Australian Women's Register

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    Jessie Vasey headstone at Lilydale cemetery, courtesy of AWAP Collection.

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Vasey, Jessie Mary (1897 - 1966)

OBE, CBE, 2001 Victorian Honour Roll of Women, 2008 Victorian Honour Roll of Women

19 October 1897
Roma, Queensland, Australia
22 September 1966
Community worker
Alternative Names
  • Halbert, Jessie Mary (maiden name)


Jessie Vasey founded and became President of the War Widows' Guild of Australia. For her work in the field of social welfare she was the receipent of both the CBE (8 June 1963) and OBE (8 June 1950).


Jessie Vasey, the eldest of three daughters of Joseph and Jessie Halbert, attended Moreton Bay Girls' High School as a boarder, before the family moved to Victoria in 1911. She then attended Lauriston Girls' School before moving to Methodist Ladies' College, Kew.

In May 1921 Jessie Halbert married George Alan Vasey. In the same year she graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Arts. In 1928-1930 and 1934-1936 Jessie Vasey and her two children accompanied George Vasey when he was posted to India. The family returned to Australia in 1937 and settled at Wantirna at the foot of the Dandenongs.

During World War II, while her husband was posted in Europe, Jessie Vasey worked with the Australian Comforts Funds. In 1940 Jessie Vasey was a foundation member and secretary of the Australian Imperial Forces Women's Association. George Vasey drew the attention of his wife to the plight of war widows after visiting the widow of one of his men and was appalled at her living conditions. It was Major-General Vasey's wish that after he returned from the battlefields he, with the help of his wife, would look after the families of the men who were killed while serving with him. On 5 March 1945, aged 49 years, Major-General Vasey was himself killed in an aircraft accident.

In 1945 Jessie Vasey established the War Widows' Guild in Victoria, the following year in New South Wales and thereafter in every Australian State and the Australian Capital Territory. By the time of her death in 1966 the Guild had grown into an influential national lobby group.


Inducted onto the Victorian Honour Roll of Women
Inducted onto Victorian Honour Roll of Women

Sources used to compile this entry: Alexander, Joseph A (ed.), Who's Who in Australia 1962, 17 edn, Colorgravure Publications, Melbourne, 1962, 960 pp; Clark, Mavis Thorpe, No mean destiny : the story of the War Widows' Guild of Australia 1945-85, Hyland House, South Yarra, Vic., 1986, 288 pp.

Related entries

Board Member


Digital resources

Jessie Vasey headstone at Lilydale cemetery
AWAP Collection


Anne Heywood

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