As I slowly make my way through the archives of Australian Church Women, I am encountering some obstacles that are not unique in recording history—namely, errors.
Errors occurring in both original and later published records is common to most organisations. Sometimes the errors are insignificant, other times they become magnified with the passage of time. This is particularly so if records are lost or information is published based on oral records. Such is the situation for the Asian Church Women’s Conference, of which Australia is a member country and Australian Church Women is the Australian national body.
In recent years, I have been trying to source early records of both the Asian Church Women’s Conference (ACWC) and the Fellowship of the Least Coin (FLC), in order to compile a more complete herstory of the Asian Church Women’s Conference. The ACWC office holds very few records of its early herstory. There are a number of reasons for this, but the two main ones are records not being held in a secure place and records not being passed on. Since 1958, when the ACWC began, the records have been relocated many times and to a number of different countries in Asia. Also, for the first twelve years of the ACWC, there was no executive secretary to administer the records.
Therefore, the ACWC passed on much of her early story by word of mouth. However, in the last two years I am unearthing more and more early documents of the ACWC that are housed in repositories outside of the main centres of Asia. Some records are in our own Australian Church Women archives in correspondence and other communication with the Asian Church Women’s Conference, as well as reports from Australian women who attended the ACWC assemblies and meetings. A handful of ACWC documents have also been forwarded to me from members of Australian Church Women, and I am very grateful for those contributions.
Other early accounts of ACWC events have been located in the past publications of Presbyterian Women in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Inc., and I wish to acknowledge all the assistance I received from the wonderful women of their national staff. They also linked me with staff from their Presbyterian Historical Society, and they supplied me with some very useful correspondence held in their archives.
I have also located three more archives that are holding early ACWC material, and I hope to visit at least two of them. Brief snippets of information have also been gleaned from the Internet, and through a subscription to a website with archived newspapers.
The result of all my information gathering is that I’ve been going through these records and beginning to reconcile them to reflect the herstories more accurately. It also meant that I needed to update a few details on the pages of our Australian Church Women website, as the information we were originally given included several errors. If you see any errors, please let me know.
I am very much enjoying this detective work and being able to fill in the gaps that exist in both the Australian Church Women archives and the records of the Asian Church Women’s Conference.
If you have or know the whereabouts of any documentation referring to the early herstory, 1958-1970, of the Asian Church Women’s Conference, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org