Building communities and empowering experiences? Women's voluntary work in Queensland and its place-based dimensions.

Taylor, Barbara Gail. (2010). Building communities and empowering experiences? Women's voluntary work in Queensland and its place-based dimensions. MPhil Thesis, History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics, The University of Queensland.

       
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s31138046_mphil_abstract.pdf Final Thesis Lodgement application/pdf 10.37KB 1
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Author Taylor, Barbara Gail.
Thesis Title Building communities and empowering experiences? Women's voluntary work in Queensland and its place-based dimensions.
School, Centre or Institute History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-03
Thesis type MPhil Thesis
Supervisor Dr Rod Fisher
Dr Geoff Ginn
Total pages 513
Total colour pages nil
Total black and white pages 513
Subjects 21 History and Archaeology
Abstract/Summary Recent international scholarship has placed new emphasis on women’s formative role in the social, economic, political and cultural lives of their respective communities. Some researchers have suggested the greatest legacy of women’s organised contribution to those communities can be found in the history of their voluntary work. Others have urged greater recognition of that contribution through landmark recognition and historic preservation programs. To date, women’s voluntary work in Queensland has drawn limited scholarly interest and it is not well represented on the State Heritage Register. Attempts to establish links between cultural heritage and women’s history generally have been restricted to national heritage agencies in North America and Australia. However, methodologies tended to rely on existing historiography which was traditionally non-inclusive of women, and gaps in the record remained a problem. This thesis seeks to address these developments by undertaking a comprehensive gender-sensitive study of women’s voluntary work and its associated place-based dimensions, across ninety-four groups in Queensland between 1859 and 1959. A central hypothesis asserts women’s formative role as historical agents and community builders, and argues that participation in voluntary work provided opportunities to enrich and empower lives. A social history approach emphasises the diversity of women’s volunteer experiences over time and their manifestation in the built environment. The capacity of cultural heritage to effectively and comprehensively represent those experiences and map key contributions to building and shaping communities is also tested. Research confirms a direct correlation between broader historical developments and women’s volunteer responses in groups. Women reacted proactively, spontaneously and creatively to changing community needs. They committed their collective voluntary labour to address shortcomings in government policies and emerging inequalities in society, to support a nation at war and the work of various Church denominations. These findings validated women’s creative and progressive agency in volunteer-based groups to building and shaping communities, and confirmed their contribution was sustained and consistent over time. Although most volunteer experiences reflected traditional definitions of gender, more expansive opportunities were available to office-bearers, as well as those involved in self-development groups, the suffrage movement and mobilising for the war effort. Government policy did, however, attempt to restrict women’s voluntary wartime work to conventional roles, as did male-dominated ecclesiastical views within church-affiliated groups. Regardless of work or group type, evidence suggests that participation was nevertheless an empowering process. It enriched the lives of many women and facilitated their transition from the private domain of home and family to the public arena. The pioneering nature of women’s voluntary work, especially in nineteenth century Queensland, further enhanced that journey. While voluntary work over this period was dominated mostly by married upper- and middle-class women, single women were well represented. All groups benefitted from career volunteers, who displayed high levels of participation within and across groups. Many participants were motivated by strong altruist ideals, although patriotism and government propaganda played a major role during the war years, as did the influence of the Church and strong Christian beliefs for those involved in groups with a religious affiliation. A key outcome of the study is the identification of some 700 cultural heritages sites, just over half of which appear on an indicative list of places by theme. They reflect the diversity and development of women’s volunteer experiences in Queensland between 1859 and 1959 and provide tangible evidence of their sustained contribution in volunteer-based groups to processes that build and shape communities over time. Collectively, however, these sites tend to strengthen the conservative view of women’s roles, in that they were associated with services which often reflected concerns about issues impacting on home and family. Groups pursuing social or political reform were also disadvantaged in that their sites were restricted in number and frequently limited to public space and bureaucratic or ministerial offices. Likewise, the efforts of Church-based groups were diffused, given their sites of association were, in many cases, not their own. As the first of its kind in a Queensland setting, this study provides substantive findings in an area not well served by scholarly researchers in the past. It also offers an alternative gender-sensitive approach to establishing links between women’s history and cultural heritage. In addition, it has the potential to lift the visibility of women’s voluntary work through landmark recognition and historic preservation programs, whether as new entries on heritage registers, additional information for existing listings, plaque placement or memorial programs and heritage trails.
Keyword Women's voluntary work in Queensland and its place-based dimensions 1859-1959
Building communities and empowering experiences
Queensland cultural heritage
Additional Notes Pages 302 - 482 to be printed in Landscape

 
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