Organisers on why Lithgow‘s Debutante Ball is still relevant today

DEBUTANTE: Mariah Godden and Ben Inzitari at the 2017 Catholic Debutante Ball. Picture: KIRSTY HORTON.
DEBUTANTE: Mariah Godden and Ben Inzitari at the 2017 Catholic Debutante Ball. Picture: KIRSTY HORTON.

The members of Lithgow’s Catholic Debutante Ball Committee put a lot of effort into stoking a town tradition dating back to 1934. And while some people see it is as outmoded, the committee says there’s always a bevy of young women more than enthusiastic to be the next generation of debutantes. 

We spoke to two women on the debutante committee about why they keep the ball rolling. 

ORGANISER: Jennifer Wolfgramm with her daughter Salote at the 2016 Debutante Ball. Picture: SUPPLIED.

ORGANISER: Jennifer Wolfgramm with her daughter Salote at the 2016 Debutante Ball. Picture: SUPPLIED.

Sydney-based accountant Jennifer Wolfgramm has been involved in the ‘deb ball’ committee ever since her mother, Pauline Cox, was chosen to be matron of honour in 2016. 

Ms Wolfgramm believes the ball instills important values in its participants. 

“The focus of the ball is on the girls, empowering them to take the lead. They are making all the decisions about the night,” she said. 

“Each step they have to go through is a step they are going to have to make in adult life. First they have to choose a partner to attend the ball with them, they have to choose a respectful partner and someone that will be committed.

HAIRSPRAY: Lithgow's debutantes in 1965. Picture: SUPPLIED.

HAIRSPRAY: Lithgow's debutantes in 1965. Picture: SUPPLIED.

“Secondly, they have to take responsibility. They need to turn up to ongoing practices, rearrange social and working life.

“In today’s society every girl is looking looking at magazines, TV, social media and images that tell them how they should look and act. I think the ball encourages them to make those decisions for themselves and remind them to think about the image they present to society.”

TRADITION MAKERS: Debutantes at Lithgow's first ball in 1934. Picture: SUPPLIED.

TRADITION MAKERS: Debutantes at Lithgow's first ball in 1934. Picture: SUPPLIED.

Ms Wolfgramm grew up in Lithgow and attended the catholic ball but never made her ‘debut’. She said people in Sydney often ask about her new-found involvement in the tradition. 

“I can understand that on the surface people might see the white dresses and that there’s a certain amount of fuss. Girls spend a lot of money on the night too. But the committee hopes the girls will take something away from it. 

MATRON OF HONOUR: Bernadette Hicks when she was matron of honor in 2007. Picture: SUPPLIED.

MATRON OF HONOUR: Bernadette Hicks when she was matron of honor in 2007. Picture: SUPPLIED.

“It’s a fundraiser for the church as well and gives the town a great social event to attend.”

Bernadette Hicks, now the president of the Catholic Debutante Ball Committee says the ball also has a lot to do with family. 

“As modern and advanced everything gets, I think people still love to hold onto known traditions,” she said. 

“A lot of the girls who make the debut are local girls and their mothers made their debut, their grandmother, their aunties. That whole family tradition is very strong.

One part of the deb ball process is a luncheon put on by the committee, where each girl involved invites two women that have been significant in their life. 

“They always seem to pick mum and then a grandmother or an aunty or a really close family friend.

LUNCHEON: Debutante with Caitlyn Ferguson with her mother Rebecca Ferguson at the 2017 luncheon. Picture: HOSEA LUY.

LUNCHEON: Debutante with Caitlyn Ferguson with her mother Rebecca Ferguson at the 2017 luncheon. Picture: HOSEA LUY.

“It gives the kids a chance to say to them - you’ve been special to me.”

A speaker is also chosen to address the debutantes at the luncheon. Ms Wolfgramm has spoken twice. 

TAKING THE CAKE: Debutantes Paige McNamara and Amy Thompson cut the cake with Matron of Honour Gloria Cooper and guest of honour Terry Fitzpatrick at the 2017 ball. Picture: KIRSTY HORTON.

TAKING THE CAKE: Debutantes Paige McNamara and Amy Thompson cut the cake with Matron of Honour Gloria Cooper and guest of honour Terry Fitzpatrick at the 2017 ball. Picture: KIRSTY HORTON.

“I chose to speak about my own life and taking opportunities and seeing where they take you. I have travelled the world, and worked in different cities – its a chance to open their eyes and talk about what is in store for them in the next few years.”

Bernadette Hicks became involved with the Deb ball when her daughter, Gabrielle Hicks, debuted in 2006. The next year Ms Hicks was chosen to be the ball’s matron of honour. 

SWEET: Flower girls and page boys at the 1979 debutante ball. Picture: SUPPLIED.

SWEET: Flower girls and page boys at the 1979 debutante ball. Picture: SUPPLIED.

“I can remember on the night feeling beautiful. I felt really good about myself, not just aesthetically but being the matron of honour. It’s the job of the parish priest to select somebody, so I suppose it was a way of saying thank you for what you have done. 

Ms Hicks acknowledged that making a debut is not for everyone, but she said that she felt privileged to be involved in the process. 

“As a committee we feel really honored, because we see these girls going on a journey. We see them grow in confidence. 

“It’s not so much our decision, it’s the girls themselves choosing, and while they want to make their debut – we will do it.”

For information about making your debut in 2018 email lithgowcatholicball@gmail.com. Applications close February 9.

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