A Great Form of Love: Women philanthropists in Australian history

Barbara Lemon, a researcher at the University of Melbourne, presented a radio documentary on women philanthropists which aired on Hindsight (ABC Radio National) on Sunday 10 February 2008.

‘A Great Form of Love: Women Philanthropists in Australian History’ profiles eight generous Australian women, spanning 150 years: Anne Fraser Bon, Dr Una Porter, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, Barbara Blackman, Jill Reichstein, Eve Mahlab, Toni Joel and Trisha Broadbridge.

Traditionally, Australian women’s philanthropy has focused on voluntary work, while large-scale giving has been the province of men. However a small number of Australian women have given significant sums of money to charitable causes alongside their wealthy male counterparts. Many nineteenth-century Australian women philanthropists were born in Britain, and all were influenced by the well-established tradition of philanthropy there. Few, though, had aristocratic or wealthy origins. Most inherited from husbands or fathers who were self-made men. Their philanthropy was informed by pragmatism, initiative and determination, and was rooted in voluntary work.

By the end of World War II, many Australian women had grasped the opportunity of employment and gained increasing control over money. In the 1960s and 1970s, women began to emerge as leaders, and philanthropy was professionalised. Women’s philanthropy has since moved further away from its nineteenth century origins in charity to form part of the third sector of Australia’s economy, often with the aim of enabling social change.

The program makes fascinating listening and is available to download from the Hindsight website.

Feb. 12, 2008

 Tags: stories, research & information, general

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