Issues In Educational Research 3(1), 1993, 17-33.

The hope of the future: The Kindergarten Union and the campaign for children's libraries in Western Australia

Alison Gregg
Curriculum Materials Information Services
WA Ministry of Education

This paper looks at two groups of education lobbyists in the period 1930-1960: the Kindergarten Union of WA and the WA Branch of the Children's Book Council. Both were motivated by the urge to build a better world for children, and both sought to achieve their goals through parent education, community publicity campaigns and political lobbying. The paper discusses the influence of the 1937 New Education Fellowship Conference, the ABC Kindergarten of the Air, Catherine King's radio programmes, the community centre movement, and the first Children's Book Week exhibitions Links are drawn between the two organisations, and the paper examines ways in which tactics learnt in one of the lobby groups were applied with equal effect in the other.

A better world for children

The histories of the Kindergarten Union and the lobbying campaign for children's libraries in Western Australia provide examples of the type of community-based popular movements that swept through many countries in the first half of this century. Arising from the ashes of two World Wars, they were fuelled by a determination to create a better, more peaceable and civilised world. Their supporters believed that education for young children would play a significant part in achieving that end.

The New Education Fellowship (NEF) provided a focus for this spirit. Although the Fellowship had originated in England at the end of last century, it spread rapidly to Europe and the US.[1] By the 1920s, its influence - and its emphasis on equality of opportunity, education programmes geared to the needs of the individual learner, creativity, co-operation rather than competition, and a belief in education as a means of achieving a just society[2] - had been felt as far as afield as Australia.

Mrs Joyner and the Little Citizens' Library

The NEF was a movement much in sympathy with the aims of the WA Kindergarten Union, established in Perth in 1911. It certainly echoed the concerns of Ethel Rose Paterson Joyner (Mrs A.E. Joyner), a stalwart of the Kindergarten Union and the Chairman of the Meerilinga House Committee during the 1920s.[3] She was a woman of immense enthusiasm and energy, giving untiringly of her time to support a host of worthwhile community organisations. Her friend Noel Stewart listed some of them in a graceful tribute to her in As I Remember Them:[4] they included the Silver Chain, YWCA, Fairbridge Farm School, Children's Protection Society, Girl Guides' Association, Young Australia League, Women's Service Guilds. League of Nations Union, Australian Federation of Women Voters, Victoria League, and the Women Writers' Club. But perhaps the association dearest to Mrs Joyner was the Little Citizens' League, which she had founded in 1924 in memory of her daughter Barbara, "a Little Citizen" who had died in early childhood. The League itself seems to have been something of a curiosity, albeit built upon the highest ideals. Mrs Joyner apparently adopted a radio transmitting beacon as the League's official symbol. The League's address was Radio Headquarters U21, and it sought to

... broadcast love, joy and fellowship by means of service. Membership is open to the children and grown-up friends of the world without distinction of race, creed, class, caste or colour.[5]

The Little Citizens' Kindergarten (now part of Highgate Primary School) and the Little Citizens' Children's Library (since demolished) were both nurtured by this same idealistic urge. Although the motto and the stated objectives of the League sound airily impractical, Mrs Joyner proved time and again that she was a shrewd manager, a skilled publicist, and a generous benefactor utterly committed to promoting children's interests. The Library in particular demonstrated the extent of her remarkable lobbying skills. Spurred on by the example of the burgeoning Children's Library and Crafts Movement in NSW, Mrs Joyner determined early in 1939 to start a free library for children in Perth. Within a few months, she had persuaded Perth City Council to provide suitable premises on an attractive site overlooking Robertson Park, at a peppercorn rental; to spend £388 (a substantial amount in 1939) on fitting them out to her own exacting standards;[6] and to entertain guests at a lavish afternoon tea following the library's grand official opening on 4 November.[7] For her part, Mrs Joyner undertook to provide the books, manage the library and maintain the property. This she did almost single-handedly until advancing age (she was 66 when the library opened) and ill-health forced her to seek assistance.

