Many a true word...

The Women’s Prayer, forwarded to Prime Minister John Curtin by Jessie Street
The Women’s Prayer, forwarded to Prime Minister John Curtin by Jessie Street, 11 October 1943. (NAA: M1415, 336)

The Women’s Prayer was penned by a member of the United Associations of Women. Jessie Street sent it to Prime Minister John Curtin in October 1943.

A parody of the Lord’s Prayer, the poem pleads with the Prime Minister to exercise true democracy and recognise that women are equal to men. It was a humorous way of getting the Prime Minister’s attention on a serious and important issue. The poem also refers to Dr Evatt, the Minister for External Affairs (1941–49), and concludes with a cheeky pun on the traditional ‘amen’.

As President of the United Associations of Women, Jessie Street had the ear of the Prime Minister. An activist for national and international social justice issues, Jessie Street had been campaigning for equality of pay and opportunities for men and women throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Her cover letter for The Women’s Prayer – unlike her many serious letters, submissions and articles – was short. She hoped the Prime Minister would be amused, and pointed out that ‘many a true word is said in jest’.

The only evidence of the Prime Minister’s response is a copy of a letter to Jessie Street written on his behalf by his Personal Secretary, Mr EW Tonkin. He is quoted as being ‘amused’.

 

  • read caption below
    Letter from President of the United Associations of Women, Jessie Street to Prime Minister John Curtin, 11 October 1943
  • read caption below
    A United Associations of Women pamphlet addressing the issues of women in the workforce in Australia and overseas, 1930s
  • read caption below
    A letter from EW Tonkin, Personal Secretary to the Prime Minister, acknowledging the receipt of Jessie Street’s letter and poem, 14 October 1943
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017