“Lectures on the 2008 Centenary of the Vote for Victorian Women”. To celebrate this event, the Victorian Women’s Trust provided an excellent evening of lectures by three prominent historians, in 2008, on re-discovering political women’s history. The lectures were attended by over 300 women of all age groups. Professor Patricia Grimshaw of Melbourne University about the first Women’s Suffrage Bill of 1889 which was called the “beginning of a major revolution in society” and finally resulted in the gaining of the vote for Victorian women in 1908, although women could vote in the Federal Parliament from 1902. Dr Jennifer Strauss, of Monash University, described the life of feminist author and poet, Mary Gilmore, who supported birth control and urged women to vote in her page in “The Worker” newspaper. Professor Marilyn Lake of La Trobe University described feminists as supporters of care and compassion and not denigrators of motherhood. She said that the world must change so that women can live independent lives as well as fulfilling their caring responsibilities, with three strategies: motherhood endowment, one woman – one job, and a restructure of the workforce to cover the needs of children and the elderly, including a shorter working week for all. Congratulations to all speakers.
“Making Women Count: A History of the Women’s Electoral Lobby in Australia“ by long-time WEL member Marian Sawer, published by UNSW Press, Sydney 2008. This story explores the effect of WEL both on politics and on the lives of women who discovered the power of sisterhood. It is the first full-scale history of WEL and draws on extensive archival, survey and media evidence. It challenges much social movement theory, showing women’s movement continuity over time. It contests a number of current myths concerning 1970s feminism, including the idea that feminists had to suppress diversity in order to constitute ‘women’ as an effective political actor. Marian Sawer is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Social Sciences, ANU, where she leads the Democratic Audit of Australia. WEL member Gail Radford was also involved in the project. Visit the WEL Australia website wel.org.au for information about ordering the book.
“Getting Equal: The History of Australian Feminism” by Marilyn Lake, Allen & Unwin, 1999. This book is the first full-length history of the women’s movements – and their feisty, ebullient, determined leaders – who fought for women’s political and economic rights, sexual rights and the right to control their bodies and their destinies. Leading historian Marilyn Lake, Professor of History at La Trobe University, challenges common misconceptions and offers new interpretations of a politics that has swung between an emphasis on women’s difference from men and a demand for the same rights as men. It is her hope that a knowledge of the complexity of the past will enable us to be more clear-sighted about what remains to be done.
“Challenging Women: Towards Equality in the Parliament of Victoria“ by Dr Madeline Grey (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2009) was launched by the Vic. Minister for Women’s Affairs, the Hon Maxine Morand MP. In 1972 Women’s Electoral Lobby politicised a new generation of feminists. One of their aims was to increase the number of women in parliament and make a difference to the culture and practice of politics. Did this happen? For the first time, the history of getting women into the Parliament of Victoria and their experiences once there is explored in this book. From the foundation of WEL to the launch of EMILY’s List, this book analyses historical sources, archival material, original in-depth interviews and primary speech material to chronicle a key twenty-five year period from 1972 to 1997, in the journey towards equality of political representation.
“The Host Behind: The Campaign for a Victorian Women’s Centre” by Barbara Cameron, 2005. In August 1986 a public meeting was held in Melbourne to protest the Government sale of a major hospital for women. This meeting resolved that the hospital must be retained and the buildings preserved. The following year a group of women staged sit-ins outside the hospital distributing leaflets and petitions to protest and stake their claim to the site. So what led to this drastic action? This book by historian Barbara Cameron takes you on a hundred-year journey that lead to the establishment of the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre. By the same author: “The Flappers and the Feminists” in Bevage, James & Shute (eds) ‘Worth Her Salt’, Hale & Iremonger, 1982, and “From Charleston to Cha-Cha: The Dancing Years of Olive Rowe” in Marilyn Lake & Farley Kelly (eds), ‘Double Time – Women in Victoria’, Penguin Books, Ringwood, 1985.
“The Lost Mother” by Anne Summers, Melbourne University Press, 2009.Anne’s mother posed for several portraits by famous Melbourne artist Constance Stokes as a child. These pictures went missing for many years and Anne Summers recounts her search for information and the second picture, revealing fascinating chronicles about the early Melbourne circle of artists and collectors. Constance Stokes could not paint while her children were young – a familiar story for women artists who were also mothers.
“My Mother, My Writing and Me” by Iola Mathews, Michelle Anderson, Melbourne, 2009. A well-written book about the struggle to write in a quiet place without distractions of family loyalties and occupations.
“Come Inside“ by G.I. Osborne has been announced as the winner of the 2011 Barbara Jefferis Award, which is offered annually for “the best novel written by an Australian author that depicts women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowersthe status of women and girls in society.
“Out of the Silence” by Wendy James is a stunning debut novel about three Australian women from very different worlds in the early 20th Century: Maggie Heffernan, a spirited country girl; Elizabeth Hamilton, a woman of extensive humanity; and Vida Goldstein, a charismatic suffragist from Melbourne and the first woman to stand for Parliament in Australia. There are some true facts about a murder interwoven with a story of the feminist movement in the days leading up to gaining the vote for Victorian women.
“Women and the Law in Australia“, edited by Professor Patricia Easteal, AM, PhD and ACT Australian of the Year 2010. This book is an important milestone in the pursuit of justice and equity. It was launched in August 2010 by the Governor-General at the Australian Women Lawyers Conference. Her Excellency also wrote the Foreword. It is available at Lexis Nexis or as an e-book. The first of its kind, the book not only highlights problems that women experience with the legal system, but acts as a hands-on resource for all people, including legal practitioners and policy-makers, providing practical advice and remedies for dealing with issues in the practice of law that are of particular importance to women. There are contributions from 30 esteemed experts with a wealth of experience and expertise drawn from legal practice, academia and government. Each author contributes a thorough and rigorous review of gender issues in their own diverse specialist areas of practice such as criminal, family, discrimination, employment, and commercial law. They identify specific examples of biases, which might lead to existing legal categories and processes being impractical, inappropriate or disadvantageous for women, especially the disabled, indigenous women, lesbians, and migrants.