Woman Kastner, Winifred

Community Worker

Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

Winifred Kastner was born in England in 1903, the eldest of five children of patternmaker, Ernest Stubbs and his wife Florence. After training as an arts and crafts teacher, she migrated, in 1930, to Western Australia where she shared her craft skills through radio broadcasts and outback tours. In 1932 she married taxi driver, Eric Kastner, a German immigrant. One child was born to the marriage. While Eric maintained a much lower profile than his wife, he assisted and supported her in her philanthropic endeavours (West Australian, 1 January 1951).

Although she had become associated with the Country Women's Association and the YWCA shortly after her arrival, her first leadership position came when she was elected as the youngest ever president of the Housewives' Association in 1939. On her election she was described as a 'matron and housewife of only about five years standing, and one of the scientific modern mothers' (Daily News, 8 December 1939). Kastner's philanthropic work flowered during World War II, when she was superintendent of the Red Cross Metropolitan Services Emergency Corps, and an active member of the Women's Services Guild, serving as state president from 1953-5 and again in 1967, setting as her key priorities the implementation of 'homes for delinquent children, a comprehensive health insurance scheme and an increase in civilian widows' pensions' (West Australian, 8 August 1952). Through this association she became involved with an array of community organisations, ranging from environmental protection to Aboriginal welfare, but her particular interest was in the area of children with disabilities, an interest which became a salaried position when she was appointed welfare officer for the Irrabeena Diagnostic and Referral Centre in 1961. Appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1952 (West Australian, 18 March 1952), she was president of the Women Justices' Association from 1960-2.

Although she was modest in claiming credits for her own achievements, Kastner was quick to comment on issues about which she felt qualified to speak, addressing public meetings, leading delegations to parliament and writing frequently to the newspapers. The causes she supported were wide-ranging, although with a common core around the welfare of women and children in the home. Handcrafts, she believed, offered a useful mode for women's fulfilment. 'Inborn in most of us is the desire to create', she argued, adding 'people with the busiest fingers are usually the happiest' (Daily News, 30 May 1940). She was a cautious believer in women's advancement, welcoming, for example, the decision to allow women to serve on juries, but adding that women 'with family responsibilities would be unable to serve ... but others who could ... would take it as a responsibility as well as a privilege' (West Australian, 16 October 1953). The same applied to Parliament, 'city councils and roads boards' all of which would benefit from female representation (West Australian, 20 September 1952). Women, she argued, should 'be granted the right to work equally with men in the building up of a world in which all peoples would be able to live in peace and harmony' but their role in maintaining 'the right sort of home' needed to be safeguarded (1953 'Family Seen As Unit Of Government.', The West Australian, 28 July 1953). For women who needed to work, the basic wage, she believed, should be adjusted to provide a minimum wage with additional allowances for dependents to be paid irrespective of gender (West Australian, 23 September 1952).

Kastner was awarded the Coronation Medal in 1953 and the MBE in 1976. She died in 1987.

Archival Resources

State Library of Western Australia

  • Interview with Winifred Kastner by Jean Teasdale, 1975, OH54; State Library of Western Australia. Details

Published Resources

Newspaper Articles

Online Resources

See also

Digital Resources

Interview with Winifred Kastner by Jean Teasdale
State Library of Western Australia
State Library of Western Australia