A century of spirited women

A century of spirited women

Branch president Pam Senior, Tup Biggs, and CWA WA President Anne Gething

There was a touch of poetic synchronicity at play in Mundijong last Thursday when around 100 people gathered to celebrate 100 years of the Country Women’s Association in WA.

CWA WA dignitaries and members from near and far gathered alongside councillors and community members to swap stories, and recipes.

Plates laden with homemade sausage rolls, sandwiches, scones, and sweet treats were enjoyed over tea and coffee at the Serpentine Jarrahdale Community Resource Centre.

Bedfordale CWA branch member Kristina with a delectable plate of scones – jam first!

The momentous birthday celebration was hosted by the Serpentine and Districts CWA, which has been a beacon of friendship, fun and fundraising for 85 years of that century.

Ada Fawcett is the branch’s treasurer and its oldest member.

The CWA has been a constant in her life for nearly 70 years; she joined the Keysbrook branch when she married at the age of 22.

Back then, the CWA-run events were the high point of her social calendar.

“We had a lot of kids – you did back then. The monthly outings were the only time we got off the farm and out and about,” she said.

For her, the chance to connect with others in ‘friendship and fellowship’ meant a great deal. And her foray into public speaking through the various roles she held within the branch gave her a lift.

“It has given me a lot of confidence and a lot of pleasure,” she said.

She was a member of the Keysbrook CWA for almost 50 years before the ‘transition’ to the Serpentine and Districts branch in 2001.

Branch Treasurer Ada Fawcett with CWA WA board member Delyse Ward.

While Ms Fawcett said it has always been a very active branch, she has watched its numbers dwindle over time from 80 or so in its heyday to 13.

“We were once the younger members, but now we’re the older members,” she said.

“I’d like to see a lot more younger members come on board to keep it going.”

If the turnout at Thursday’s event is anything to go by, Ms Fawcett should be able to rest easy there.

Among those in attendance were dozens of community members, some explicitly expressing their intent to become members.

Eileen Phillips and Jan Booth said they had an interest in joining.

Branch president Pam Senior was herself reluctant to become a member when her mother first pressed her to join decades ago.

Now, in retirement, she sees the value of the organisation and its ‘100 years of uniting women and strengthening communities’.

“It’s about building friendship,” she said.

“The oldest members have been part of this community for forever. They’re a wealth of information, and I love listening to stories of what [the CWA] means to them.

“It’s just such a lovely friendship group.”

Local Member Hugh Jones, Serpentine and Districts branch president Pam Senior, and SJ Shire president Rob Coales

An excerpt from the newly launched ‘Centenary of CWA Stories – Women of Spirit’ was delivered by Jan Johnson at Thursday’s event.

The recitation centred on the antics and achievements of local honorary life member Tup Biggs, who prevailed over the conditions on remote stations for decades, while being instrumental in five separate CWA branches for over 60 years.

“Tup Biggs is the embodiment of the resilient and generous spirit of a country woman,” Ms Johnson said.

“She is the salt of the earth, and possesses the ability to make the most of situations where others would crumble.”

Ms Biggs rose alongside CWA WA president Anne Gething and Serpentine and Districts Branch president Pam Senior to cut a beautifully crafted blue and white cake while the crowd sang a joyous rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to you’.