In this respect, Mrs Joyner differed markedly from her Kindergarten Union colleagues. Like them, she championed the cause of children - particularly those who had little access to books, play equipment and the other good things of childhood - and gave solid practical help to provide the services that she believed were needed. But unlike them, she did it almost entirely on her own. There is little evidence that she sought professional advice or help in planning or managing her library, and her only colleagues in the venture were two close friends and her elder daughter. These three continued to support the project after Mrs Joyner's death in 1952, but by then it had outgrown its usefulness. The Library Board Act of 1951 had put free public libraries, subsidised jointly by the State and local government authority, within the reach of all. By the end of 1961, Perth City Council had accepted responsibility for managing the former Perth Literary Institute (now re-named the City of Perth Public Library) as a free lending library for both children and adults, under the provisions of the Library Board Act. As a consequence, the Council served notice that it intended to withdraw its annual subsidy to the Little Citizens' Library. The Library Trustees decided to donate the remaining books and other equipment to Sister Kate's Home, and both the League and the Library were formally dissolved on 5 February 1963.[8]

It seemed a sad ending for a project launched with such altruism, energy and panache. The Little Citizens' Library, the first free library for children in WA, owed its existence entirely to Mrs Joyner's zeal and unflagging effort. She persuaded Perth City Council to provide the framework, and she supplied both money and voluntary labour to keep the project going. But the real worth of her contribution may have lain simply in establishing a children's library to show what might be achieved. Publicity about the Children's Library and Crafts Movement, together with a demonstration of its policies in practice, may have had a much greater influence than the library itself. Noel Stewart certainly believed this to be the case:

... it was doubtless due to her initial enthusiasm that the Little citizens' league paved the way for the network of children's libraries now attached to adult libraries all over the state.[9]

The 1937 New Education Fellowship Conference

The ideas espoused by the New Education Fellowship gained increasing attention in the decades following World War I. There was widespread revulsion at the notion of violence as a way of settling disputes at any level, and a strong tide in favour of negotiation and education as a means to international understanding. The NEF promoted these notions vigorously at international conferences during the 1920s and 1930s. K.S. Cunningham, Executive Officer for the Australian Council for Education Research, attended one such conference in South Africa in 1934. So impressed was he by the wealth of new ideas and the calibre of debate that he urged the ACER to invite the NEF to hold its next Regional Conference in Australia. With financial support from the Carnegie Corporation and organisational help from ACER, a national planning committee was convened. State sub-committees were set up to handle local arrangements. Finally, twenty-one eminent lecturers from Britain, America, Europe, Japan and South Africa were invited to address educators, parents and interested citizens at sequential meetings across Australia.[10]

From the perspective of the 1990s, it is difficult to imagine what a huge undertaking the 1937 NEF Regional Conference must have been. Most of the overseas speakers attended preliminary sessions in New Zealand before travelling to Brisbane for the Regional Conference Opening on 4 August. From there, the entourage visited each state capital in tum, completing the tour on 18 September 1937 after a final week of lectures in Perth.[11] Charles Staples, then a young teacher at a WA country school, remembers vividly the excitement of those Perth sessions. The Education Department granted leave for teachers to attend, and paid rail fares to allow them to do so. The combination of distinguished speakers, the wide diversity of topics and ideas, and the opportunity to debate issues with colleagues and specialists alike, proved a heady mix for young teachers - especially those (like Staples) on somewhat isolated country postings. For Staples, as for many other young teachers, the Conference provided a surge of energy and optimism that remains clear in their memories today.[12]

Conference delegates were impressed by the strength of the belief that a new world could be shaped through education; that the problems dogging the old order could be overcome by a commitment to find creative solutions based on freedom and respect for the individual. In many ways, the motto adopted in 1996 by the WA Kindergarten Union had even more relevance in 1937: "The hope of the future lies in the child ".[13]

The Conference as a whole received enormous publicity throughout Australia. There were press articles, radio talks, and direct broadcasts of conference sessions.[14] Speakers addressed issues of methodology and access to education, stressing the need and right of every child and adult to receive both education and information to help them achieve their full potential. The many references to the need for free access to libraries were taken up enthusiastically by the fledgling Free Library Movement of NSW: later, the same issues would be debated passionately and persuasively by the Free Library Movement in Perth.

