"SOROPTIMISM COMES TO WESTERN AUSTRALIA
In the early part of 1949, whilst Mrs Rischbieth and I were busy in the Women's Service Guilds office, an avalanche descended upon us in the person of Mrs Florence Rutter, a Past President of the Greater London Club of Soroptimist International, Federation of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, who had come from England at her own expense with the intention of starting Soroptimist Clubs in Australia and New Zealand.
Mrs Rutter had gathered together a nucleus of business and professional women with the necessary qualifications in the City of Perth and, as she was advised that the Women's Service Guilds was the leading women's organisation fighting for equality at the time, and that was a platform for Soroptimism, she invited Mrs Rischbieth as State President, and myself as State Secretary, to become Founder Members of the Soroptimist Club of Perth which she was forming.
We both felt we were too fully committed to take on anything further, thanked her for the honour but declined to participate. However, we reckoned without the persistence of our visitor, who absolutely refused to take 'no' for an answer, and we were bulldozed into becoming prospective members of this new club and, in due course, attending the Charter Dinner as two of its forty seven foundation members.
The Charter Dinner was held at Tintern Lodge, West Perth, on 3rd August, 1949, and Mrs Rutter and Margaret Battye greeted the guests, amongst whom were eminent men and women of the City of Perth and the 47 prospective Soroptimists,
Mrs Rutter looked most dignified in a beautiful lace coatee over a silk skirt, while Margaret Battye was similarly impressive with her legal air and monocle." (This is a young Margaret Battye minus the monocle):
"It was a very splendid occasion and, while the 47 prospective members stood, Mrs Rutter presented to the incoming President the roll of parchment, tied with appropriate blue and gold ribbon (the Soroptimist colours), the Charter of the Soroptomist Club of Perth, the first club in Western Australia.
A male pianist had been engaged to play appropriate music during the evening and was obviously accustomed to smoking concerts rather than formal occasions. To our horror, after Mrs Rutter had presented the Charter and we were all trying to look very important, the pianist played "The Old Grey Mare, She Ain't What She Used To Be", followed by "Why Was She Born So Beautiful". The expression on our Founder's face defies description. We had all been trying to live up to her demands that Soroptimists must be dignified at all times, but that episode broke the ice and we all became normal human beings and the occasion less formal.
Coming from so many different spheres of activity, few of us had met before. I remember with pleasure having Eileen and Norma Monger on my right hand, Dolly Dale-Cullen on my left, and Muriel Wieck (1903-1980) opposite, all previously strangers but with whom I spent very many pleasant occasions later at club meetings.
At that time it took a long time for surface mail to get to and from England. Advice had been received by cable that the Charter had been granted and was being sent on its way by ship. Unfortunately the ship was delayed and did not arrive until after the Charter Dinner so, not to be outdone, Mrs Rutter presented Margaret with a beautiful roll of blank parchment. Few people were aware of the difficulty and the secret was very well kept.
Having given us precise instructions as to procedure etc., Mrs Rutter continued on her way around Australia and New Zealand, and succeeded in starting seven new clubs in all. She was a wonderful woman, a corsettiere saleswoman by profession, and how she sold Soroptimism! She gave herself entirely to the project without cost to the British Federation, of which she was a member, and of which we became a part."
I know that in that wonderful place called 'somewhere' I have some photos that I would have love to have shown in this series but, search as I may, they remain undiscovered.