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Board, Ruby Willmet (1880–1963)

by Andrée Wright

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Ruby Willmet Board (1880-1963), voluntary welfare worker, was born on 15 October 1880 at Gunning, New South Wales, only child of Peter Board and his wife Jessie Allen, née Bowes. She was educated in Sydney, Berlin and Paris; her social conscience was moulded by childhood happiness in 'this small and closely linked family' and by the progressive ideals of her father. With no financial need to work, she was free to combine her aptitude for language with an interest in welfare. In 1927 she published pamphlets on Australian Pronunciation and the Pupils' Practice Book for Vowel Sounds.

In the early 1920s Ruby Board moved with her parents to Leura and nursed her mother until her death in 1932. She became a leading figure in the Country Women's Association and was president of the Blue Mountains branch in 1930-38. A member of the National Council of Women of New South Wales for fifty years, she had been general honorary secretary in 1914-18 and led the Australian delegates to the sixth quinquennial convention of the International Council of Women in Washington in 1925; as New South Wales president in 1938-48 she refused to be appointed M.B.E. because she believed that her office, reflecting the work of the council, deserved higher recognition; she accepted a C.M.G. In 1931 she had been founding honorary treasurer of the National Council of Women of Australia, and was president from 1942 to 1944. In 1939-58 she was also a vice-president of the Rachel Forster Hospital for Women and Children.

Ruby Board was founding president of the Women's Voluntary National Register in 1940 and was defence director of the Women's Auxiliary National Service, helping to co-ordinate the work of women's organizations during World War II. She also served on the executive of the Australian Comforts Fund, and in 1943 was a founder and first president of the Housekeepers' Emergency Service.

A diabetic from the 1930s, she demonstrated effectively how little this condition need interfere with a busy and productive life. She was an office-bearer of the Diabetic Association of New South Wales from 1949 and served as president in 1951-60. Anxious to inform the public of the problems associated with the disease, she organized a lecture tour in 1953 by two world authorities and in 1955 and 1958 attended congresses of the International Diabetes Federation at Cambridge, England, and Dusseldorf, Germany. In 1957 she was founding president of the Diabetic Association of Australia and presided at its first conference held in Sydney.

From 1960 Ruby Board lived at the Mowll Memorial Village, Castle Hill, until she had a fall in December 1963; she died on Christmas Day in the Rachel Forster Hospital and was cremated after a Presbyterian service.

Selfless and generous, with boundless energy, she inspired those around her to similar enthusiasm and commitment; she was not interested in power for its own sake, or in office for its prestige, and always sought to provide opportunities for the individual's expansion. Her work was commemorated by the naming of the diabetic wing of the Rachel Forster Hospital after her in 1966.

Select Bibliography

  • Diabetic Federation of Australia, Conquest, no 5, July 1960, no 21, Apr 1964
  • N. C. W. News, Feb 1964
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23 May 1940, 27 Dec 1963
  • J. F. Arnot, Ruby Board 1880-1963 (notes held by author).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Andrée Wright, 'Board, Ruby Willmet (1880–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/board-ruby-willmet-5276/text8895, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 20 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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