The Organising Committee for the Perth sessions was made up of representatives from the University, teachers' training colleges, churches and schools, under the chairmanship of Professor R.G. Cameron. The Executive Committee included J.S. Battye, Principal Librarian of the Public Library; Edwin Huck, President of the Teachers' Union; and, significantly, Gladys Pendred, Principal of the WA Kindergarten Teachers' College.[15] Catherine King credits Gladys Pendred - her friend since schooldays - with ensuring that the conference had a strong and varied early childhood component. It was almost certainly due to Gladys Pendred that Perth audiences were able to attend a session that was later recognised as a powerful influence on community thinking about early childhood education and children's libraries in WA: that presented by Mrs William Boyd and Mrs F.W. Hart on 'Parent Education'.[16] No transcript of this session has been located, but it is believed to have confirmed the emphasis given to parent education by Conference lecturers Beatrice Ensor and Susan Isaacs. The parent discussion groups (or Parent Clubs) which they advocated were similar to those operating at Meerilinga, the headquarters of the WA Kindergarten Union, as early as 1932. A Meerilinga Kindergarten pamphlet of that period had reported a move which, to modem ears, sounds an astonishingly forward-thinking innovation. Under the heading 'Our children - our future', the pamphlet set out policies for the newly established parents' group:

The aim of the Club is one of mutual help between parents and those in charge of the kindergartens. A syllabus of subjects ... has been drawn up, and it was decided at the first meeting ... to hold the study circle once a fortnight, afternoon and evening alternately, in order to allow fathers as well as mothers to attend.[17]

Parent education

Among the teachers, parents and librarians at the NEF Conference, two of the most avid listeners were undoubtedly Catherine King and her husband Alec. The idea of parent education was not new to either of them. Since 1929 Catherine King had been associated with the Kindergarten Union, first as a member of the Education Committee and later as part-time lecturer at the Kindergarten Teachers' College. Like Catherine's father, Professor Walter Murdoch, Alec King was already a member of the ABC Education Broadcasting Committee. Both King and Murdoch gave regular talks on topics ranging from art and politics to education in all its aspects. For each of them, the NEF focus on parent education was welcome publicity for an idea very much in tune with their own thinking. Following the conference, a committee headed by Catherine set about organising Parent Education Groups along the lines that had been advocated. During the next two years, ten groups were established in the metropolitan area and eight more in the country. The Adult Education Board added its support by providing parent education study material through its Box Scheme lending system.[18] In 1939, another avenue for parent education became available. In that year, Catherine King began her long-running series of Parent Education broadcasts for the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

This was not, however, Catherine's first venture into parent education by radio. In 1937 she had sought out a new publication from Oxford University Press, Choosing books for children by May Lamberton Becker. She found the book so interesting and informative that she suggested that other parents would also be interested in programmes about books for children. Along with the Becker book, OUP had enclosed a form to be filled in by readers wishing to be advised of forthcoming children's titles. Catherine filled out the slip and returned it with a letter outlining her broadcast proposal. In reply, OUP not only sent information about their new publications, but also - to Catherine's delight - the books themselves. Other publishers soon followed suit.[19] Armed with Becker's advice and a stack of new books, Catherine embarked on the first of her children's book broadcasts for the ABC. What had begun as a small project to interest parents in providing quality reading soon turned into a continuing - and influential - programme recommending good books for young readers.

The Kindergarten of the Air

The inauguration of the Kindergarten of the Air (an initiative sponsored by the WA Kindergarten Union in response to the closure of kindergartens in 1942 following the fall of Singapore)[20] presented yet another opportunity for radio publicity. Almost from the start, it was clear that the programme was set to become both influential and enormously popular. Since it reached a far wider audience than the comparatively small number of parents whose children actually attended kindergartens, many adults derived from it their first insight into the world of pre-school education. Amongst other new discoveries, many heard for the first time stories such as The Little Red Engine and Make Way for Ducklings that have since delighted generations of pre-school children. Parents soon began asking where they could get hold of the books to read for themselves.[21] It is certainly arguable that this interest, combined with the response to Catherine's book review and book promotion broadcasts, provided a solid foundation for parent involvement in the WA Children's Book Council, established six years later.

Parent education and parents' interest in books both received a boost when Catherine's parent education broadcast programmes - begun in 1939 - re-emerged as This Family of Ours, the Parents' Session for Kindergarten of the Air. Listeners were encouraged to write in with criticism and comments for 'open minded, honest discussions' about what Hardy has picturesquely called "the muck and muddle of raising children".[22]

The "open minded, honest discussions" included - along with many other topics - a great deal of useful information about the importance of reading and the value of children's books. Parents around the State were made aware of the range and quality of children's publishing, and the role of free public libraries in bringing books within the reach of all.

