A beautiful hardcover book with a dust jacket and 66 images.
Vera Deakin, daughter of Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, was motivated by imperial fervour during World War I to sidestep the Australian government’s restrictions on women’s service. On the eve of WWI she was studying music in Budapest but later joined the fledgling Australian Red Cross and sailed to Cairo. There she became founding secretary of the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau, an organisation devoted to finding information on behalf of the relatives of Australian soldiers who had gone missing or been wounded or killed during the war, then focused at Gallipoli.
She was 23 and formidable. A self-styled despot, she welded a disparate group of women into a committed team. Scientist Sir David Rivett said Vera brought ‘an infinity of consolation to so many people’. In 1916 she moved the bureau to London. In 1918, at just 26, she was awarded an OBE for her service to the bureau. She led similar work for the Red Cross in Melbourne during World War II.
In 1920 after a whirlwind romance, Vera married Captain Thomas White, an Australian pilot who had served in the Mesopotamian campaign before being captured by the Turks. She undertook varied welfare work together with lifelong service to the Red Cross.
Vera was honoured during her lifetime but later largely forgotten. The centenary of World War l revived interest in her and the Enquiry Bureau’s 32,000 case files on missing soldiers. Now Carole Woods has captured this significant figure in Australian history through her perceptive and poignant biography. Carole explores Vera’s humanitarian activism within the defining events of the 20th century and shines a light on a woman who defied society’s expectations in order to help those in need.
Carole Woods OAM, is a Fellow and honorary secretary of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria. For 7 years she chaired the judges’ panel of the Victorian Community History Awards. Her books include Vision Fugitive. The Story of David Allen and Beechworth. A Titan’s Field. She lives in Camberwell.
Interview with author Carole Woods
Soon after the Governor of Victoria launched Vera Deakin and the Red Cross at the Shrine of Remembrance, the author, Carole Woods recorded this podcast for the Shrine.
Publisher – Royal Historical Society of Victoria, 2020
This book is part of a CHRISTMAS BUNDLE. Click here to see!
Judith Brett –
Excerpt of the review by Judith Brett for the Australian Book Review May 2021, issue #431
Vera Deakin White’s life was in some ways a conventional middle-class one, and in others much more as she found ways to use her intellect and energy productively in fields beyond the home. She was an Australian-Briton, an empire loyalist at home in London and bewitched by the English countryside, but she was often homesick for the Australian summers and the beach at Point Lonsdale. She inherited her parents’ beach house, Ballara, at Point Lonsdale, and her grandchildren still enjoy its tranquillity.
Though some of the chronology could have been more smoothly handled, Carole Woods has written an engaging biography of a middle-class Australian woman who used her talents and her family connections to live a useful and productive life of which her father would have been proud. Vera Deakin and the Red Cross, published by the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, is very handsome, easy on the eye, and well-illustrated, making
it a perfect gift.
Judith Brett’s biography of Alfred Deakin, The Enigmatic Mr Deakin (2017), won the 2018 National Biography Award. You can read Judith’s full review on the Australian Book Review’s website
Anne Macarthur –
This is an excellent book with a mix of Vera Deakin’s family life and her enormous contribution to Australian Red Cross during World War 1 and World War 2 , , between them and for the rest of her life. She also supported many other organisations. I highly recommend this book.Written so well by Carole Woods