About The Savoy Ladies Group
About the Savoy Ladies Group, Lucinda Horrocks, author, Wind & Sky Productions, 2014.Contributors
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It was a lonely experience for many of the Italian women who came to Myrtleford to raise families and farm tobacco. Often hailing from small and tightly-knit rural villages, it wasn’t unusual for women to have never travelled outside of their home town in their lives before coming to Australia. This was the experience of those who left Italy before World War Two and even well into the post-war migration boom of the 1960s. Unlike the close communities of their home, the spread-out farms on the Ovens, Buffalo and King Rivers were kilometres apart. Many women couldn’t drive, and as unlike their husbands they spent their time almost exclusively on the farms, many did not develop English language skills. As mechanisation changed the labour required and as children finished school and left home the women of the farms became increasingly isolated.
The Myrtleford Savoy Ladies Group was formed by a group of nuns in 1983 to combat the social isolation of the Italian women tobacco farmers. One its first activities was to give driving instructions and English lessons to its members, many of whom were in their fifties and sixties – resulting in a new independence for the women of the region. As well as providing important social forum through the fortnightly tombola, the Savoy Ladies Group provided an avenue for vital health information, excursions, and outreach to the frail elderly.
When the tobacco industry finished in 2006, causing economic hardship to the families working and farming in the area, the Savoy Ladies Group became an important lifeline for families in distress. More than thirty years on the Savoy Ladies Group continues to form a significant part of the social fabric of this unique rural community, and it speaks of the power of companionship and the resilience of this remarkable group of women.
For more information visit The History of the Savoy Ladies Group by Samantha Dinning, Wind & Sky Productions.