Early Years

The Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga was known as the Catholic Women’s Social Guild when it was formed on Sunday 1 October in 1916 in Cathedral Hall, Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. The Guild was founded by Rev. William J Lockington SJ and 12 women who were leaders in fields that included education, law, medicine and union work.

The social upheaval of war had seen new leadership and employment opportunities arise in the Australian community for women, but also a significant increase in the number of impoverished women and children. In 1916, a group of Catholic professional women in Melbourne had been considering ways to draw on their skills and faith to assist these vulnerable members of society. Fr Lockington encouraged their efforts and galvanized support for the formation of the Catholic Women’s Social Guild through two well attended lectures at St Patrick’s Cathedral.

The first General President of the Guild was Dr Mary Glowrey (Sr Mary of the Sacred Heart JMJ. More information here). Other founding members of the Central Committee included Anna Brennan, Maud O’Connell, Julia Flynn, Dr Eileen FitzGerald, Katie Coffey,  Ruby McNamara, Elizabeth (Bessie) Mantach, Louise Barry, Gertrude Opie and Mardie McCay.

Before Guild members began their practical work, the founding committee gathered at the Sacred Heart Convent in Burke Road Malvern for a retreat, led by Fr Lockington. Activities of the Guild in the early years included retreats, advocating for women who were paid inadequate wages for factory work, residential facilities for young women, beach camps for children from the inner city and fundraising events like gymkhanas and a stall at the Royal Melbourne Show.

Rev. William Lockington SJ

Fr Lockington SJ was appointed as Spiritual Director of the League. He was involved in the League’s early campaigns to improve the appalling industrial conditions of all workers, particularly during some of the big strikes of the period. In 1921, the town of Lockington, Victoria, was named after Fr Lockington, ‘the noted author, preacher and lecturer’. More information: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lockington-william-joseph-7216

Dr Mannix and Fr Lockington

Anna Brennan

Anna Brennan was born in 1879. After primary and secondary schooling, she enrolled at Melbourne University as a medical student but changed to legal studies. She graduated with a Bachelor of Law and worked at Frank Brennan [her brother] and Co., in Melbourne. Throughout her life, she was active in many Clubs. At the age of 83, whilst attending a lecture at Melbourne University, Anna fell down the stairs which resulted in her death on 11th October, 1962. More information: https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/brennan-anna-teresa-5344

Julia Flynn

Julia Flynn was born in 1873. From a young age Julia realised that her passion lay in education. After primary and secondary schooling, she enrolled at Teachers’ Training College, and undertook part time study at Melbourne University. She graduated from University with a Bachelor of Arts. She joined the Education Department as a teacher and worked her way up to Senior Inspector of Secondary Schools. After a protracted period of rejection because she was a female, Julia was appointed as Chief Inspector of Secondary Schools in Victoria. She made significant changes to the education curriculum. In 1943, she joined the Catholic Education Office and began the process of obtaining accreditation for Catholic secondary schools to enable them to conduct their own exams. In 1947, Julia died after suffering a heart attack. More information: https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/flynn-julia-teresa-6201

Maude O’Connell

Maude O’Connell was born in 1884. Whilst working as a teacher, Maude went to work in a factory to better understand the conditions of workers. She became a trade unionist to represent the workers and improve work places. Maud was the first Treasurer of the Guild, helping Mary Glowrey to find accommodation for unemployed girls. After much deliberation, Maude founded the Australian religious congregation – The Company of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament which became known as the Grey Sisters. These Sisters ministered to mothers and children with home cooking, cleaning, etc. during illness or the arrival of a new baby. Maude O’Connell died in December 1964, having spent her life in the service of others. More information: https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/oconnell-cecily-maude-7872

catholic womens league of victoria and wagga wagga

Address: PO Box 3192, Cotham, Victoria 3101, Australia.
Email: info@cwlvicww.org.au