Kath Williams: The Unions and the Fight for Equal Pay

By Zelda D’Aprano | Go to book overview

1
Cath the housewife/mother becomes
Kath the activist

Catherine Mary Isabel Chambers (Cath) commenced her teacher training for the Domestic Arts in 1913.1 We do not know what dreams or ambitions she may have had during adolescence but, with the pervading culture inculcating domesticity for girls and opposing participation of women in the workforce, the demand for teachers qualified in Domestic Arts created opportunities for young women to obtain a profession. Choices for women were few, and perhaps Cath recognised the potential this training would give her for a career, the means of a livelihood as well as providing skills and knowledge befitting her for marriage.

Cath was born on April 23 1895 at Lara, a tiny settlement south-west of Melbourne, in StoneLea Cottage, the home of her maternal grandparents, built by her stonemason grandfather William Harding. By the 1890s Lara, with its population of 250, had developed the charming air of an English village. Even its railway station, according to the Werribee Express, had the rural cottage home cosiness which might be seen on country branch lines in England.

Cath was the second-born of five children, four daughters and the youngest being a son. While little is known of Cath’s parents or about her childhood, her father, Edward, was the foundation Secretary of the Victorian Clerks Union.2 Her parents were able to live a comfortable existence and had the

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