Way back when, Wednesdays

Out there on my own

International Women’s Day 8 March 2018


It’s the early 1970s. Imagine being thrown out onto the street by your family because you became pregnant – they no longer wanted you. You only had the clothes you were wearing and some loose change in your pocket. You were homeless and you had no way to support yourself. There was no Parenting Benefit in existence at this time.
In the edition dated 25 August 1971, the North East Leader, a Messenger Newspaper told one woman’s story, which highlighted the plight of young unmarried mothers. In a special report, made up of two articles on pages 1 and 3 the Leader sought to raise awareness of the financial issues, condemnation and social isolation single mothers experienced. A new South Australian organisation called ‘The Council for The Single Mother and Her Child’ could offer these girls help.

Unwed mothers

We have all heard the horror stories of young unmarried women being coerced or forced into giving up their babies for adoption during the 1960s. Children were also put in state run institutions such as orphanages. The Commonwealth Department of Social Services was created in 1939 and became fully operative in 1941. However, the Government did not introduce a supporting mother’s benefit for single mother’s pension until 1973. From 1942 in Australia, a single mother could only receive a small pension if she had been married and was widowed, deserted by her husband or divorced. You were also entitled to a benefit if you husband was in prison or a committed to a mental hospital, Seeing the lighter side, A history of the single parent pension in Australia.

“In 1973 supporting mother’s benefit was introduced for single mothers not entitled to widow’s pension. The new benefit was payable after a six-month waiting period, during which time the States remained responsible for the single mother’s income support under the Commonwealth-State cost-sharing arrangements introduced in 1968. The supporting mother’s benefit was extended in 1977 to single fathers, including widowers and divorcees, and renamed supporting parent’s benefit. The six-month waiting period for this benefit was abolished in 1980 when the States withdrew from the Commonwealth-State cost-sharing arrangements.”  Australian Bureau of Statistics

Unfortunately the Australian Bureau of Statistics does not hold data on the number of babies born in South Australia in 1971 but“1500 illegitimate births” does seem quite high for the population of South Australia. So you might think that having a baby ‘out of wedlock’ was not uncommon. However, Society viewed an unmarried pregnant women as having loose morals.


A woman seemed to experience most of the shame, rather than the father of the child. It could also be difficult for the mother of an illegitimate child to find a man to marry her and adopt her child as their own. Living together in a de-facto relationship was socially unacceptable. Unless your family were willing to support you financially and emotionally, a single pregnant woman faced some tough choices.

Sometimes a girl’s parents would insist on a young couple getting married as quickly as possible before her pregnancy started to show – what is known as a ‘shotgun wedding’. This was an attempt to not only hide the unplanned pregnancy or at least regain some of the respect that their daughter had lost by getting pregnant. The girl’s boyfriend was basically threatened by her father and told to take responsibility for the baby! Adoption was a common choice. The girl was supposed to move on with her life, when in fact she would always be dealing with the loss of her child. It should be acknowleged that some  fathers also reluctantly lost their children to adoption.

Legal abortions were not readily available. Never an easy decision for the mother, abortion was legalised in South Australia in 1969. Abortion was only legal if performed in a hospital and it was deemed by two medical practitioners that continuing a pregnancy was detrimental to the physical and mental health of the mother or if there was a substantial risk that the child would be seriously physically or mentally handicapped if it was born, Abortion Law in Australia  Frightened women also sought out illegal abortions, putting themselves at risk of infection and death.

Some brave young women did decide to keep their babies. At least ‘The Council for The Single Mother and Her Child’ was in existence in South Australia to help supply them with baby clothing, and support with finding accommodation and employment. A single mother would have received a child endowment payment as the Commonwealth Government’s Child Endowment Act of 1941 had introduced the payment of weekly sums to mothers of children under the age of 16. But it would have been very almost impossible for a single woman to find somewhere to live with a baby and no other income. Day care centres and government subsidised childcare are a modern invention. A woman would have had to leave her child with relatives and friends or pay somebody she knew to look after them while she was at work.

Note also the small article printed on page 3 about the organisation ‘Birthright’ which was trying to establish a branch in Tea Tree Gully to assist widows and their children. Living on a widow’s pension was not easy either.

Most sole parent families still live on low incomes and those on Centrelink payments face a high risk of poverty. “Unemployment among sole parents is generally about twice the rate across the whole workforce. The reasons for this include their responsibility for caring for a child alone, together with low educational qualifications and the need to live in areas where rents are low but jobs are scarce (such as public housing estates). Many of those who do have a job are vulnerable to unemployment because they work in casual and part time jobs.” Fact sheet: sole parent payments




Way back when, Wednesdays

For the woman who loves cheesecake

In the summer of 1968, the North East Leader, a Messenger Newspaper featured a section dedicated to its female readership, on page 4 of the edition dated 17 January. A Page for Women was made up of articles that were deemed to be of interest to the average woman in the 1960s.

Take a look at these articles which are predominantly about social occasions: a birthday and weddings. Plus advertisements for home furnishings and the latest ‘modern’ novels to enjoy, when you had finished spending most of your day on home duties and looking after your family. You might reflect that many publications aimed at women still focus on Society, weddings, celebrities, home decor and recipes!

modern novels plus shopping


Burns for Blinds

Future Liberal politician, member for the seat of Kavel (1970 to 1992) and 3rd Deputy Premier of SA (1979 to 1982) Roger Goldsworthy also managed to secure some advertising space to criticise the State Government in office at the time (The Labor Government with Don Dunstan as Premier).

