Mavis reflects on a century: International Women’s Day

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101-year-old Mavis with a picture of her younger self. [Source: Supplied]

When Mavis Kohler was born in 1923, women were not allowed to drink in public bars, stand for Federal elections, or work in public service jobs once they married.

Thankfully, society has come a long way since then, and Mavis – who turned 101 last month – is thankful she’s here to have witnessed the shift.

This week, we celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8, celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

It’s an important date on the calendar for aged and disability organisation VMCH, with females like Mavis making up 71% of its aged care residents, 79% of its workforce and 77% of its volunteers.

Tasmanian-born Mavis believes IWD is also an opportunity to reflect on the struggles faced by women in years gone by, including her era, which endured WWII and the Great Depression.

“Back in my day women didn’t even have a licence or drive.”

However, Mavis concedes says she enjoyed more freedom in her 20s than some.

While holidaying in Melbourne, a fiercely independent Mavis met her future husband, Bob. After Mavis refused Bob’s offer to assist her with ice skating or to pay for her tram ride home, Bob persisted in courting Mavis and his efforts paid off. The pair married soon after and Mavis relocated to Melbourne.

Mavis said she was lucky her parents wanted me to experience life. 

“Even though my mother wasn’t happy when I moved, she didn’t tell me or stop me from going,” She said.

Mavis and Bob had two children and were happily married for an incredible 72 years before Bob passed away in 2016.

The great-grandmother of two believes “having patience and helping others” are the best aspects of being a woman. She also recognises society still has a long way to go to ensure true equality for women.

VMCH Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sonya Smart said she’s proud to lead an organisation that employs and supports such a large number of incredible women, like Mavis.

“Step into any of our aged care residences or retirement villages and you will find a hugely diverse group of women who have lived some extraordinary lives,” she explained. 

“We have so much to learn from our older generation – who’ve lived through some extremely challenging times that have shaped them into the resilient and inspirational people they are today.” 

Ms Smart added it’s important for a female leader like herself to help be a catalyst for change.

“At VMCH we have a great representation of female leaders who are natural advocates for women within our workplace. I think when we support each other as females, we get a better future for all women in the workforce.”

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