Origin of Women’s History Month:
Women’s History Month had its origins in the United States as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress passed Public Law 97-28 which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.” Throughout the next five years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designating a week in March as “Women’s History Week.”
In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Public Law 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.” Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.”
Women of Fairfield – Nurse Williams
Rebecca “Becky” Margaret Williams was born on October 1882 at Camden, NSW, she is the daughter of Eliza and the late Charles Williams. She is the eldest of a family of 4 children, Rebecca, Annie, Eliza May and Charles.
The William family moved to Cabramatta as a direct result of Eliza been made a widow after Charles was accidently killed by a kick of a horse to the head area . She took up the position of local postmistress in Cabramatta which provided a regular income and roof over the family’s head.
Ms Williams trained as a nurse in a Parramatta mental hospital in 1903-1905. On August 10th 1915, at the age of 32, she enlisted with the 10th Australian General Hospital Unit. She embarked for Egypt on the 21st of August 1915 where she served for 8 months and then to the French, Belgian border, where she continued to nurse soldiers until 1919.
During her service, Rebecca suffered from many debilitating illnesses such as mumps, measles and euphoria (a mental condition resulting from the extreme stress in her nursing career). In July 1917, she was sent to England to recuperate while working at the Birmingham War Hospital and later with the 3rd Australian General Hospital Unit.
Rebecca was transported back to Australia aboard HMAT Benalla on May 31 1919 and was discharged from her nursing duties on the 23rd of July 1919.
Upon her return to Australia, Rebecca moved back into her mother’s home at Hazel Cottage (located at the corner of Cabramatta and Johns Street).
Rebecca became the founding president of the Cabra-Vale ladies Auxilary Club in 1929. This is the notice that the “Biz” ran on August 16th to generate public support: “ The wives and mothers of ex-servicemen are forming a club shortly. The idea is to form themselves into an auxiliary of the Men’s Club. The membership for the present will be confined to wives and mothers of members and proposed members only. The organisers are very enthusiastic, and are expecting great things to be the result of their efforts. Any particulars may be obtained from Miss R. M. Williams , at Cabramatta Post Office. Watch ” Biz” for further announcements”.
It is know that Rebecca and Eliza worked in the post office for 36 years, right until after the end of World War II. The ranges of services that were on offered at the post office were greatly expended and in the 1940’s included private boxes for receipt of military family pay vouchers, child endowment, old age pensions etc…
Rebecca never married, she eventually retired from the post office and went to live with her widowed sister Annie at Narraweena, on Sydney’s northside. Miss Williams died in 1961 after a car accident at the age of 79. She was buried alongside her mother in the Old Oaks Cemetery at The Oaks, via Camden.
[Source : From the Law Library of Congress’ guide to the legislative history of Women’s History Month. http://womenshistorymonth.gov/about.html and Cabra-Vale Diggers : 85th Anniversary 1925-2010 by Mike Davis]