As the war stretched on, thousands of women at home in Australia supported the war effort by volunteering for patriotic fundraising activities. Others, ardent pacifists, became active campaigners against conscription.
Eliza Ann Rouse, affectionately known as Bessie, mistress of Rouse Hill House, was in her early seventies when war was declared in August 1914. She had five grandsons, the eldest of whom turned 18 in October 1914. The war would bring much anxiety and sadness to the later years of Bessie’s peaceful rural life on the outskirts of Sydney.
Isabel Frances Swann (1881–1961) was an ardent peace activist, an anti-conscription campaigner, defender of free speech and secretary of the NSW branch of the Women’s Peace Army.
Within days of the declaration of war in August 1914 a vast civilian ‘army’ of voluntary workers began to mobilise to support the war effort. The Australian Red Cross Society was first off the mark, officially launched nationally, with state divisions and local branches, on 13 August 1914 by Lady Helen Munro Ferguson, the activist wife of the governor-general of Australia.