Parents in search of education

Of all the Parent Education Groups established under the NEF-inspired scheme, those with the most lasting influence must surely have been the groups meeting in Dalkeith and Nedlands. The Dalkeith group met at the Kings' house, and Catherine also attended the Nedlands meetings. Mary Williams, another Nedlands group member, recalls with pleasure the range of topics and the depth of discussion she encountered there. All the participants were parents of young children, and all were seeking better education and better facilities for their own children and for the community at large.[23] The Dalkeith group, never slow to take direct action when they felt action was needed, undertook a wide-ranging survey of WA state school education, and put forward a series of practical recommendations for its improvement. Alec King edited the report for publication under the title Parents in Search of Education. The resulting 32-page document - and the effective lobbying campaign that it generated - stands as a landmark in parent involvement in education. With financial backing from the Kindergarten Union and other associations concerned with educational and social reform,[24] the State School Teachers' Union published the report with an enthusiastic foreword by its president, Edwin Huck.[25]

The first section dealt with survey findings relating to class sizes, equipment, buildings, and the special problems facing country schools, high schools and technical colleges. It noted the unequal distribution of resources, and the reliance placed on parents' associations to provide what the Parent Education Group believed to be the basic necessities of school equipment. It confidently asserted, for example, that

A good library is considered by everyone, today, as the most necessary, the most important, part of a school's equipment. The Education Department does not supply schools with any funds for libraries ... Most schools have no library at all, but what might be called a small collection of books, stacked in an inconvenient place. Many schools have not even this.[26]

King's pithy, trenchant style ensured wide readership. The pamphlet was illustrated with well-chosen photographs of buildings and equipment currently in use in WA, juxtaposed with photographs of the best examples of the same type of facilities in other countries. In one pair of pictures, the small, mean, sparsely filled shelves in something not much bigger than a broom cupboard (captioned "Wisdom dishonoured") contrasted sharply with the bright, spacious library in an English post-primary school ("Wisdom honoured").[27]

While the need for children's libraries is a recurring theme throughout the pamphlet, King and the Dalkeith Parent Education Group showed that they were equally concerned about all other aspects of education, from kindergartens to adult education. The report includes recommendations for educational reform at all levels. King and the Parents' Group had been much impressed by innovations in other countries. Apart from specific recommendations for better facilities, better teacher education and smaller class sizes, the report also suggests a range of settings for different types of education; technical schools, rural area schools, and community centres to provide educational services, as the name suggests, for the whole community. Readers were exhorted to lobby political parties, community organisations and parent groups on the need for change. They could point out, for example, that

a country like Denmark had, before the war, a library system which provided for every adult and child in the community, whether in the country or town or city, a first class library service of reference and general reading books; that England has already many community centres, self-run centres for the health, recreation and culture of the district.[28]

The Community Centre movement

The Community Centre ideal fitted well with Alec King's long-held and passionate belief in the right of every individual to lifelong education in the areas of his or her special interest. In 1941 he gained an ally for the cause with the appointment of Professor Allan Edwards to the English Department of the University of Western Australia. Alec and Catherine King lost no time in inviting Allan and Judy Edwards to join the Dalkeith Parent Education Group. The families had many interests in common: dedication to the ideals of free public libraries, community centres to cater for every age group, and better educational facilities for children were only three of them. Both King and Edwards were persuasive, articulate lobbyists, and both expended considerable energy in promoting these causes to the widest possible audience.

The Community Centre idea seemed to offer a practical, cost-effective way of providing a range of needed community services within a central, convenient building. It could include lecture and seminar rooms, a small theatre (with film projection equipment), a gymnasium, studios for craft and art classes, workshops, a kindergarten, and a free lending library to serve the whole community. Each centre would be under the control of a committee elected by local residents. A caretaker/manager would be employed, but professional services (such as the kindergarten and library) would be under the control of paid professionals.[29]

So convinced of the value of community centres were King and Edwards that they lost no opportunity for promoting the cause whenever an opportunity presented itself. Such an opportunity arose in the winter of 1943, when sessions of the 3rd Biennial Conference of the Australian Association for Pre-School Child Development were held in each Australian State. Edwards and King presented papers on The Kindergarten and the School as Centres of Community Living and Adult Education and Community Living at the Perth Regional Conference on 26-29 May. Their efforts were rewarded when the Conference carried the following resolution:

