War and community: the Red Cross in Camden, 1939-1945

Publication Year:
1996
Usage 81
Abstract Views 74
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Repository URL:
https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/2216
Author(s):
Willis, Ian Colin
Publisher(s):
Department of History and Politics
thesis / dissertation description
Voluntary organisations like the Red Cross were an integral part of the life of a small town like Camden during wartime. They played a very important role in the consciousness of the local community. They helped focus and galvanise the local population into support for the war effort. The Red Cross was the most successful example of an imperially-based, philanthropic, voluntary organisation that was active in Australia between 1914 and 1945. It had an international network that fitted the imperial profile, its aims were war-related and it was most active between 1914-18 and 1939-45. It had extensive kinship and interpersonal contact networks and tended to be exclusive in terms of social rank and religious beliefs. The success of the Red Cross was due to its broad aims, which encompassed peacetime work, imperial connections, strong female leadership, and the skilful organisation of a large network of women. In 1939 the Red Cross Society was the voluntary organisation best equipped, in the Camden district, to cope with the response of the homefront to the outbreak of the Second World War in terms of experience and resources. The Camden gentry and upper middle class, through their membership of local Red Cross branches, used the existing social networks and social structure to support their position within the local hierarchies and rally the local community. As well, they encouraged romantic notions of voluntary service, and imperial citizenship for war-related fundraising and other patriotic activities. These mechanisms allowed the Red Cross in the Camden district to effectively mobilise the local community, particularly the women, to volunteer thousands of hours of unpaid effort in the name of the Society.