Roger Goldsworthy advertisement

For a fabulous dinner party, to celebrate a special occasion, to impress family and friends or perhaps to entertain your husband’s boss, the North East Leader printed this recipe for a pineapple cheesecake.

You might like to make it for your loved one! Let us know how it tastes. You will need scales which measure weight in the Imperial system or go to http://www.metric-conversions.org/weight/ounces-to-grams.htm to convert to Metric.

You can use butter or salt reduced margarine for the melted shortening. You may also substitute cream cheese for smooth ‘creamed, cottage cheese’ if you wished. To make cottage cheese less crumbly, cooks online recommend adding a little cream, https://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/16693/can-i-use-cottage-cheese-instead-of-cream-cheese-when-making-a-cheesecake

Pineapple Cheesecake


For the biscuit crust:

2 cups crushed plain biscuits
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons ginger
4-6 ounces melted shortening


Combine all ingredients. Press into the sides and bottom of an 8 inch spring form tin. Chill.


For the filling:

1 15 ounce can well-drained crushed pineapple in juice.                                                             Note:  You can now buy a 440g tin of crushed pineapple in supermarkets.
1 1/2 tablespoons gelatine
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1/4 cup lemon juice
½ pound creamed cottage cheese
1 cup sugar
1 large can of undiluted evaporative milk, chilled icy cold.
1 teaspoon vanilla essence


Soften gelatine in ½ cup pineapple juice and dissolve with lemon rind over hot water. Cool. Cream cottage cheese and sugar together. Add cooled lemon juice and gelatine, cool until partially set. Whip the icy cold evaporated milk in a large bowl to soft peaks. Beat in gelatine, cheese mixture and vanilla essence. Fold in crushed pineapple. Pour into crumb crust. Chill 6 – 8 hours or overnight.


The glaze

½ cup remaining pineapple juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 dessertspoon cornflour
¼ cup lemon juice


Blend cornflour and sugar, stir in lemon and pineapple juices. Cook until boiling, stirring constantly. Cool. Spread over cheesecake top, decorate as desired. Serves 6 to 8.

Pineapple cheesecake


Way back when, Wednesdays

Extra duties at work

When you look at the issues of the North East Leader Messenger from the first two months of 1972, they are filled with photographs of fresh-faced children of all ages enjoying the summer heat, usually swimming at the local pools, or taking part in fun activities at Tea Tree Plaza. Looking at these images can evoke fond memories of your childhood. You might reflect that kids never change, no matter the era in which they grow up.

Fortunately some things that were not so wholesome have changed. The North East Leader at this time often pictured photographs of staff at Tea Tree Plaza, wearing some of the outfits on sale at different stores. Most of these depict ordinary people modelling dresses or casual wear. They are usually female staff.

On page 20 of the North East Leader dated 16 February 1972, Tea Tree Plaza featured a sales promotion for the big sidewalk sale. In conjunction with Hooper’s Furniture, Sussan advertised ladies nightwear. In the accompanying photograph young sales assistant Wendy Cummings is pictured in an alluring pose, wearing a short nightdress and showing off her legs. Besides her is another set of nightwear. During the 1960s and 1970s Sussan was a major retailer of lingerie and the place to purchase your wedding ‘trousseau’. We cannot know if Wendy volunteered for the photo opportunity or if modelling Sussan’s stock was just part of her job.

Sussan nightdress

Two of my colleagues recall how much sexism they experienced in the workplace during the 1970s. The advertising industry still uses sex appeal to sell products and objectify women. Thankfully today we do not usually see this type of image in the Messenger newspaper, with its focus on family and the community. When you work in the retail industry it is no longer considered acceptable to ask your female staff to promote your shop’s stock by being photographed wearing a little nightie. You also have the right to say no to such a request.


Way back when, Wednesdays

Everything old is new again

Why is the woman in this photograph trying to look attractive in a swimsuit, while lying on an ironing board? The Leader Messenger printed this story advertising the locally produced Slant Board, on page 11 of the edition dated 11 June 1967.

Slant board lady

Doing just ten minutes of exercise while lying on a slant board relieves tension in your nerves and muscles, increases circulation, strengthens your back and shoulders and leads to weight loss. The slant board is even better than a nap, a physiotherapy session and can help people who suffer from respiratory illnesses.

Were some of these amazing claims somewhat exaggerated? Possibly.  Nevertheless, exercise is good for you.  More modern forms of the slant board exist today.  You can use the decline bench with weights to build core and abdominal strength.  Advocates of ‘Inversion therapy’, where which you lie on a slant board with your legs raised above your body, believe that this practice can relieve stress, ease various types of back pain and improve your breathing.  They revere the work of Dr. Bernard Jensen DC (mentioned in the Messenger article) who discovered and wrote about the positive health effects of slanting in 1933.

Advertising tactics have not changed. Health conscious Americans and Hollywood celebrities use the slant board, so you should be modern and buy one too.  It looks like using the slant board will make you look glamourous too.


South Aussie Women of the Arts

ThWomen of the Artsis fabulous new book, Women of the Arts showcases 50 of the state’s female arts personalities, including film directors, costume designers, singers, songwriters, actors, dancers, production coordinators and everything in between.

Produced locally, it was written and photographed by TTG residents Ali and Rocky Feo who have strong ties with SA’s arts world.

They have creatively and beautifully captured 50 of the leading women in the arts field highlighting the personal stories of identities such as singer Rachael Leahcar , Costume, Makeup & Hair Design expert Beverly Freeman, author Dylan Coleman, actor Michaela Cantwell and dozens more.
We have two copies – one for loan, and one for preservation in our Community History collection. You can place a hold here and you can also follow the book’s Facebook page.