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An Autobiography

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For the co-operative movement I had always felt the keenest sympathy. I saw in it the
liberation of the small wage-earner from the toils of the middlemen. I thought moreover
that the incentive to thrift so strongly encouraged by co-operative societies would be a
tremendous gain to the community as well as to the individual. How many people owe a
comfortable old age to the delight of seeing their first small profits in a co-operative
concern, or their savings in a building society accumulating steadily and surely, if but
slowly? And I have always had a disposition to encourage anything that would tend to
lighten the burden of the worker. So that when in 1901 Mrs. Agnes Milne placed before
me a suggestion for the formation of a women's co-operative clothing factory, I was glad
to do what I could to further an extension in South Australia of the movement, which,
from its inception in older countries, had made so strong an appeal to my reason. A band
of women workers were prepared to associate for the mutual benefit of the operatives in
the shirtmaking and clothing trades. Under the title of the South Australian Co-operative
Clothing Company, Limited, they proposed to take over and carry on a small private
factory, owned by one of themselves, which had found it difficult to compete against
large firms working with the latest machinery. I was sure of finding many sympathizers
among my friends, and was successful in disposing of a fair number of shares. The
movement had already gained support from thinking working women, and by the time we
were ready to form ourselves into a company we were hopeful of success. I was
appointed, and have since remained the first President of the board of directors; and,
unless prevented by illness or absence from the State, I have never failed to be present at
all meetings. The introduction of Wages Boards added to the keen competition between
merchants, had made the task of carrying on successfully most difficult, but we hoped
that as the idea gained publicity we should benefit proportionately. It was a great blow to
us, when at the close of the first year we were able to declare a dividend of 1/ a share, the
merchants closed down upon us and reduced their payments by 6d. or 9d. per dozen. But
in spite of drawbacks we have maintained the struggle successfully, though sometimes at
disheartening cost to the workers and officials of the society. I feel, however, that the
reward of success due to this plucky band of women workers will come in the near
future, for at no other time probably has the position looked more hopeful than during the
present year.
During this same year the Effective Voting League made a new departure in its
propaganda work by inviting Sir Edward Braddon to address a meeting in the Adelaide
Town Hall. As Premier of Tasmania, Sir Edward had inaugurated the reform in the
gallant little island State, and he was able to speak with authority on the practicability and
the justice of effective voting. His visit was followed a year later by one from Sr.
Keating, another enthusiastic Tasmanian supporter, whose lecture inspired South
Australian workers to even greater efforts, and carried conviction to the minds of many
waverers. At that meeting we first introduced the successful method of explanation by
means of limelight slides. The idea of explaining the whole system by pictures had
seemed impossible, but every step of the counting can be shown so simply and clearly by
this means as to make an understanding of the system a certainty. To the majority of
 
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