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Our Early History

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damemary queenie barlow 200
Dame Mary ('Queenie') Barlow, Chairwoman of hte Catholic Women's Association, 1914-16, and President, 1916-34, wearing her papal decorations, the medal Bene Merenti, awarded in 1922 and the cross and star of the Knightly Order of the Holy Sepulchre, awarded in 1929

The inaugural meeting of the then Catholic Women’s Association (CWA) was held in April 1913.1  ‘According to the press report of this meeting, it was attended by over 100 women who enrolled as members.’2 The CWA’s aim was to provide a forum where ‘Sydney’s Catholic women could meet and enjoy each other’s company.’3

From 1913 through to 1934, the CWA under the leadership of Dame Mary (‘Queenie’) Barlow gradually transformed ‘from an organisation with an almost exclusive interest in social activities to one with a dominating charitable function…’.4

In 1941, the Archbishop of Sydney, Norman Gilroy, initiated a ‘reorganisation of the various Catholic women’s organisations in the Archdiocese of Sydney.’5 The new organisation, the Legion of Catholic Women, would include the members of CWA as well as women from the Catholic United Services Auxiliary (CUSA), the Theresians, The Grail and other organisations.6

The constitution of the Legion underwent a significant reform in 1959 under the leadership of Phyllis Chandler and the Legion metamorphosed into a ‘new, centrally co-ordinated state organisation…’7 known thereafter as the Catholic Women’s League. 

 

1 Hilary Carey, Truly Feminine Truly Catholic: A History of the Catholic Women, 1987, p 9.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid, p 24.
5 Íbid, p 61.
6 Ibid, p 62.
7 Ibid, p 136.