Because the progress of the Kindergarten Movement is intimately bound up with the provision of community centres and the transformation of the present school system, it is urged that a committee be formed of members from this conference to consider ways and means of getting community centres in WA ...[30]

Similar resolutions were passed at Regional Conference sessions held during the next few months in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney and Hobart passed additional resolutions calling specifically for the inclusion of children's libraries. As far as the library component was concerned, Brisbane's motion - though quaintly worded - spelt out what was required:

That children's library facilities at the centres he made available to all children under [sic] trained librarians, and that facilities he provided to train child [sic] librarians.[31]

By 1944, it seems that the principle of community centres as the hub of local involvement in education, libraries and leisure activities had become well established in the minds of influential sections of the WA community. Yet very few community centres were ever established. Why did the notion fail? The answer seems to lie in the fact that, although community support was evident, no funding had been provided. Someone would have to pay, and local and state governments alike seemed reluctant to accept the idea that it might be them. In his Why not free libraries? article in the Daily News (19 July 1944), Edwards noted scathingly, "We spend nearly £1,000,000 a year teaching our children to read and then give them nothing to read."

He went on to argue (as did King in the Western Mail, 31 August 1944) that costs per ratepayer need not be high. The libraries could probably be housed in existing buildings such as schools, kindergartens and community halls - so forming the nucleus of a future community centre - and money would be needed principally for books and staffing. In making this suggestion, King and Edwards seem to have overlooked the political realities of local government funding and organisation. School buildings were the property of the State Education Department; local halls often belonged to autonomous bodies such as the Returned Soldiers' League, the Country Women's Association, or the local Boy Scouts' Association; and kindergartens operated at that time in a variety of settings - some provided by the local authority, but many arranged privately by individual kindergarten management committees. With careful handling no doubt all of these objections could have been overcome in time, but the negotiations may well have been wearisome and time-consuming - and certainly not likely to appeal to a local government authority already weighed down with the problems of planning for the expected population upsurge after the war. In any event, despite the demonstrated community interest, community centres were not established. The Neighbourhood Learning Centres and the Family Centres set up with Federal funding in the 1970s and 1980s were probably the nearest approach in WA to the community centre ideal

Lobbying for children's libraries: The WA Children's Book Council

While the community centre movement apparently achieved no lasting, long- term success, it cannot be written off as having failed to make any impact. The lobbying of King and Edwards, the support given by the Kindergarten Union and the State School Teachers' Union, and the constant airing of educational issues in Catherine King's broadcast talks all contributed to a heightened public awareness of the need for early education and of children's access to books. By 1944 there was a new feeling in the air. The war would soon be over. Countries around the world were concerned to build new and better social structures for a new society. In Australia, the Free Library Movement had achieved considerable success in persuading governments in the Eastern States that free public lending libraries were both a right and a necessity for a democratic society. State governments in SA, NSW, Tasmania and Queensland had already passed legislation to administer free library services: the services came into operation in NSW and Tasmania in 1944, and in Queensland and Victoria within the next few years.[32]

The WA government, however, had not followed their lead. Principal Librarian J.S. Battye had been an innovative and effective policy maker when he was first appointed in 1894. Now, fifty years later, he had become entrenched in the position and resistant to change. Despite the fact that at various times throughout his long career, he had argued in favour of children's libraries (for example, his speech at the opening of the Little Citizens' Library,[33] he always saw them as a matter for local government, not for the state. Against this background, King and Edwards and other like- minded lobbyists now sought to persuade the WA government of the need for free public libraries, and especially, library services for children.

In this campaign they were ably supported by other community groups - notably, the Australian Institute of Librarians (WA Branch) and the Fellowship of Australian Writers (Perth Branch) - and by two women librarians, M.E. Wood (of the University of WA Library) and Mary Williams, formerly of the Fisher Library, and now a member of the Nedlands Parent Education Group. King Edwards, M.E. Wood and Mary Williams took the campaign to Perth's daily papers in 1944, with hard-hitting articles on the need for free lending libraries, and the lengths to which other states and countries were prepared to go in order to provide them.

