It would come as a shock to many of our members today to learn that until 1980 women were not permitted to be members of Surf Life Saving, gain their Bronze Medallion or do patrols. As Surf Life Saving celebrates the 30th anniversary of women being admitted to the movement we take a look at the history of women in our own club, where they have being playing a very important role for much longer than that.
City’s first Women’s R&R team, 1926The City of Perth Surf Life Saving Club was formed in 1925 out of the City of Perth Amateur Swimming and Lifesaving Club located at Crawley Baths. Through that connection the surf club commenced with a large number of women members. In its formative years, City was a ‘unisex’ club. Women were rostered on patrols and competed against the men in club events. As well as being competent and dedicated lifesavers the women were excellent organisers of social and fund-raising events.
The War Years… saviours
During World War 2 membership of many clubs declined due to the number of men joining the services. In City’s favour was that it’s women’s section was the strongest in WA and it was the only club that had women as an integral, rather than associate part.
The contribution of City’s women during the war was outstanding. While other clubs did not include women as voting members City had a tradition of full voting membership for women. In 1940 special women’s patrols were initiated and the patrols continued throughout the war. The women together with City’s junior members kept the club alive during the War.
In 1943 Jackie Mayberry was awarded club Life Membership for her commitment to the club during the war years.
In past years and especially during the war, City’s female members had proved one of its greatest strengths, contributing significantly to club unity and strength. But, after the emergence of a destructive male chauvinism in the 1950s, membership of women fell away. The boaties of the day and others pressed for the expulsion of women from the club and in 1959 women were deleted from club membership.
1963-64 R&R TeamIn 1989 Renee McRae was finally recognised for the work she did in the ’50s and was awarded Life Membership, some 30 years later when attitudes had changed.
The ’60s and the ’70s… hanging on and the rise of the auxiliary
A small group kept a Ladies club going and competed in Ladies Association carnivals (not officially sanctioned by SLSA) and acted as tea makers, first aiders and cleaners.
The mid ’60s saw a strong Ladies Auxiliary emerge – they raised funds and ran social events and by 1970 had over 50 members. By the late 70s the Auxiliary was organising First Aid courses for the whole coast and was instrumental in the club shop and a weekly canteen through the 80s.
The 1971 Australian Championships was a triumph for the Auxiliary who catered for all officials, VIPs and carnival workers over three days. Joy Jardine worked tirelessly for the Auxiliary from the early 60′s through to the 1980′s and was rewarded with Life Membership in 2004.
The club’s first female Bronze squad, 19801980 saw Surf Life Saving Australia officially welcome women in to the Association as full members. By the mid ’80s women had become the leading instructors in the club in particular Bronwen Scott and Belinda Bennett whose sound instruction and guidance of candidates laid the foundation for the club winning the Efficiency Trophy and the State titles in the same season for the first time in 1986-87. These female instructors had a profound impact on the club after 1985.
Bronwen Scott became the first woman on the club Executive when she was elected Chief Instructor in 1985.
City women were also at the forefront of a new era – the competitive status of women, where in many events they competed against the men for many years before Women’s events were slowly introduced. City’s women contributed greatly to the ‘Decade of Dominance” in competition 1979 – 1989.
Sue Scott received Life membership in 1988 for her work as Ladies Captain in the ’60s and with the Auxiliary and the Nippers in the ’70s and ’80s.
The ’90s… top administrators
The 1990s saw a number of top administrative positions in the club taken by women, including Sue Scott as WA’s first female club President for 4 seasons from 1991 to 1995, alongside a wealth of top competitors who helped City win many more State Championships.
Kirsten O’Donoghue was named Australian Surf Life Saver of the Year in 1994 and in 1996 Peta Bennett became the first female Club Captain.
2007 Australian Team members Alicia Marriott and Emma WynneOther women to serve on the club committee included Katie Morrissey, Jane Barnett, Christie Jones, Nicolle Jenkins and Lyn Ritchie.
Jane Scott received Life membership in 2005 for her work in administration, education, instruction and examination in almost all areas of surf life saving as our women have gone on to become an integral part of club administration and services. Jane was elected to the SLSWA Board of Directors in 2009.
Among our most successful Australian Champions are top competitors Alicia Marriott, Emma Wynne, Alison O’Toole, Gabrielle Murphy, Kim Lovett, Montana Ardon, Meaghan Slattery and Rachel Kelly.
Congratulations to all the women who have contributed to this club!