No Mean Destiny: The Story of the War Widow's Guild of Australia 1945-85 by Mavis Thorpe Clark

South Yarra: Hyland House, 1986.
288 pages; hard-cover; 24cm; 36 pages of b/w plates: photos, facsims.

Radio interview with Derryn Hinch on 3LO - 1986 (mp3):

Background

"No Mean Destiny could better be described as the biography of its founder Jessie Mary Vasey, the widow of Major-General George Alan Vasey …

Jessie Vasey was truly one of Australia's great women, perhaps the greatest. She brought into being what was to become the most powerful women's bloc in Australia's history. Her successful intent was to establish justice and care for Australia's World War II widows. At the end of the conflict in 1945, this group of bereaved wives were in the same neglected state as had been the widows of World War I in 1918. Jessie herself was widowed only six months before World War II ended. Her husband died in an aircraft accident off the coast of Cairns. She was 48. But the seeds of compassion and caring for the war widows had been sown before her own loss.

When I was commissioned to write this book, I knew very little about the War Widows' Guild or Mrs Vasey. I expected the work to be interesting but not exciting. How wrong I was. I was not more than a few weeks into the research before I realized that I was tapping into more than a segment of Australia's war history: I was uncovering a brilliant shining thread of one woman's achievement."

- Trust the Dream (1999) page 356-357.

Excerpt

"Women react to widowhood in their individual ways, especially to the widowhood of war. It is never expected, though they wave their husbands off to battle. They are confident that there is no bullet engraved with his name, the thrust of that bayonet is not for him. He will be one of the lucky ones. He will come back. Often she is big with child when he goes, but she has expected this to happen and she is not afraid. When the telegram comes telling her officially that he is dead, she doesn't believe it. She can remember him only as he looked the day he left, strong, one hundred percent fit, marching straight to the band's music, proud, eager to do his part, eager to be part of this community response to threat, his bayonet gleaming, a sprig of wattle in his slouch hat."

- No Mean Destiny (1986) page 1.

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Cover: photo of Mrs Jessie Vasey.

Cover of No Mean Destiny, 1986.

Cartoon depicting a woman and child trying to hack and push through a forest labelled Inadequate Pension in the direction of a sign pointing To Decent Living Conditions.

"The media was very supportive of the war widows' cause." This cartoon by Wells appeared in the Herald on 11 June 1947.
No Mean Destiny (1986) opposite page 53.