Edith Glanville

2016
CC BY-SA 2.0
Cite this

Edith May Glanville

Edith Glanville [media]was a wife, mother, social welfare worker, Justice of the Peace, feminist, philanthropist, international traveller, activist, lecturer and broadcaster. Strong-willed, adventurous and courageous, she lost one of her two sons in the Gallipoli landing but worked to support Armenians, was involved in the foundation of the League of Nations, and founded the Quota Club and the Soroptomist Club of Sydney.

Early life

Edith May Glanville (née Morrison) was born in Redfern in 1871, the second oldest of eight children to Susannah and John Morrison. In 1894, she married George Glanville, and they had two sons, Leigh and Alan. The family lived in Sydney's inner-west, firstly in Petersham and later at Haberfield.

On 25 April 1915, the Glanville's 20-year old son Leigh was killed in action as the Australian Imperial Force landed at Gallipoli in Turkey. According to her granddaughter, Edith Glanville never fully recovered from the shock of Leigh's death. [1] But rather than shrink into her grief, Edith looked outward. She dedicated the remainder of her very long life to public service, although her life of service was not without its detractors.

Justice of the Peace

In May 1921, Edith was one of 61 female justices of the peace who were appointed in New South Wales as a direct consequence of the Women 's Legal Status Act 1918 which gave women the right to be elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly and local government, to study and practice law and to serve as justices of the peace [JPs].

Shortly afterward the Member for Ryde, Sir Thomas Henley, wrote to The Sydney Morning Herald to say women would have to abandon their domesticity to become JPs, claiming 'a woman J.P. seems akin to one smoking a cigar or pipe and playing football in a scrum'. [2] Edith wrote back to the paper the very next day, refuting Henley's claim and explaining why she wanted the role.

I am an old-fashioned woman, and my home is the most cherished spot on earth to me; but I learned, in common with many other women, during the years of war that my leisure hours could be spent in the service of my country, and I believe that I can still do the same in the honoured position as justice of the peace. [3]

WWI comfort funds to the League of Nations

Throughout World War I Edith Glanville served as the Secretary of the 1st Battalion Comfort Fund – her son Leigh had been a sergeant in this battalion. After the war, Edith Glanville helped to establish the Armenian Relief Fund, and a later breakaway group Friends of Armenia, in response to the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey.

She travelled extensively to the Near East and Middle East in the 1920s and 1930s, to various countries, including Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Palestine. She helped set up orphanages for Armenian children in Lebanon and Syria. In 1937, she and George sponsored one of these orphans, by then a young man, Mihran Sarkissan. [4]

Edith Glanville was a Liaison Officer at the League of Nations for the Fifth Commission and the Near East Relief Society. [5] She promoted the work of the Near East Relief Society in lecture tours in Australia, England, USA and Canada. [6]

The Quota Club

Edith Glanville hosted the first meeting of the Quota Club in 1932 in her rooms at 2 Hunter Street. The club was intended to function 'on somewhat similar lines to the men's Rotary Clubs' with membership open to 'women who were doing public and professional work and were engaged in business activities'. [7]

The Quota Club's inaugural luncheon was held at Farmers' Department Store in August 1932. [8] Farmers' became the venue for the Quota Club's weekly luncheons.

Soroptimist Club of Sydney

Five years after the Quota Club was formed, Edith – still the president – returned its charter to America and the Soroptimist Club of Sydney was born. According to Edith, this change in affiliation was to give members more of an international focus. [9]

The first Soroptimists tended to be middle-class, educated and engaged in work, business or public life. Its foundation members had diverse interests. Annie Praed was one of the first trained dentists in NSW. [10] Jean Garling was a dance and theatre critic who became a major benefactor of the State Library of New South Wales, while Florence Taylor has been claimed as Australia's first female architect, engineer and pilot. Others members included sculptors, singers, teachers, financiers, secretaries, political organisers and horticulturalists. [11]

Edith Glanville held down multiple positions in the executive of the Soroptimist Club, usually at the same time, which would later prove her undoing. She survived a clash with the indomitable Florence Taylor, who, like Glanville, was a complicated and strong-willed woman. In 1945 Taylor criticised Glanville's conduct of the Club's elections and failures to consult properly with volunteer members. Taylor went public with her concerns and she and her supporters resigned from the club. [12]

Florence Taylor then set up and became the inaugural president of a breakaway Soroptimist group, the County of Cumberland Club, in 1947. [13] As a former president of the Soroptimist Club has said, this split was the 'clash of the titans'. [14]

Although Glanville struggled with running the association in a constitutional manner, Marie Richardson, a contemporary Soroptimist, recalled her heart was in the right place: '…she was a person dedicated to the poor, the oppressed and lonely, and her work, particularly for the Armenians, won her tremendous respect and regard'. [15]

After Edith Glanville stepped down, she was made life president in recognition of her work for the club. [16] She was listed as 'honorary secretary' of the Soroptimist Club in the 1960s. [17] She died in 1966.