With the inauguration on 4 September 1944 of Catherine King's daily radio programme, the ABC Women's Session,[34] the lobbying campaign - and indeed, education and arts interests in general - gained a powerful new publicity medium. Catherine King drew speakers from across the community, from Australia and overseas; but, especially in the first few years, she frequently pressed into service the excellent communication skills of her circle of civic-minded university friends and associates. From the Dalkeith and Nedlands Parent Education Groups came a coterie of speakers eager to gain maximum publicity for the benefits to be gained from children's access to books and reading. Allan and Judy Edwards, Mary Williams and Erica Underwood were all keen to support the campaign. As well as their own experience as parents of young children, they contributed a variety of professional skills: in education, librarianship, and - in Erica Underwood's case - child psychology.

Given this background, it is hardly surprising that when, in 1944, the US-based Children's Book Council suggested that its annual Children's Book Week be celebrated internationally as a focus for international goodwill and world peace, the WA Branch of the Australian Institute of Librarians "decided to seek the cooperation of bookshops in having displays of children's books, and of Mrs King of the ABC Women's Session."[35]

Catherine King agreed immediately to lend support. The US Information Office, the Australian Institute of Librarians, and the Fellowship of Australian Writers had banded together to organise a celebration of Children's Book Week from 12 to 18 November 1945. In WA, the celebrations received valuable advance publicity in September 1945, when M.E. Wood and Mary Williams both gave talks on the Women's Session on the need for books and libraries for WA school children.[36]

That first Children's Book Week celebration in WA was a comparatively low- key affair. City bookshops mounted special displays of children's books - a rarity after wartime shortages - and M.E. Wood contributed a feature article to The West Australian. Catherine King arranged a series of daily Women s Session programmes on the children's book theme. Fittingly, Mary Williams led off with a talk on the significance of the celebrations and, quoting Parents in Search of Education, the particular needs of WA children. She went on to describe a range of Children's Book Week activities held in children's libraries in other parts of the world. Despite the enthusiasm with which they were received, such activities would not be possible in WA, she said, "for the simple reason that there is no library which possesses the necessary facilities."[37]

That week set the pattern for the extremely successful tradition of Children's Book Week celebrations in WA. In 1946, both the Australian Institute of Librarians (WA Branch) and the Fellowship of Australian Writers (Perth Branch) were better prepared. All groups interested in promoting Children's Book Week (CBW) met together in September 1946 to begin detailed planning for the CBW exhibition to be held in Boans Fashion Hall two months later. Librarians, writers, booksellers, community groups and educational associations (such as the Kindergarten Union) all pledged their support. What had begun in 1945 as a small-scale but well-promoted attempt to get parents interested in children's reading was now anticipated with delight by parents and children eager to see (and read!) the latest books. After the wartime shortages, publishers were hard-pressed to keep pace with the expanding demand.

In the years that followed, the Kindergarten Union continued to play an active and valued role in CBW celebrations in WA. Each year, the Union mounted a display of children's books and books on child development and parenting; each year individual members contributed their time and expertise to supervise exhibits, tell stories, answer questions, and talk to parents on topics related to books and reading. In 1948, Catherine King was the featured speaker on 'Juvenile Literature'.[38] In 1949, Margaret Graham - held in high esteem throughout the community for her work on Kindergarten of the Air - presented the CBW 'Storytime' session.[39] Responding to current community concerns, the Kindergarten Union provided two guest speakers for CBW in 1950: psychologist Elwyn Morey on 'Are comics harmful?' and Erica Underwood on 'Reading and the child delinquent'.[40] At each of the early CBW exhibitions, the Kindergarten Union provided moral and physical support, bringing a new perspective to the community at large on the young child's need for books.

The annual Children's Book Week exhibitions were one facet of the children's libraries lobbying campaign; direct political lobbying through the newly established WA Children's Book Council (CBC) was another.[41] In this sphere too, the Kindergarten Union contributed considerable expertise. Political campaigning reached its height in 1951, when CBC President H.G. (John) Clements, Phyllis Wild and Cyril Drake formed a deputation to put the case for a statewide network of free public libraries to the Deputy Premier and Minister for Education, Arthur Watts. Watts heard them courteously, but asked for evidence of wide community support on the issue. The Kindergarten Union was one of the many educational organisations to provide a written submission backing the CBC's case.[42]

This action may have been of greater significance than was at first apparent. It can certainly be argued that the CBC deputation - and the evidence of public support that it was able to present - cleared the way for the passage of The Library Board of Western Australia Act, 1951. This Act laid the foundation on which the newly-appointed Library Board and its Executive Officer, F.A. Sharr, could begin to build the statewide public library system operating today.

