THE WOMEN’S PRAYER
Our Prime Minister
Which art in Canberra
Democracy be thy aim.
May liberty come and equality be won
For women as well as for men.
Give us this day equal status
And forgive those conventions
Which discriminate against us.
Lead us not back to inferiority
And deliver us from exploitation
For thine is the Party, the power and the policy
To give us equality
For Evatt and Evatt
The Women’s Prayer was penned by a member of the United Associations of Women, Jessie Street, who sent it to Prime Minister John Curtin in October 1943.
A parody of the Lord’s Prayer, the poem pleads the Prime Minister Curtin to exercise true democracy and recognise that women are equal to men. It was a humorous way of getting the Prime Minister’s attention on a serious and important issue. The poem also refers to Dr Evatt, the Minister for External Affairs (1941-49), and concludes with a cheeky pun on the traditional ‘amen’.
As President of the United Associations of Women, Jessie Street had the ear of the Prime Minister. An activist for national and international social justice issues, Jessie Street had been campaigning for equality of pay and opportunities for men and women throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Her cover letter for The Women’s Prayer – unlike her many serious letters, submissions and articles – was short. She hoped the Prime Minister would be amused, and pointed out that ‘many a true word is said in jest’.
The only evidence of the Prime Minister’s response is a copy of a letter to Jessie Street written on his behalf by his Personal Secretary, Mr EW Tonkin. He is quoted as being ‘amused’. (National Archives of Australia)