Grace Munro

Grace Emily Munro (1879-1964), country woman, was born on 25 March 1879 at her parents' home 'Gragin', Warialda, New South Wales, one of seven daughters of Eliza Frances (born Macdonald) and George Hollinworth Gordon, grazier. She was a granddaughter of Hugh Gordon of 'Strathbogie', Inverell, and Member of the Legislative Assembly for Tenterfield in 1861-69.

Grace was brought up in northern New South Wales, riding side-saddle and handling her pair of buggy horses with skill and speed. In her father's town house at Darling Point, Sydney, and at Kambala school she learned other accomplishments such as needlework in which she was expert.

After her marriage on 14 July 1898 to Hugh Robert Munro, a grazier of 'Keera', Bingara, she became increasingly aware of the difficulties of living conditions for women in inland Australia. When one of her sons died as a child in 1911 she dedicated herself to improving medical conditions for women and children in the bush. She trained as a serving sister of St John of Jerusalem, using these skills during the first World War when she worked with the Red Cross at the Holsworthy army camp. After 1919 she received permission to lecture for the St John order, and organised first aid classes in the country. She was the first woman appointed to a hospital board in rural New South Wales.

Following appeals in the Farmer and Settler magazine, which in September 1921 examined conditions for women in the country, Mrs Munro organised a three day conference during the 1922 Easter Show, which resulted in the formation of the Country Women's Association of New South Wales, of which she was elected foundation president. The next years were frantically busy as she travelled throughout New South Wales and Queensland forming branches of the CWA. By 1923 there were 68 branches and seventeen rest rooms for mothers and children in country towns. Bush nurses were appointed and seaside homes established at Coffs Harbour and Dee Why. She wanted maternity wards established in country hospitals and special sections on trains for mothers and children. She urged and cajoled cabinet ministers and government authorities to consider women, especially country women, in their planning. Her energetic activity resulted in a breakdown of her own health, and with the CWA structure established and a membership of 4500 in 100 branches, she stepped down as president in l926. She continued to raise money for her causes. She was appointed MBE in 1935 and in 1938 was appointed to the Advisory Council of New England University College.

Her restless spirit was used throughout her life in travel - to Europe, North America, and very extensively in India, China, Japan, and other parts of Asia and the Pacific. Independent wealth enabled her also to develop several properties and in her later life she lived independently from her husband who was also an energetic and public figure. She died on 23 July 1964.

Jillian Oppenheimer

Country Women's Association of New South Wales The Golden Years 1972.