Today, on Founders Day, we remember and celebrate our founder Mrs Jessie Mary Vasey OBE CBE, born in Roma, Queensland on 19 October 1897.
Born Jessie Mary Halbert, Jessie was the eldest of three girls, daughter of a Queensland grazier, and a university graduate with first-class honours. Jessie Halbert married George Alan Vasey on 17 May 1921 and together had two sons.
In 1945, after a weekend at home with his family, General George Vasey was returning to New Guinea when is RAAF aircraft crashed into the sea as it was preparing to land at Cairns. Mrs Jessie Vasey became a war widow on Monday 5 March 1945.
The War Widows Craft Guild (later to become The War Widows Guild and more recently Australian War Widows) was established by Mrs Jessie Vasey in Melbourne on 22 November 1945 and in New South Wales on 4 June 1946. Thereafter the Guild was established in every Australian state and the Australian Capital Territory.
Almost single-handedly Jessie Vasey founded a self-help organisation that assisted women widowed through war to come to terms with their loss and sacrifice and to provide for themselves and their children.
Through her remarkable and indomitable nature, she became the inspiration that helped heal so many other widows. She gave the rest of her life in pursuit of her vision – to bring war widows together to speak with one voice in the improvement of their circumstances, and to help each other overcome the disadvantage they had suffered.
“The Guild was much more than one woman, but Mrs Vasey was the Guild for many members and the community. She personified the statement What can one woman do?” – from the book No Peacetime Cinderellas.
Mrs Vasey was the President of the Guild from 1945 until her death in 1966.
The strength of the Guild Jessie Vasey founded continues today. AWW NSW has and will fight to improve the financial and social circumstances of members and offer a place to seek peer-to-peer support.