Kindergarten supporters: Children's library supporters

The links between kindergarten supporters and children's library supporters were very strong indeed. The same spirit that urged parents to lobby for kindergartens also motivated many to work for better educational services for children of all ages, and for the community in general. Further, the same skills and tactics were needed to bring reform in either sphere Looking at the history of the Kindergarten Union and of the children's libraries campaign, it is remarkable how many names occur again and again The names of Catherine King and Erica Underwood appear repeatedly in publications of both the Kindergarten Union and the Children's Book Council throughout the 1940s, but these were by no means isolated instances. The Annual Report of the Kindergarten Union 1943-1944 shows a veritable roll-call of children's library supporters: Catherine and Alec King as Vice-Presidents in successive years; Mrs A.E. Joyner (of the Little Citizens' Library) as Chairman of Committees; Mary Williams and Judy Edwards as members of the Executive Committee; Mona Frankish (foundation secretary of the Children's Book Council) and Phyllis Wild (the initiator of South Perth Children's Library, and member of the 1951 CBC deputation), as Branch representatives.[43] By 1945, Erica Underwood was listed as secretary of Greenhill Kindergarten (which had moved that year from the Kings' home to the Dalkeith Tennis Club); and John Clements (later to become President of the Children's Book Council and leader of the 1951 deputation) was secretary of Bassendean Play Centre.[44]

John Clements and Mary Williams were in many ways typical of that generation of committed campaigners for better services for children. Margaret Clements, John's widow, recalls that her husband became very interested in both kindergartens and libraries when they had small children of their own. She was very busy with the children; he took on the committee work. The tactics that he used to such good effect in 1951 were those he had learned from the campaign to secure a kindergarten for Bassendean in the 1940s.[45]

For Mary Williams, involvement with kindergartens and libraries came about the other way round. As a professional librarian, she was always concerned with books; as a young mother, she became increasingly interested in pre- school education. Involvement with the Nedlands Kindergarten Movement and the Parent Education Group allowed her to contribute her library expertise to the group's concern for children's libraries. Later, when the family moved to Tuart Hill, she worked for the Tuart Hill Primary School Parents and Citizens Association;[46] later still for Tuart Hill High School P&C, and for the Federation of P&C Associations At both schools, she was the driving force behind the campaign to set up the kind of library envisaged so long before by the Dalkeith Parent Education Group in Parents in search of education.

Reflecting on the similarities between the two organisations, one cannot help but be struck by the unassuming, civic-minded spirit that pervaded both of them. From the vantage point of the 1990s, the veteran campaigners recall the camaraderie of their association, the eagerness to 'get something moving', and the satisfaction of seeing goals accomplished. Both movements were developed and moulded by the high ideals of their supporters, and - to a large degree - both achieved their objectives. Western Australian society is the richer today for the dedicated effort and generosity of spirit shown by its early lobbyists for kindergartens and children's libraries.


1. Boyd, William, and Rawson, Wyatt, The Story of the New Education. London: Heinemann, 1965, p.68.

2. ibid, pp.73-74.

3. The Story of Kindergartens in Western Australia, 1911-1962, Perth: Kindergarten Union, 1962 [n.p.].

4. Stewart, Noel, As I Remember Them. Perth: Artlook, 1987, p.26 and p.30.

5. The Little Citizens League of Western Australia [pamphlet] (Battye Library A3388 A/7).

6. City of Perth Municipal Year Book 1940, p.71.

7. The West Australian, 6 November 1939.

8. Draft of Deed of Trust 1963 (Battye Library 3388A).

9. Stewart, op.cit., p.28.

10. Selleck, R.J.W., Frank Tate: a Biography. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1982, p.282.

11. Education for complete living: The challenge of today. Proceedings of the New Education Fellowship Conference held in Australia, August 1 to September 20, 1937, edited by K.S. Cunningham. Melbourne: ACER, 1938, p.xxiv.

12. Staples, Charles, Interview with author, 2 August 1991.

13. Anketell, Judith, The Hope of the future lies in the child, in Early Childhood Teachers Association Newsletter, no.6, 1979.

