Mary Bennett’s fight for women’s rights

“No department in the world can take the place of a child’s mother.” Mary Montgomerie Bennett’s vocal agitation in the early 1930s regarding the mistreatment and abuse of Indigenous women and children in Western Australia became the catalyst for a Royal Commission. Perth magistrate H.D. Moseley was instructed to investigate the treatment and administration of Aboriginal people in Western Australia. Bennett’s main concerns were what … Continue reading Mary Bennett’s fight for women’s rights

Enlightened women of the Dark Ages

Partly due to the passage of time, the Middle Ages tends to be generally viewed as a foggy mixture of mud, crusades, plague and feudalism. Protestants tend not to take much notice of this era, skipping from the early church straight to the Reformation. Medieval history tends to be quite Eurocentric, and was idealised by the Victorians who liked the concept of chivalry because they … Continue reading Enlightened women of the Dark Ages

How bluestockings can change the world

Writing in last weekend’s Australian, Bettina Arndt who is best known as a sex therapist, expressed concern that many of the women who comprise around 60% of Australian university graduates are emerging from their studies as “fully fledged social justice warriors.” She is particularly worried that it is mostly women who are taking arts courses, particularly gender studies, which is indoctrinating them with left wing … Continue reading How bluestockings can change the world

I’m no lady: May Holman MLA and other women in public life

May Holman (1893-1939) was Australia’s first female Labor parliamentarian, winning the WA state seat of Forrest in 1925 and holding it through the next four elections. After Edith Cowan, she was the second woman in Australia to be elected to parliament. Since her constituents were mostly timber workers, she worked to improve their conditions and helped introduce the Timber Industries Regulation Act 1926. “Surely it … Continue reading I’m no lady: May Holman MLA and other women in public life

Birthing on country: Indigenous midwifery and the Mt Margaret Mission

Giving birth was strictly women’s business in Indigenous communities – in some areas the woman in labour would lean against a ‘birthing tree’, in other places she would squat over a hollow in the earth lined with soft grass. Other women in attendance assisted with such pain relief as they are able, such as pouring cold water on the abdomen. When the child was born, … Continue reading Birthing on country: Indigenous midwifery and the Mt Margaret Mission

10 reasons why Come in Spinner is a fantastically feminist novel

Written by Dymphna Cusack and Florence James for a Daily Telegraph novel competition in 1946, Come in Spinner so accurately portrayed the profiteering, black market trading and upper class hypocrisy that the Telegraph was wary of printing it even though it was the winning entry. Cusack and James retrieved their manuscript and an expurgated version was published in London in 1951 to great acclaim. Cusack … Continue reading 10 reasons why Come in Spinner is a fantastically feminist novel

Job of journey work: Magdalene laundries in Canada and Australia

“Come in, dear – you are not to be telling anybody what you have done. It’s nothing to be proud of, you know.” [Mother Rita’s] pencil thin lips signal how silent we are expected to be. The message is clear, you have a shocking past, sinful child, don’t be telling the other girls about your filthy history. What have I done? There is no sympathy … Continue reading Job of journey work: Magdalene laundries in Canada and Australia

The complexities of commemoration

In 2016, the Australia-Japan Community Network lodged a racial discrimination case against Ashfield Uniting Church, because they were displaying a statue of a Korean woman, designed to honour the sex slaves (known as “comfort women”*) of the Imperial Japanese army during World War 2. The statue was originally intended for Croydon Park, but Strathfield Council decided not to have it installed. Many women, mostly Korean … Continue reading The complexities of commemoration

Beguines: ‘Fake women’ of the Middle Ages

Now has Divine Light delivered me from captivity, and joined me by gentility to the divine will of Love, there where the Trinity gives me the delight of His love. This gift no human understands, As long as he serves any Virtue whatever, or any feeling from nature, through practice of reason – Marguerite Porete* In the year 1308, a Frenchwoman known as Marguerite Porete … Continue reading Beguines: ‘Fake women’ of the Middle Ages

Etty Hillesum – a thinking heart

The transformed speaks only to relinquishers. All holders-on are stranglers. (Rainer Maria Rilke) In April 1942, a Jewish man in Amsterdam cycled down Beethovenstraat wearing a yellow star. This was not unusual, but this particular man was observed with surprise and pleasure by fellow Jew Etty Hillesum, who recorded in her diary that “he was wearing a huge golden star…he was a procession and a … Continue reading Etty Hillesum – a thinking heart