The Soroptimist Club of Sydney continued to be 'pledged to service'. In 1962, the club had raised money to purchase a colposcope for the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, talking books for the blind, clothes for children at the Ashfield Infants' Home, and a motorised wheel chair for paraplegics at Narrabeen. [18] In the 1970s, the Soroptimist Club of Sydney supported causes including Aboriginal land rights and was instrumental in funding Pecky's Playground at Prospect Reservoir, one of the first playgrounds for children with a disability in Australia.

Further reading

Gertrude F Kentish. The Story of Soroptimist International of the South West Pacific for the Golden Jubilee 1937-1987. Frankston, Victoria: GF Kentish, 1987.

 

Notes

[1] Gertrude F Kentish, The Story of Soroptimist International of the South West Pacific for the Golden Jubilee 1937-1987 (Frankston, Victoria: GF Kentish, 1987), 3

[2] 'Women Justices', The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 June 1921, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15939102, viewed 11 October 2012

[3] 'Women Justices', The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 June 1921, 12, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15930472, viewed 11 October 2012

[4] Gertrude F Kentish, The Story of Soroptimist International of the South West Pacific for the Golden Jubilee 1937-1987 (Frankston, Victoria: GF Kentish, 1987), 3-4

[5] 'Women of the Near East', The West Australian, 14 November 1934, 5, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32811347, viewed 13 July 2015

[6] There are various references to her overseas travels & lectures in the press. 'For women: Sydney Traveller', The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 December 1926, 10, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16339596, viewed 13 July 2015; 'The Near East: Mrs Glanville's varied experiences', Sunday Times, 6 January 1929, 14, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article131628954, viewed 13 July 2015. See also National Archives of Australia, Mrs Edith Glanville – Honour, NAA: A463, 1962/6462, http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/DetailsReports/ItemDetail.aspx?Barcode=1863268&isAv=N, viewed 30 July 2015

[7] 'Quota Club', The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 February 1932, 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16843295, viewed 13 July 2015; 'Quota Club formed yesterday', The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 March 1932, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16846302, viewed 9 January 2013

[8] 'Quota Club', The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 August 1932, 4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16914060, viewed 9 January, 2013

[9] 'For Women.', The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 September 1937, 5, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17408034, viewed 9 January, 2013

[10] AO Watson, 'Praed, Annie (1873–1948)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, viewed 9 January 2013, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/praed-annie-8094/text14127

[11] Gertrude F Kentish, The Story of Soroptimist International of the South West Pacific for the Golden Jubilee 1937-1987 (Frankston, Victoria: GF Kentish, 1987), 91

[12] Gertrude F Kentish, The Story of Soroptimist International of the South West Pacific for the Golden Jubilee 1937-1987 (Frankston, Victoria: GF Kentish, 1987), 9-10.

[13] Robert Freestone and Bronwyn J Hanna, Florence Taylor's Hats: Designing, Building and Editing Sydney, (Ultimo: Halstead Press, 2008), 134-35

[14] Personal communication.

[15] Gertrude F Kentish, The Story of Soroptimist International of the South West Pacific for the Golden Jubilee 1937-1987 (Frankston, Victoria: GF Kentish, 1987), 6

[16] 'Auxiliaries Raise £2,685 For Crown St Hospital', The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 December 1953, 14, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18399111, viewed 29 July 2015

[17] National Archives of Australia, Mrs Edith Glanville – Honour, NAA: A463, 1962/6462, http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/DetailsReports/ItemDetail.aspx?Barcode=1863268&isAv=N, viewed 30 July 2015

[18] National Archives of Australia, Mrs Edith Glanville – Honour, NAA: A463, 1962/6462, http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/DetailsReports/ItemDetail.aspx?Barcode=1863268&isAv=N, viewed 30 July 2015

.