Monday, March 9, 2015


I had left mum and dad having sold their grocery business and moved into a house in North Perth (that is 3 times we had lived in North Perth) and mum is wondering where the "ready" is likely to come from.   She thinks about it and then makes a big decision and her life changes forever.  This mainly concerns the wonderful woman she worked for and whom she admired so much.  I too admired her and enjoyed meeting her several times.  I have a copy of her book "March of Australian Woman" in which she wrote "Margaret belongs to the younger generation of women to whom we look to continue the work.  Bessie M Rischbieth - 1964".

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston.  (pp 114-116)


Women's Service Guilds

Things became very difficult and as Harry was not prepared to work any more, even part-time, I realised I had to seek a part-time job, to which Harry agreed although he told everybody I had no need to work and only did it to please myself. " (As I said things were now definitely not as they should be on the home front.).

"I went to the State Employment Service and asked if they had anything suitable to fit my former secretarial experience  They immediately put me in touch with Mrs Bessie M Rischbieth, O.B.E., J.P., State President of the Women's Service Guilds of W.A., who needed a State Secretary, as that office was becoming vacant. " (This is a photo of Mrs Rischbieth as I remember her.  She was indeed a very beautiful woman):

'When I went for an interview there was no hesitation on the part of either of us, as we both felt we could work together and she engaged me to start the following week, the hours being 10 a.m. to 
2 p.m. on weekdays.  The wages were only *£3.00 per week but that was sufficient to fill our needs and I stayed with the Guilds for nearly seven years."   *(Remember this was back in 1948; the equivalent of $6/week).

"For a short time before joining the Guilds I had acted as honorary minute secretary to the **L.C.L State Women's Committee, which had helped me brush up on my shorthand and typing.  I resigned as soon as I went to the Guilds.  The hours of work at the Guilds proved very convenient.  I gave Peg and Harry their breakfast, tidied the house, left lunch for Harry, and did any shopping required before going to the office.  It was very convenient having the corner store just opposite our house.  I was home in the afternoon in time to cook a good hot meal for dinner." ** (Liberal and Country League)

"There was a nice large garden at this house in which Harry took an interest.  He also spent much of his time playing bowls at the North Perth Bowling Club, weather permitting, or, at other times, playing bridge in the club rooms.  He became a very good bowls player and took part in pennants two or three days a week, so altogether he lead quite a gentleman's life.

There was a croquet club adjacent to the bowling club, and I took up croquet on Saturday afternoons and often won a small trophy.  Harry would have liked me to play bowls but it did not appeal to me as I did not admire the rear views of women bowlers in their white clothes.  One stands to play croquet and I always felt it needed more skill - rather like lawn billiards.  Eventually I became very interested in the work of the Guilds and my interest in croquet waned in favour of welfare.

The pet name for Mrs Rischbieth in the Guilds was "Rischie" and she was very much loved.  She and I became extremely close as our ideas and ideals were similar, and it was a joy to be working with someone with such a fine brain and dedicated spirit.  She was an entirely selfless person - very beautiful in her youth and still attractive as she grew older.  She was obviously adored by her husband although he did not approve of her social work.

Rishchie was the editor of a paper for the Guilds called "The Dawn" and, when running late for the press, she sometimes found it necessary to complete it at home without her husband being aware of it.  She told me that she would go to bed with her husband and sneak out when he fell asleep in order to finish an article.  One night he missed her, searched her out, and put an end to her midnight adventures.

 She told me he would give her anything she wanted for herself and as he was extremely wealthy, he would spend hundreds of pounds on a ball gown for her, but would not give her £5 for welfare.  Mr and Mrs Rischbieth travelled a lot and I remember her saying she had been eight times around the world with her husband.  After his death she went to many conferences concerned with International Alliance for Women and the Australian Federation of Women Voters, and she was caught in London during the 1939/45 war, and became involved in war service.

Like me, she was opposed to communism. and she and I often had tussles with other Guild members whose ideas where opposed to ours.  On no account would she allow the Guilds to be brought into International Women's Day or the Union of Australian Women, as the Guilds are strictly non-party political.  At the time I joined the Women's Service Guilds in 1948, a very talented Guild member, Mrs Molly Calder, had prepared her Children's Charter, and a public meeting was called to launch it.

There had been a number of charters over the years but we seem to have made very little progress, as there are still millions of children sick and hungry over the world and being compelled to do hard work.

Family planning may be one answer, but many men in the developing countries are not prepared to accept it.  Some of the wealthy women in India are trying to encourage women to use contraceptives but results are not encouraging."  (Please remember this was written in the late 1980s).

"1979 was the International Year of the Child. and although there have been some improvements in small areas, governments and politics still leave millions at risk.

An outstanding battle was that of the Guilds for the Preservation of Kings Park.  The successful outcome resulted in the passing of the Parks and Reserves Amendment Act, which provides that no further alienation of land in Kings Park can be made without the consent of both houses of Parliament in Western Australia.  Other successful efforts were the passing of a Bill granting jury service to women on the same terms as men, the formation of the Tree Society, and the establishment of the Male Nurses Association.

O.K. so we have mum back in the work force and thoroughly enjoying working in close co-operation with Mrs Rischbieth and the ladies of the Guilds.  I feel perhaps a little at a time rather than a lot about this phase of mum's life so shorter episodes in future.


  1. She was obviously in her element, doing work she thought was important, and having her contributions valued.
    I remember low wages well. My first job, many years later than this I was paid the princely sum of $0.26 an hour. And my father when he first arrived in Australia in 1950 was paid three hundred pounds a year - and told me he thought he was Christmas.

    1. You are so right EC. Mum really was in her element and her organisational skills came to the fore over the years.
      I began work in 1947 at £2.5.0. a week which was very good at that time. In 1953 the basic wage was about £12//wk if my memory serves me correctly but don't quote me on that.

  2. Hari OM
    ...I can 'hear' a change of tone in your mother's writing as she enters this phase... it clearly made all the difference to her life as she was once again able to truly be her own person. Wonderful. YAM xx

    1. Yes, this final phase of her life shows an entirely different person altogether. She is able to take charge of herself and eventually do the things that really bring he so much satisfaction. xx

  3. Lots of changes going on. I love that your mom wasn't scared to take charge of a situation.

    1. More and more changes are yet to come over the years as mum's life changes direction several times.

  4. Another lovely installment, thank you Mimsie. And thank you for stopping by, for the tip on pre-cooking the beans too. I shall remember that.

    1. Thanks Denise. Do keep reading as you will see many, many changes in mum's and our lives too.
      Glad you saw the tip re green beans. When doing a stir fry I also pop some of the tougher veg into the microwave for a minute or two particularly carrot and green beans.

  5. And sadly the work is still required as so many have so little.

    1. Yes Delores it is an ongoing tragedy. I remember when Bob Hawke was Prime Minister he made the statement that "no child will live in poverty by 1990". Meaning of course in Australia. There are still many families here that continue to battle at times.

  6. You changed your background look! I love the candy pink stripes.
    I'm pleased that your mum found employment so quickly and with such a wonderful woman.
    Sad though, that even now, all these years later, there are still so many hungry children, forced to work for so very little and abused women too, with little or no access to contraceptives.

    1. Glad you like the pink stripes, thank you. I wanted something that would help the print stand out better and I think this does.
      Mum was never at a loss to try something new and to meet up with Bessie Rischbieth was providence, of that I am sure.
      As said above., yes there are still far too many people, children especially, suffering in the world today.