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Jessie Vasey OBE, CBE

Jessie Vasey was a passionate campaigner for the support of war widows.

Honour Roll

Her attention was drawn to the plight of war widows by her husband, Major General George Vasey, who had visited a war widow living in appalling conditions.

When her husband returned to the Middle East in December 1939, Jessie became a leading figure in the war effort serving as secretary of the Australian Imperial Force Women's Association which provided financial and other support to the families of soldiers' wives and widows.

Tragically Jessie's husband was killed in an aeroplane crash in 1945 aged 49. On their last evening together he told her to remain committed to the war widows and that he would continue to support her on his return.

Jessie was an inspiring role model for many war widows. When she initiated a craft guild in 1946, about 300 war widows responded to her letter about its first meeting. The guild grew in strength becoming a national association known as the War Widows Guild of Australia. Jessie was elected president and continued to draw inspiration from the efforts of war widows throughout Australia.

In the 1950s she embarked upon her most ambitious project, to raise funds for self-contained flats for war widows, especially the elderly and sick who were unable to find affordable accommodation. The Vasey Housing Auxiliary, with Jessie as Managing Director, campaigned successfully for the passing of the Aged Persons Homes Act in 1954 which saw the Commonwealth Government matching funds raised by voluntary organisations. Jessie was awarded an OBE in 1950 and a CBE in 1963 for her services to war widows.