At Collective Position we are big believers in women.
As a female business owner and someone who has held leadership positions in organisations big and small, I have seen the abundance of female talent. I have also seen the modern struggles of being a professional working woman.
Today we want to share some words of wisdom from three of our female clients who, in their various roles, have cracked that glass ceiling and made it to the top. We also have three personal stories from #TeamCP paying homage to those who have gone before and continue to inspire us. Enjoy and Happy International Women’s Day
“The Secretary” – Rachael Sweeney
Rifling through my mum’s cherished ‘family history’ box, I stumbled on a tattered newspaper article. A photo of a purposeful woman struck me; neat collar and socking, files in hand, striding… somewhere.
I myself was on a mission for an old family photo, but the image of this woman piqued my curiosity. The clipping titled “The Peacemaker”, shouted:
NEW APPOINTMENT – Australian Pacifist Movement Secretary, June 1, 1942. Photo captioned: Miss Joan Chadwick.
I was confused - I knew this name, but not the context. Words began jumping from the page:
“The intention of the [the pacifist] movement in appointing a secretary ... is to secure the effective co-operation of those thousands of people already well established in the movement,” p3, The Peacemaker June 1, 1942.
“Pacifist movement”, “many thousands”, “1942”, my mind faulted again. A further article outlining “The Secretary” was attached:
“Miss Joan Chadwick (25) is well-known in the Australian youth circles as a indefatigable worker for peace and social justice. She played a leading part in the organisation of the New South Wales Youth Parliament of which she was State President, she is also Secretary of the Australian Youth Parliament,” p3, The Peacemaker June 1, 1942.
I sat stunned - “The Secretary” was my grandmother.
As is common with things we are introduced to as children, I was mostly passively aware of The Secretary but not overly interested. Almost certainly because I had not known my grandmother, nor in fact had my mother.
The only facts I can recall about The Secretary, was she died in Penang, Malaya (now Malaysia) of an infection, while serving as a missionary with my Reverend grandfather. My mother it was reported, was only 10 months old at the time of her death.
That day I sat for hours pouring over the details of what can only be described as my grandmother’s exceptional life.
Born in 1917 in Brisbane, Mrs Joan Hobson (nee Chadwick) began life with one of life’s most important advantages - feminist parents who believed in the education of women. She had a distinguished scholastic career starting early, when she was awarded the prestigious Lilley Medal, gaining a scholarship to the University of Queensland she studied modern languages, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) then a diploma in Social Studies from the University of Sydney, which she used to work in the Sydney “slums” as a teacher and social worker.
During the height of World War II, involved in peace activist groups calling for the war’s end she met my grandfather and they decided to become Missionaries travelling first to Europe and then “The Asian East”.
Reading through the patchy but poignant records of my grandmother’s life, I see her commentary and references to some of Australia’s biggest political debates being reported. These records show she was one of the first amongst Australians to call for closer ties to our eastern neighbours through teaching their history and culture in our schools and as well as early calls to an end to our nation’s shameful “White Australia” policy.
If a woman’s voice on key issues today is seen as rare and remarkable. “The Secretary’s” courage to speak on these issues in the 1940’s was astonishing.
For those of you not familiar with Collective Position, we run ‘Secretariats’, organising and advising our clients on how to contribute to policy and political debates. I am sure by now the coincidence is not lost on you.
Growing up in a simple middle class country life with a family that did not talk politics, I always believed I came to my career accidentally. Those that know me, however, see the passion for public debate has always run deep.
Legacy is a strange beast; family ties are not physical but eternal, weaving their ways into your life with unimaginable influence. Today on this International Women’s Day I would like to pay homage to a woman I will never meet, but who - it seems - has had a great impact on my life.
In the tough times, like all women, I choose to take courage from those who have come before.
I will think of the “The Secretary” when I struggle to find my voice and continue the legacy she so passionately began for me.