- Change Agent
Dr Fanny Reading was a practical visionary who linked traditional ideas of charitable service and fundraising with fostering female participation in communal policy development.
As Fanny said, "so much can be accomplished when our women work together". Born in Russia, Fanny grew up in Ballarat and moved to Melbourne where in 1914 she gained her Diploma of Music at the Conservatorium of Music, a groundbreaking achievement for the time.
In 1911 she founded the Jewish Young People's Association to counter apathy. She graduated in medicine from the University of Melbourne in 1922 and remained an honorary medical officer for much of her professional life, offering free medical services, predominantly to women and children.
In 1923 Fanny conceived and created the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia (NCJWA), 'for the betterment of mankind everywhere'. She led the Council for over 30 years promoting social justice, welfare and the advancement of women in the Jewish and general communities.
Today the NCJWA is affiliated with the Australian Women's Coalition and the UN Association of Australia Status of Women Committee In Victoria, NCJWA continues the good work started by Fanny, running educational, community service, women's and seniors programs and providing support and empowerment for single women's groups. It is also involved with women's leadership training, fighting human trafficking, family violence, women's workplace issues, gender equality and women's finances in addition to hosting the Jewish Breast Cancer Support Group.
In 1925 Fanny affiliated the NCJWA with the International Council of Jewish Women, of which she became vice-president in 1949. Fanny's capacity to work was legendary, balancing her professional work as a medical practitioner and her voluntary work for NCJWA and various medical boards. She also maintained an open house, where all visitors were welcome, especially recent migrants in need of a solid meal and talk of home.
Reviewed 25 May 2022