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The 1920s

Mrs. McGregor Ross was President until 1920 followed in 1921 by Lady Macmillan (pictured to the left). In 1922 Mrs. Orr took over and continued as President until 1925.


The League had met with financial difficulties, and by 1922 the Library. Rest Room and Produce Exchange which had been in rented premises in the town, had to be closed and the Employment Bureau handed over to the YWCA.


Sir Northrup and Lady Macmillan came to the rescue with a generous interest free loan. In 1926 this loan was written off the books as Lady Macmillan kindly offered the sum as a gift to the EAWL.




The League's main concern, for the welfare of women and children of all races in the country was shown firstly by continued pressure on the Government for legislation, applied by the League's representatives, who sat on Government Committees for Education and Health from 1923. Resulting ordinances were:


1924    Divorce Law. Mrs. McGregor Ross gave evidence to the committee, which drew up this Bill.


1925     Bill on Custody of Children. The EAWL was asked to co-operate with the league of Mercy in drafting this Bill.


1926     Maintenance for Deserted Wives Ordinance. The EAWL presented a memorandum to the Governor on cases of hardship.


Poppy Day

From 1923 until the Second World War and after the EAWL organized the Annual Poppy Day collection for Earl Haig's Fund, and was represented on the Amalgamated Benevolence Committee, which administered the fund in Kenya.


Film Censorship

After considerable pressure was brought to bear by the EAWL a Film Censorship Board consisting of League members and the Police was constituted in 1923, Films were classified, as today, as suitable for adults or for general exhibition, or unsuitable altogether. This work was carried on until the 1960's, though in the post war years the League merely had a representative on the Film Censorship Board, instead of carrying the full responsibility as it did in the '20's and '30's.


Hospital Visitors

Mathari Mental Hospital

Mrs. Orr and Mrs. Olga Watkins are the first recorded League Hospital visitors to Mathari Hospital, in 1924. The League pressed for its title to be changed from "lunatic asylum" to "mental Hospital", and continued to visit the patients and take care for their welfare without a break until the 1970’s.


Prison Visitors

In 1925 Government appointed two women as prison visitors to Mombasa Prison, and another two in Nairobi. All were members of the East Africa Women's League. This was the start of a long line of dedicated women - Mrs. OIga Watkins, Miss Collier, Mrs. R. F. Mayer, Mrs. Madelene Coverdale, Mrs. John Henn, Mrs. Coverdale and Mrs. Henn remained gazetted visitors to the Prisons for over twenty years.


Mrs. Ailsa Turner, President 1925-1940

The Annual General Meeting in 1925 elected Mrs. Ailsa Turner as President, an office she was to hold with distinction for the next fifteen years. Her first work was to spread the EAWL into all settled areas of Kenya, and by the end of the year 20 branches had been started, and District Vice-Presidents appointed. By 1927 thirty branches had been started. In that year the first Council meeting attended by District Vice-Presidents was held, and these meetings of representatives from all branches have been an important feature of the League ever since.

Maternity Home

The League, concerned at the lack of a maternity ward for African women, turned to Lady Grigg (pictured on the left, opening the indian maternity home on Ngara Road. Mrs. Ailsa Turner is seated with the bouquet), wife of the new Governor, She formed the Lady Grigg Child Welfare and Maternity League with the support of the EAWL who donated Shs. 17,000 in 1926. By 1928 the Lady Grigg Maternity Home at Pumwani (now the Pumwani Maternity Hospital) had been built. The League continued to contribute as long as funds were needed.


Messrs Gill and Johnson, accountants, are first mentioned in 1925 as the League's auditors, a position which they continued to fill up to the late 70’s.


The EAWL Library has been the longest and most continuous of its services to members. It started in rented premises in the town during Mrs. McGregor Ross's presidency. Thanks to Mrs. Hudson, who housed the collection of books in her shop during 1923, and Mrs. Galton Fenzi who arranged for space in the offices of the REAAA from 1924, the library continued. In 1928 a permanent office for the EAWL was rented in the Memorial Hall, and the Library had its own home once more, where it stayed until 1964. Since 1975, after two further moves, the Library is housed in the League's own building.

A scheme for rural libraries was also started at a public meeting in 1928,and the Carnegie Trust approached for finance. Many up-country branches started their own libraries, such as Trans Nzoia and Nakuru, and these were subsequently taken over when the Carnegie Trust approved a grant in the 1930's.

Employment Bureau

The Employment Bureau for Women re-opened in the new League offices in the Memorial and continued to function until 1961 with a break during the 2nd World War.


Red Cross

Red Cross work had been carried on in the country during the 1914/1918 War by members of the British Red Cross Society as newspaper reports of functions in aid of the Red Cross Show.


After the War the work lapsed until 1927 when Mrs. Ailsa Turner, then President of the League, proposed at an East Africa Women's League Meeting "That a Branch of the British Red Cross Society be formed under the auspices of the East Africa Women's League" This was agreed and the League continued to organize all Red Cross work under the Chairmanship of Mrs. Turner until 1940, when an independent Society was formed with Dr. J, R. Gregory as the first Director of Red Cross in Kenya.


During the whole of the Twenties continuous thought, discussion and pressure on Government is reported in accounts of EAWL meetings, on the subject of welfare of the African population, health, hospitals, maternity facilities, training of African nurses and midwives, education both of boys and girls. At least one tangible result of this work was the Pumwani Maternity Hospital.

Government Road, Nairobi in the 1920’s.

A group of early members of the league.

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