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Leaflet - 'The Mothers', Anti-Conscription Campaign, World War I, Australia, 1917 Document Reg. No: HT 29163

Broad sheet featuring cartoons by Claude Marquet with verses by R. J. Cassidy. The broad sheet was printed by The Worker Print in Sydney in 1917, by the No Conscription Council Campaign Committee.

One side of the broad sheet features an image of Death looming over a young man as his mother ponders her ballot paper. On the other side is an image of a diminutive, almost snarling Billy Hughes, prime minister of Australia, and a scythe-bearing Death.

When war was announced in 1914, support was high; vast numbers of men enlisted to serve in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF). However stories of lost campaigns and war horrors, coupled with increasing casualty rates saw recruitment levels decline. By 1916 there was a shortage of men to fight overseas; Billy Hughes' Labor government proposed conscription as the solution to declining numbers of men. In a referendum held on 28 October 1916, Australians were asked: 'Are you in favour of the Government having, in this grave emergency, the same compulsory powers over citizens in regard to requiring their military service, for the term of this War, outside the Commonwealth, as it now has in regard to military service within the Commonwealth?' By a very narrow margin (51% against, 49 % for), the people of Australia rejected the referendum. After this failure, Hughes was expelled from the Labor Party. He promptly crossed the floor, along with about half of the parliamentary party, and became prime minister of a conservative Nationalist government.

The problem of declining numbers of men wishing to enlist did not go away. Consequently a second referendum was called. On 20 December 1917 the Australian public were asked: 'Are you in favour of the proposal of the Commonwealth Government for reinforcing the Commonwealth Forces overseas?' The answer was a resounding no. Australia was the only country not to adopt conscription during World War I.
Small quarto broad sheet. Green paper, illustrated on both sides.

Verso features an image of Death looming over a young man as his mother ponders her ballot paper, accompanied by Cassidy's verses: ?You who breasted your babies | What have you to say??. On the other side is an image of a diminutive, Billy Hughes on a high chair at a writing table as scythe-bearing Death casts his ballot in Hughes absurdly large top hat.
Discipline: History
Dimensions: 240 mm (Height), 165 mm (Width)

More information

Tagged with: world war i 1914-1918, conscription, cartoons, racism
Themes this item is part of: Public Life & Institutions Collection, Conscription, World War I, 1914-1918
Primary Classification: POLITICS & PUBLIC PROTEST
Secondary Classification: World War I
Tertiary Classification: conscription
Inscriptions: Recto, printed on bottom of page: Authorised by P.C. Evans, Macdonell House, Pitt-st., Sydney, on behalf of the No/ Conscription Council Campaign Committee./ The Worker Print, St. Andrew's Place, Sydney.
Artist: Claude Marquet, Australia, 1917
Author: R Cassidy, Australia, 1917
Authorised By: P Evans - No Conscription Council Campaign Committee, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1917
Printer: The Worker Trade Union Print, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1917

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