World War 2 undoubtedly made Australians more aware of world events and our relationship with the rest of the world, creating a curiosity about other countries. Within the CWA this was reflected by the creation of a State International Officer in 1941. Miss M. E. Payne was responsible for the CWA of NSW linking with the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) and the creation and organisation of an International Day based upon the study of another country and its culture.
1942 saw not only the celebration of the Chinese fighting off the Japanese aggressor but a strong focus on their history, costumes and cooking. In 1943, a time when the Roosevelts were revered in an almost royal fashion, naturally the United Sates were studied with branches celebrating with cocktails (non-alcoholic of course!) coleslaw and boiled corn. Next in 1944 was Britain, another natural selection based upon royalty, Christianity and democracy. It was not until 1945 that the CWA looked further afield with Brazil being studied, a country with a Fascist regime, poverty and oppression. These aspects did not dampen the enthusiasm of members for coffee drinking and Brazilian arts and crafts.
In 1947, several members attended as delegates to the ACWW world conference in Amsterdam, one of whom a Mrs Beveridge took a detour via Buckingham Palace to present Princess Elizabeth with a piece of hand-woven tweed for her 21st birthday.
Our celebrations now extend even further than a ‘day of’. Each of the 30 groups throughout the state are encouraged to enter International Competitions, whether it be a needlecraft with the theme taken from the country being studied, or hand dressing a doll in traditional costume, with even underwear being judged. Got to get that right! There is also a competition for schools to enter a book on the country by liaising with their local branch so children can be involved.
Now in 2013 our curiosity about the world remains strong – Morocco is our Country of Study, with members’ international days consisting of fashion shows highlighting traditional dress, shared feasts of Berber cuisine and guest speakers who have visited or are a specialist in a specific Moroccan area.
We are also still part of the ACWW with members and delegates currently in India for the 27th Triennial conference. This way members here in NSW forge links, exchange ideas and gain awareness of other rural societies from all over the world – something I believe Miss M. E. Payne would be very proud of.