They were pioneers of women’s rights and the campaigners for changes to benefit the fairer sex at a time when equality was only a notion.
Crusaders of the 1970s, founding members of the Wom-en’s Electoral Lobby Margaret Banerji, Tinky Folkers, Barb-ara Fern, Julie Fitzsimmons, Flora Rumbelow, Tia Proctor and the recently-deceased Barbara Carver were a small group of Port Pirie women who refused to be silenced.
The lobby was responsible for the abolition of a policy undertaken by the BHAS smelters, the Department of Health and Department of Education that dictated women be removed from their position after marrying.
A teacher in Port Pirie at the time, Mrs Banerji remembers the era fondly, recalling a meeting with the social services manager regarding the issue.
“I said I would not be satisfied until a woman was head of the smelters,” she laughed.
“He turned around and looked at me, horrified!”
But, not everyone in the town was happy with the progress made by the group. “Some people didn’t understand what we were doing or why we were doing it,” said Mrs Banerji, now of Melbourne.
“They thought we were doing single girls out of a job.”
Founded in 1973, the Port Pirie lobby was a group formed before the election of Labor’s Gough Whitlam to determine the elected government and State members by interviewing candidates.
“I remember sitting down with the lobby and writing letters to all the politicians, asking them what their opinions were on certain topics,” Mrs Banerji said.
“If they replied and we didn’t agree with them, they were struck off the list. If they just didn’t reply, they were off, too.”
Mrs Folkers, who now lives in Port Germein and owns the art gallery, said it was “quite exciting at the time”.
“It was essential that we stood up for women’s rights,” she said.
“But, it was interesting that some women still wanted men to pull out their chairs and open doors for them.”
Mrs Folkers became principal of the Mid North Education Centre in 1985 after completing her diploma in 1976.
“I loved going to study and stimulating my brain, it was extremely liberating,” she said.