Beatrice Faust AO

In 1972, Beatrice Faust was a founder of the Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL).

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Beatrice Faust was born in 1939, in Melbourne. Her mother died twelve hours after she was born. Growing up in middle class Caulfield in the 1950s, she found 'there was this terrible suburban deadness that you find in brick veneer and roast lamb on the weekend'.

Beatrice attended MacRobertson Girls' High School where its many immigrant students exposed her to a wider world. Winning a scholarship, she went on to get a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne in 1963 and a Master of Arts in 1965. As a student she married fellow student Clive Faust but the marriage did not last long. A few years later she decided to have a child. She was not married when her son was born and decided not to marry her lover.

By 1963, Beatrice had already had three 'illegal' abortions and this experience made her think deeply about this problem. She felt the existing laws did not work and only served to make the procedure unsafe. She believed strongly in freedom and, with a friend, they formed a Council for Civil Liberties, akin to the one in Sydney. She established a sub-committee on abortion to ascertain whether it was a civil liberties issue. In the early 1960s, even the word abortion was taboo so she was taking a bold step.

The Abortion Law Reform Association was formed and Beatrice developed a well-organised professional interest group. In 1966, she organised a 'teach-in' on abortion at the University of Melbourne that attracted much publicity.

1972 was an election year so Beatrice wanted to survey each political candidate and publish findings on where each candidate stood on women's issues. She invited ten influential women over to her home in Carlton to discuss this proposal. They were all educated professional women with many contacts and together they formed the nucleus of the Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL). After a few more private meetings they went public and their membership just grew. Beatrice was adept at assigning tasks to people with experience and everyone worked hard. She went to Sydney and Brisbane to set up WEL groups and soon it was a national movement.

With the elections coming up, women's issues were the hot topics and politicians had to address them. WEL published the survey results. After the elections, WEL kept up the fight and one campaign of which Beatrice is particularly proud is opening up the administrative division of the Victorian Public Service to women. They adopted the strategy of having women with non-gender specific first names sit the required exam, but upon passing were denied entry because of their sex. Once WEL had succeeded, Beatrice was happy to back off and concentrate on Abortion Law reform.

Later in the 1970s, she moved to London where her then husband was working and she wrote a feminist book, Women, Sex and Pornography (1981). Beatrice then moved back to Australia and published several more books.