stall, while club members gave willing support ins selling and arranging the varied selection of excellent items including a raffle.   In all we raised about £5,000 for the project.

Dr Kershaw was President when Mrs Rutter returned to Perth on 12th January, 1950, on her way back to England, and I remember clearly how very frustrated Hilda and I were as we searched Perth, on Mrs Rutter's instructions. to find a firm from which we could obtain an appropriate President's badge, not having the remotest idea of what was needed, nor much money with which to buy it.

We eventually landed at Sheridans, and they produced us a rather uninspiring badge for £10, which was all we could afford, and a not considerable amount at that time.

Mrs Rutter was happy to be able to present the badge to Dr Kershaw at a dinner held at Arbordale, and it served the purpose for some years, but has now been rejected in favour of a more elaborate jewel.  The original has been framed and hung at headquarters, as it is part of our history, being the first and only Soroptimist badge to he presented by our Founder in Western Australia.

The final function to farewell Mrs Rutter was held at the Palace Hotel on 20th January, 1950.  Whenever we tried to be especially dignified when entertaining Mrs Rutter something always seemed to go wrong.  On this occasion we had fish served with the usual piece of lemon.  Somebody allowed their piece of lemon to slip from their fingers and it landed on Mrs Rutter's place.  The guilty person did not turn a hair, but those of us sitting near were glad our own pieces of lemon were still visible on our plates.

The Founder eventually left for England on 6th February, 1950, and the President and I, together with our two daughters, went to the ship to bid her farewell.  I corresponded with her for years, and passed some of her letters over to the Divisional Union as mementos.   She wrote constantly, and Hilda and I felt guilty when further letter arrived and we had not replied to the previous one.  Mrs Rutter told me she often sat up in bed writing letters when she could not sleep!

 On her departure she reminded us that, as the only club in the State, we also carried the responsibilities of the Divisional Union, and the first of these was the need to extend and start other clubs."

In the next episode I shall continue on with further developments of Soroptimism.  It may not hold a lot of interest to many but if I don't tell mum's story in its entirety then there's not much point in telling it at all.  Bear in mind though that we are only up to page 139 and in total there are 242 pages.

*On I have found this reference:  Friday 23 June, 2006.  Recently unearthed in an American University, 30 precious paintings by the aboriginal artists of Carrolup Settlement.  Political activist Robert Eggington is now on a one-man compaign to repatriate rare 'Carrolup" artworks from the United States and some priceless prison artwork being held by the Western Australian government."

I have also found, dated 22 January, 2015:  Curtin University.  Soroptimist Florence Rutter Scholarship - Extended.
This scholarship has been developed by the Soroptimist International of Perth Inc. in conjunction with Curtin University to encourage and support postgraduate female students who have chosen to study postgraduate coursework or research program at Curtin University and work towards benefiting the indigenous communities in Australia....................

Mrs Rutter's good works live on after her.  She was a another wonderful woman who cared.

I have so enjoyed going through these records of the establishment of the Soroptimists, as I knew many of the ladies mentioned and remember them with great fondness.   I actually remember when  mum and I, along with Dr Kershaw and Kathleen, went to Fremantle to farewell Mrs Rutter when she left for England.  It was in 1950 and I had just turned 18 at that time.


  1. Hari OM
    Oh yes, you must complete the picture, as you say Mimsie! Fascinating about the artwork too... YAM xx

    1. Using Firefox I've been unable to access comments and reply but I now find, using Google Chrome, all is well. Also I had been unable to access other blogs so I've not been ignoring you but just couldn't do it.
      I will keep on keeping on until I find nobody is reading my posts and then stop.
      We have watched Kakadu and First Footprints (hope that title correct) and some of the ancient rock art in Australia is amazing so yes, the aborigines are very artistic. xx

    2. Hari OM
      Oh yes I am a 'Chrome' gal! I did try Firefox (because my brother sings its praises), but I didn't get on with it at all - plus it did do some strange things to my system, which is what appears to have been happening for your.

      I work very much on the 'KISS' principle (keep it simple, stupid!) and work almost entirely within the Google framework. Not without it's issues at times; but on the whole very satisfactory. YAM xx

  2. They did such good work. And Mrs Rutter was a long way ahead of her time about indigenous art, as she was about so many other things.

    1. Yes they did as do so many other groups behind the scenes.
      Mrs Rutter certainly recognised talent when she saw it and did so much good and now her scholarships are still helping aboriginal people here at Curtin University.

  3. I remember two aboriginal girls attending my high school for a year, both did excellent drawings and paintings in art class.

    1. They do seem to have an aptitude for art as seen in so much rock art from over the centuries.