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The 1950s


President 1950


Lady Wilson's (Left) second term as President of the EAWL was in 1950. Her great interest was in the League's international links. She was the Vice President of the ACWW for Africa in 1950 and represented the EAWL at the ACWW Conference in 1954.


The League and the Hospital


"With a view to combating the extreme shortage of hospital and nursing-home beds in East Africa in general and Nairobi in particular, a five stage plan to provide a complete hospital service in Kenya has been launched. The British Medical Association and the East Africa Women's League have also given the Scheme their enthusiastic support".



East African Standard-29th January 1950.

And so the EAWL Hospital Appeal, with Shs. 1,000,000/- as its target, was launched in April, 1950, under the alternating Chairmanship of Mrs. Charlotte Mitchell and Mrs. Michael Wood. By 1st November 1951, when the EAWL appeal closed, and became the "Hospital Appeal Fund", the magnificent sum of Shs. 1,067,000/- had been raised by branches throughout the country "which greatly assisted in building the Princess Elizabeth Hospital for Women and in carrying out the various stages of the Hospital Scheme". With the completion of the main hospital group it was also possible to establish the School of Nursing for training girls in this country. Lady Wilson laid the foundation stone on 6th April 1951 and Lady Mitchell, the Governor’s wife, formally opened the hospital on 28th November 1951.


The architect for the Princess Elizabeth Hospital and subsequently the main hospital, was Mrs. Eugenie Dorothy Hughes, MBE, HSC, FRIBA, a member of the EAWL, who became President of the League 1951.


When it became necessary to close the Princess Elizabeth Hospital for Women, for economic and administrative reasons, the maternity and Gynecological patients were moved into the main, now the Nairobi Hospital. The League's name was perpetuated in the "EAWL Sister's Mess" and the "EAWL Ward" in what is now the Pioneer Wing.

Mrs. E. D. HUGHES, MBE, HSC, FRIBA. President 1951-1952

Mrs. Hughes (Right) was a Vice President while the League was raising money for the hospital appeal. She became an FRIBA in 1946, and received the MBE in 1950 for her work as an architect of Kenya Hospitals. She also designed the Nakuru War Memorial Hospital. During her presidency the Princess Elizabeth Hospital was visited by H.R.H. Princess Elizabeth herself (now Queen Elizabeth II).

The EAWL 'Market Stall'

An enquiry into the rising cost of living was called for at a public meeting arranged by the EAWL in 1948. The League had its own Cost of Living Committee and started the EAWL Market Stall in Nairobi in 1952. Many up-country Branches ran such Produce Stalls in the '50's and '60's. A percentage of the takings was donated to League charity appeals. Mrs. Graham Clark did much valuable work on the Cost of Living Committee.


Kenya Cultural Centre

The League became a constituent founder member of the Kenya Cultural Centre, and raised funds for the building, as well as for the National Theatre, which was opened in 1953. Twenty three years later, the League contributed to the Theatre's appeal for renovations and paid for a seat in the auditorium which will bear a commemorative plaque.



In 1951 Cable and Wireless invited the League to give ten-minute talks on "Women's Hour", twice a month. Many members spoke, and the League cautioned to make broadcasts throughout the 50's.


Mrs. Machin

Mrs. Machin's name first appears in 1925, as the League's Hon. Treasurer, a post she held until 1929. From 1951 until 1958 she was Secretary to the League, of which she was a founder member. Hers was a long and honored record of work for the EAWL.

The Lady SIDNEY FARRAR, MBE, President 1953-1954

Lady Sidney Farrar (Left), who farmed at Mau Summit, was the first DVP of the Molo/Mau Summit Branch formed in 1920. Before the outbreak of war in 1939, she had formed the Kenya Women's Territorial Service, a branch of the F.A.N.Y. and was its Commandant throughout the War, for which she received the MBE She had served as Vice President of the League at different times and also on the Government Advisory Committee on Education since the 1930’s.