14. The New Education Fellowship - Education for complete living: The challenge of today. Perth Session, Monday 13th September to Saturday 18th September 1937 [Conference Handbook]. (Battye Library PR2826).

15. The New Education Fellowship Conference handbook op.cit.

16. The New Education Conference handbook, op.cit.

17. From the archives ... [Extracts from the Records of the Kindergarten Union of WA] compiled by Judith Anketell, in Early Childhood Teachers Association Newsletter, no. 68, July 1991, p.l8.

18. Lewis, Julie, On air: The story of Catherine King and the ABC Women's Session. Fremantle: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1979, pp.16-20.

19. King, Catherine, Interview with author, 27 May 1991.

20. Lewis, op.cit, pp.22-26.

21. King, Catherine, Interview with author, 27 May 1991.

22. Annual Report of the Kindergarten Union of WA (Inc.),1942-1943,p.5.

23. Williams, Mary, Interview with author, 21 May 1991.

24. The others were the Country Women's Association, the New Education Fellowship, the Modern Architectural Research Society, the Women's Service Guild and the Modern Women's Club. See following reference note.

25. King, Alec, Parents in Search of Education. Perth: State School Teachers' Union of WA, 1944, p.3. 31.

26. ibid, pp.9-10.

27. ibid, pp.25, 27.

28. ibid, p.32.

29. King, Alec, Everyone's Business. Melbourne: OUP, 1944, pp.45-46.

30. Australian Association for Pre-School Child Development, Third Biennial Conference 1943J Regional Sessions [Conference handbook] n.p. Resolutions: Perth (2); Adelaide (2); Melbourne (6) also adopted in Brisbane, Sydney and Hobart.

31. ibid. Resolutions: Brisbane (6). Similar resolutions adopted in Sydney and Hobart.

32. Balnaves, John and Biskup, Peter, Australian Libraries, 2nd rev. ed. London: Clive Bingley, 1975, pp.74-75.

33. The West Australian, 6 November, 1939.

34. Lewis, Julie, On air: The story of Catherine King and the ABC Women's Session, p. 37.

35. Report for AIL (SA) Quarterly Bulletin, 23 March 1945, Australian Institute of Librarians (WA Branch), Files of Minutes, Correspondence and Early Reports 1937-1947 [AIL Files). (Battye Library MN641 841A).

36. Williams, Mary, Books for Australian School Children [typescript of talk given by Mary Williams for ABC Women's Session, 18 September 1945].(Battye Library PR2079/1).

37. Williams, Mary, Children's Book Week [typescript of talk for ABC Women's Session, 12 November 1945]. (Battye Library PR2079/2).

38. The West Australian, 22 September 1948.

39. The West Australian, 28 September 1949.

40. The West Australian, 13 September 1950.

41. For a fuller account of the first WA Children's Book Council, see Gregg, Alison, Effective Lobbying for Libraries: the WA Children's Book Council 1945-1953, in Australian Library Journal, vol. 41 no. 4, November 1992, pp.257-269.

42. Phyllis Wild, Interview with John Clements, 14 November 1979. Battye Library OH502. Phyllis Wild, Letter to the author, 27 August 1991.

43. Annual Report of the Kindergarten Union of Western Australia (Inc.) 1943-1944. Perth: Paterson's Printing, 1944, pp.8-11.

44. Kindergarten union of Western Australia (Inc.) Annual Report 1945- 1946. Perth: Paterson's Printing, 1946, pp.l7-18.

45. Margaret Clements, Interview with author, 30 October 1991.

46. Tuart Hill Parents and Citizens Association Newsletter, No. 13, November 1957.

Author: Alison Gregg is a teacher librarian working with Curriculum Materials Information Services in the WA Ministry of Education. She is currently completing a PhD thesis on Catalysts for change: The influence of individuals in establishing Children's Library Services in Western Australia.

Please cite as: Gregg, A. (1993). The hope of the future: The Kindergarten Union and the campaign for children's libraries in Western Australia. Issues In Educational Research, 3(1), 17-33.

[ IIER Vol 3, 1993 ] [ IIER Home ]

© 1993 Issues in Educational Research
Last revision: 5 Dec 2013. This URL:
Previous URL:
Previous URL from 2 July 1997 to 7 Aug 2001:
HTML: Clare McBeath [] and Roger Atkinson []