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

Don’t be chivalrous, be kind

“Chivalry! – why, maiden, she is the nurse of pure and high affection – the stay of the oppressed, the redresser of grievances, the curb of the power of the tyrant – Nobility were but an empty name without her, and liberty finds the best protection in her lance and her sword” Wilfred of Ivanhoe is a Saxon knight with very high ideals. His Jewish … Continue reading Don’t be chivalrous, be kind

Moral fibre (or, heroism begins in peacetime)

In the midst of her secret wartime mission of helping British, French and Belgian soldiers escape to safety, English nurse Edith Cavell confided to her friend and fellow conspirator Louise Thuliez, “If we are arrested we shall be punished in any case, whether we have done much or little. So let us go ahead and save as many as possible of these unfortunate men.” (Souhami … Continue reading Moral fibre (or, heroism begins in peacetime)

Boudica and Jeanne d’Arc

“it is not as a woman descended from noble ancestry, but as one of the people that I am avenging lost freedom, my scourged body, the outraged chastity of my daughters…But heaven is on the side of a righteous vengeance; a legion which dared to fight has perished; the rest are hiding themselves in their camp, or are thinking anxiously of flight…If you weigh well … Continue reading Boudica and Jeanne d’Arc