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EAST AFRICA WOMEN'S LEAGUE
Machakos / Ulu Branch
Machakos District is mentioned by the earliest explorers and pioneers, and described as vast tracts of land teeming with wild life, rugged hills of basement rock and with drought as a frequent occurrence. Fort Machakos was to be the capital of Kenya until the railway line came to a halt in the swampy plain at the foot of a range of hills forming one side of the Rift Valley, and it was there that the capital – Nairobi – began and grew to the large city it is today. The EAWL was started there in 1917, and when the call came for rural Branches to be started in 1925, Machakos was one of the first to be formed, with Mrs. Vivian Percival as District Vice President. Ulu followed soon after, headed by Mrs (later Lady) F. O’B. Wilson. The two branches amalgamated in 1933. As early as 1930, these two ladies received special mention by the National President Mrs Ralph Turner for their consistent help to newcomers to the country, the care of women and plans for the education of children. Lady Wilson took over as President of the League after Mrs Grogan’s death in 1943, and served a further term of office in 1950. She was a founder member, with The Lady Eleanor Cole, of the ACWW, and was the League’s representative for many years, attending the ACWW Conference in Ceylon in 1950. Mrs Claire Wilson, DVP of Machakos/Ulu in 1951, became the youngest National President of the League ever elected. Mrs Percival was made a Patroness in 1957.
The quality of caring for people was to flower in the 2nd World War, when the Branch played a leading part in the work of the Red Cross, and headed the hospitality list for soldiers, sailors and airmen. Many a young man spent his leave on the Kapiti plains and in the Ulu Hills with the families who farmed there.
During the early years the membership of the two Branches was equally shared between wives of “settlers” and wives of “officials”, but when relations became strained between these two groups in the capital during the years before the war, and during the depression, the women of Machakos/Ulu continued unitedly with their welfare work.
The library was the envy of many a Branch and the Christmas parties and annual fixtures together with swimming galas at the Wilson’s to raise money for a pool at the Machakos Club, and a nursery school in Machakos. The Branch also raised money for Gertrude’s Garden Children’s hospital, for the Lady Northery Home, for Weal House and the for the Flying Doctor later on.
Machakos members were always active on Council, and it is interesting that the first suggestion that reminiscences of early settlers should be recorded came from Machakos Branch. Could this have started the Scrapbook project and the “The Pioneer Scrapbook” and “Memories of Kenya’? In 1969 it was Machakos who suggested reprinting “They made it Their Home”, which was soon accomplished.
In 1977, Mrs Peggy Howden, daughter of Mrs Vivian Percival, told Council that the number of children disabled by polio was again increasing rapidly, and this started the Immunisation Project so successfully carried out by Mrs Jill Simpson and her helpers of Naivasha and Nakuru Branches.
The traditions of care and hospitality started by these early settlers are still going strong in the welcoming hills of Ulu and the wide-open spaces of Machakos.