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Between the Wars

Doris was a trained teacher and in the 1920s, while her children were young, she shifted her attention to study of and advocacy for progressive education. It was at base, still peace work. Essentially she believed that children schooled in a less rigid and competitive environment, full of outdoor play, art and music and free of war toys, would develop the social consciousness and humanity that would make wars less likely in the future. But that was a long term project. She was still mounting platforms to speak against war toys in the mid 1960s!

Her brief return to active involvement with WILPF as President from 1928-9 was curtailed by the birth of a fourth child, who survived for only 13 months.  Then, as the war clouds gathered on the international horizon she once more turned herself to peace work, first in the Victorian Council Against War and Fascism, and then in the International Peace Campaign (IPC). Established by Lord Robert Cecil, co-founder of the British League of Nations Union and Pierre Cot, the French Minister for Air, as an international coordinating body ‘drawing together representatives of existing bodies’, the IPC was officially inaugurated at a huge congress in Brussels in September 1936. The essential element in the IPC program was support for collective security and the imposition of economic or even military sanctions if necessary through the League of Nations against aggressor nations.

Doris was already involved in a similar body in Melbourne, the United Peace Council, which arranged a public meeting to coincide with the Brussels congress and then set to work organising an Australian Peace Congress in Melbourne from 16-19 September 1937. With 866 delegates and 8,000 attendees, finishing with a street march of 1,500 people that culminated in a gathering of over 4,000 in the Exhibition Building to hear yet more rousing speeches, the congress was judged a significant success. Doris played a major role in the Women’s Commission – the only one of the seven Commissions to remain active after the congress. By January 1938 she was its convenor. By 1939 she was national president of the IPC. She organised a number of events, many with a focus on children and peace, and ran fortnightly study circles, while speaking on various platforms in support of collective security. It was all activity that strengthened Doris’s skills as a grass roots activist and lifted her sights to the need for women to take their place in public life on a bigger stage, perhaps even in parliament.

CR