Frances Eileen Craig 1896 – 1974

by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

Frances Boyd and Leslie Craig

Frances Craig was born in Ireland in 1896, the daughter of medical practitioner, John Boyd and his wife Phyllis. She was nursing in a military hospital when she met her future husband, Gallipoli veteran, Leslie Craig in 1915. They married in 1917 and in 1918 returned to Western Australia where they took up property in the country. There were four children of the marriage.

Both Frances and Leslie took an active role in the life of their community, he as a politician and she as a member, and later state president of the Country Women’s Association (CWA), and vice-president of the international association. Acclaimed as ‘a friend as well as a leader’ she travelled around the state, founding branches in many centres (West Australian, 30 August 1944). After they moved to the city in 1951 their philanthropic activities expanded. Frances was a key supporter of the Save the Children Fund and rose to become state and later national president. She also served on a number of other committees and boards. Admired for her ‘clear thinking and straight forward suggestions’, Craig’s interest in philanthropy was at the organisational rather than the service delivery level (West Australian, 20 August 1937). Her leadership positions brought her into contact with like-minded women across the world, and, as a confident and entertaining speaker, she sought to use these opportunities both to inform women at home about the work being done outside Australia, and to tell women overseas of Australian initiatives (Western Mail, 5 October 1939).

1950s – CWA members at Dardanup Hall

Craig’s initial emphasis was on the struggles facing women on the land, particularly those in the group settlements. Under her leadership the Association developed restrooms in many country centres, holiday homes for women and children at the seaside, hostels for students who needed to leave home to complete their secondary education and an emergency housekeeper scheme (Geraldton Guardian and Express, 16 December 1939). When war broke out, she harnessed the resources of the organisation to support the war effort, calling on members to be ‘one of the strongest influences for courage’ during the conflict and standing ready to ‘heal a world bruised and exhausted’ when peace returned (West Australian, 15 August 1940). She was one of three women appointed to the state evacuation committee ( Western Mail, 5 February 1942) and also worked with the Women’s Australian National Services to establish a land army in Western Australia, supplying trained women to replace male farm labourers who had enlisted ( West Australian, 28 November 1941). Her vision for post-war reconstruction had at its core the right of country women to a ‘decent home with at least some of the amenities and comforts of the city sisters’ and access to education for their children ( West Australian, 17 September 1943).

Frances Craig – 1965

Having travelled to Europe for international conferences immediately before and after World War II, Craig was acutely aware of the devastation that had been wrought, and enthusiastically embraced calls for women’s organisations ‘to work out some means of preserving global peace’ (Geraldton Guardian, 3 August 1948). She was particularly concerned for the plight of children, many of whom, she argued, were more hungry than they had been during the war (Sunday Times, 25 January 1948). Craig used her position within the CWA to win support for the Save the Children’s Fund, urging branches to sponsor individual children, and to send food, clothing and other materials to liberated Europe ( West Australian, 20 September 1946) and publicising the work of the fund throughout the state.

Awarded the MBE in 1938, she died in 1974. A boys’ hostel at Bunbury was named after her and a plaque was erected in her honour in Kings Park.

Published Resources

Newspaper Articles

Online Resources

See also


References:

This article was reproduced in its entirety from:

Swain, Shurlee, Craig, Eileen Frances, The Encyclopedia of Women & Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia, Published by the Australian Women’s Archives Project 2014, http://www.womenaustralia.info/leaders/biogs/WLE0175b.htm, accessed 12 March 2022.

Image sources:

  • Image of Frances Boyd: Australian War Memorial, https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1237974, accessed online 19 December 2021.
  • 1950s CWA – Dardanup members from Kaye and Terry Brett
  • 1965 Portrait, from the State Libary of Western Australia
  • Frances Boyd and Leslie Craig after World War I, from the Australian War Memorial