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Emily's empire : Emily Dobson and the National Council of Women of Tasmania, 1899-1939

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Jordan, R (2004) Emily's empire : Emily Dobson and the National Council of Women of Tasmania, 1899-1939. Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Tasmanian women began to assert their right to participate in the public sphere in the mid
1880s and this continued into the mid-1930s even though this period, labelled as first
wave feminism, is traditionally dated to 1914 in the western world. The National Council
of Women of Tasmania (NCWT), established in 1899, was an umbrella organisation
made up of delegates from affiliated organisations. Its stated aim was to establish a
dialogue between women's organisations working for the betterment of the community
and to co-ordinate their activities, but in practice this was not always the case. Between
1904 and 1934 the NCWT was under the presidency of Emily Dobson, a formidable
woman, who perhaps helped and perhaps hindered the work of the Council. Emily
Dobson's agenda became the Council's and for thirty years she appeared to manipulate
this most influential of Tasmanian women's organisations.
Although the Council's objective was to produce discussion in the philanthropic
community, this did not stop it from trying to work in the community through
challenging the status quo for women, influencing legislation and implementing
programmes designed to help women and children. These attempts at work did not
amount to much. The NCWT produced little that could be called a tangible achievement
in the forty year period studied. This causes some problems in the analysis of the
Council. If it had attempted no work then it could easily be concluded that it only meant
to act as a facilitator for discussion between other organisations. Because it did attempt
work and apparently failed in several areas, then the Council must be viewed differently.
But the importance of the National Council is not simply shown in the work it did or did
not produce. The National Council was critical for both the evolution of feminism in
Tasmania and in the personal evolution of its women members. It was women like the
National Council members who were conservative and determined to work within the
male system rather than challenge that system, who were able to pave the way for the
second wave of feminism. The National Council of Women of Tasmania under the firm
hand of Emily Dobson was among the first proponents of women's rights in Tasmania
and the importance of this should not be dismissed.

Item Type: Thesis (Research Master)
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Date Deposited: 02 Dec 2011 01:13
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2016 05:54
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