Primary Rural Day Schools

It was therefore fitting that, while Lady Sidney was President, the EAWL was asked to take a census on the need for Primary Day Schools in rural districts. As a result of this census of children (born and unborn!) conducted by branches, several Primary Day Schools were opened in rural areas, the first by some months opening in Molo in 1954. The last to open was the Naivasha Day School in 1961.


Sunset Lodge, Mombasa, 1954-1957

The Salvation Army built the Sunset Lodge Home for old people in Mombasa, and the EAWL appealed for Shs. 20,000/- towards this. Mombasa Branch's contribution alone reached this target, and a total of Shs. 50,000/-was raised by the League as a whole.


Mrs. JEAN ANDERSON, MBE, President 1955-1958

Mrs. Anderson (Pictured near the bottom), who received the MBE for her war work had already served the League as a Vice President for many years from 1932, and on the Child Legislation Committee. She sat on the Municipal Council of Nairobi and became an Alderman, the first woman in Kenya to receive this honour. During her term of office, the Government passed the Act for the Care and Protection and Prevention of Cruelty to Children.


The Children's Act, 1955

After eleven years of work, and "almost terrifying" pressure by the EAWL the Government Child Legislation Committee finally coordinated all the ordinances affecting children into one Comprehensive Act As a result of the passing of this Act, the League realized the need to form both a Child Welfare Society and an Adoption Society.


Child Welfare Society

In 1955 as President of the EAWL, Mrs. Anderson called a round table conference of men and women interested in child welfare and met under the Chairmanship of Mr. Humphrey Slade, who became President of the new Society. Branches of the new Child Welfare Society were started in most of the country districts, on which League members serve. The Child Welfare Society is now a completely autonomous Society, and runs Places of Safety and Children's Homes in Nairobi and other towns. Mrs. Anderson was a Trustee of the Society and continued to serve on its many committees.

Adoption Society

In 1962 the EAWL became the first registered Adoption Society in Kenya and carried on this work until 1967. Mrs. Nina Mitchell (Right), a vice-Chairman of the League, gave for many years her time, energy and wisdom to case work and organization of the Adoption Society. Since 1967 adoption work is carried out by the Child Welfare Society of Kenya. Mrs. Mitchell and Mrs. Anderson continued to serve on the committee.



For several years, the EAWL had been catering for the public at the Royal Agricultural Show of Kenya. and in 1956 the League was appointed Official Caterers. The Catering Committee, under the Chairmanship first of Mrs. Hutson and later of Mrs. Katzler, carded out this immense and growing task until 1965. Substantial profits were made over the years and contributed to various charities particularly the Weal House scheme. When the League finally gave up this work the Agricultural Society of Kenya presented them with a handsome silver medal. Mrs. Katzler received the MBE in 1970 for her work with this committee.


The Branches in the districts concerned, particularly Eldoret and Kitale, also undertook catering for the Agricultural Shows up-country. Nandi Hills, one of the League's smallest Branches catered for the Eldoret Show for several years.

1st Convention of Women’s Societies 1957

Twenty-eight women's Societies from all over East Africa were invited to a Convention of Women's Societies inNairobi, organized by the EAWL on February 1957. Delegates came from as far a field as Tanganyika (as it then was) and Uganda. A resolution was put forward by Mrs. Silvester (whose idea it had been to hold this convention) - “The Women's Societies asked to this conference should  form a Convention of Women's Societies in East Africa and meet annually" and passed.


In 1960 the Convention at its fourth meeting, chaired by Mrs. Henn (pictured lower down), formed itself into the Kenya Council of Women. Lady Sidney Farrar, MBE, was elected Chairman. Thus was born the National Council of Women of Kenya. Mrs. Henn, who became a Vice President in 1957, was a member who contributed much to the League. She was on the Editorial committee for many years, prepared the scripts for the League broadcasts in "Women's Hour" and wrote several of the pamphlets printed by the League. Her most important work was with African women. During the 2nd World War, when imported wool was unobtainable, she taught spinning and weaving of the local wool to African men and women. As an official Prison Visitor to Women's Prisons in the 1950's she taught spinning and weaving to the women there. With Mrs. Solly she started the Kenya Women's Society, a multi-racial society, and was its first President in 1958.


President 1958-1959


Mrs. Wilson was the youngest lady ever to be elected President of the League. She was Chairman of the committee, which convened the 1st Convention of Women's Societies. She was also the Colony Commissioner for Girl Guides.

EAWL Holiday and Teenage Club

The permanent building for the EAWL Holiday and Teenage Club was opened in Nairobi in June 1959 by the Minister for Education. The Holiday Club had been started in 1953 for the entertainment and safety of children of working parents. Originated by City Branch, it had operated from private houses. Mrs. Westcob was the driving force behind the project to obtain a plot of land and put up a permanent building for the Club, which was finally achieved in 1959. The Club was used by school children during the day for games and hobbies and teenagers in the evening for dances. Mrs. Westcob ran the Club with enormous success until it closed in 1966.

Standing Committees of the EAWL

Here, at the end of the 1950's, seems a suitable place to summarize the work of the League's Standing Committees since their inception in 1942.


I.) African Social Welfare

This committee formed in 1946 carried on the work done by the League as a whole since it started. One of the first tasks of the new committee was to collect articles for translation for the vernacular newspapers on home making, health, better gardening, children's diet, etc. In 1950 Summer Schools were started for African women whose husbands had gone overseas for training, and the League supported two training schools for African women, at Londiani and Kericho. EAWL members in remote districts ran clinics and dispensaries for Africans.


African women's clubs were started in country districts during the 1950's by League members assisting the African Community Development workers trained at Jeanes School. In 1955 the D.C. Nairobi approached the League for help in forming Clubs in the town area.


Much work was done in conjunction with the Save The Children Campaign until the Child Welfare Society took over this work.


All through the four decades of its existence the EAWL had worked to improve the lot of African women and children by pressure on Government, raising funds, education and the formation of women's clubs, as well as the individual work done by members to help the Africans around them.


II.) Bulletin (or Publicity)

Many pamphlets have been printed to help women in everyday life, and in 1946 the League's Bulletin started as a quarterly magazine for members. In 1956 it changed its format and its title to "Women in Kenya", under which title it is published today.


III.) Cost of Living

This committee was particularly active from 1950, when concern at the rising cost of living was rife. It published articles of advice in the Bulletin and ran the EAWL Market Stall as a co-operative effort. It campaigned against high prices and excessive profits.


IV.) Education

From this committee was drawn the EAWL's representative on the Government Advisory Committee on Education. It also had members on the Boards of Governors of many schools in the country.


V.) Health

The main concern of this committee was the provision of adequate hospital facilities in the country. In 1952 they were asked to make a survey on the detrimental effect of excessive weight carrying on the health of African women and in 1956 started a fund to assist polio patients to go overseas for treatment.


VI.) International

The EAWL has always maintained liaison with overseas women's organizations, both to learn and to distribute information about Kenya.


VII.) Inter-racial

From the work of this committee grew the Frangipani Society and the Kenya Women's Society. The Homemakers, started in the 1930's by Mrs. Dorcas Aubrey, MBE, was also their concern.


VIII.) Child Welfare

This committee grew from the work of the League representatives on the Government Committee for Child Legislation and the Save the Children campaign.


IX.) Hospitality

EAWL members have always welcomed visitors to this country into their homes and the Hospitality Committee helped to co-ordinate the work. A welcome was given, not only to visiting V.I.P’s but to V.S.O’s and members of the armed Forces, especially ratings from H.M. ships visiting Mombasa.


X.) Balloting

Organises the annual postal election of League Officers.


XI.) Library


XII.) Home Industries

Arranges the Home Industries exhibit at Shows.


XIII.) Employment

Ran the Employment Bureau until it closed in 1961.


XIV.) Catering

This committee not only did the catering at the Nairobi Show for ten years, but also catered for many other functions, raising thousands of pounds for League Charities.


XV.) Benevolence


Please Take Note:

- The National Embroideries Project was also inititated in the 1950’s,

- The Weal House Project was also initiated in the 1950’s but for more information please go to the “Weal House” Page.

Mrs Jean Anderson, MBE

Mrs J.F Henn

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