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BETRAYAL Women’s Paid Work 1874-1974 a story of betrayals –
Book launch and discussion at the New International bookshop 15th August 2012.
Who says who we are as women?
2. FROM THE AUSTRALIAN WOMEN’S NATIONAL LEAGUE IN THE 1890’s TO THE WOMEN’S FORUM TODAY – TO ME THEY LIE
Who says what is in our interest?
Patriarchy; religion; industry – they use us for their own purposes.
They did in the past. They do now, in 2012.
Section A - EARLY DAYS, THE TIMES OF VIDA GOLDSTEIN
Section B – RECOVERING FROM WARS - THE TIMES OF MURIEL HEAGNEY
Section C - WOMEN’S LIBERATION, THE TIMES OF ZELDA D’APRANO
3. SINCE THEN...
I (Geraldine) have prepared a 10 minute talk, then I will pass over to Christine. A couple of points:
a. We are here because the betrayals don’t work in the end. I think feminists are like mushrooms. We are cut down, we are stomped on, but then, when no-one is looking, another one or few of us apparently magically appear somewhere else, when you don’t expect it, saying ‘this isn’t fair’.
You may find the quotes in BETRAYAL confirm that.
b. Access to economic independence through paid work, fertility control and childcare are feminist demands that are constant over time.
You may find the quotes in BETRAYAL confirm that, too.
When I asked in the introduction ‘why wasn’t I told?’ I already knew we had something amazing and marvellous with the women’s movement. I knew it was good for everyone, not just women.
I also knew that whatever we do, there is a reaction.
This is a quote from the early part of the 100 or so quotes in BETRAYAL, no.6:
'Mr Frank Madden MP (Assembly 1895) pontificated ‘Woman suffrage would abolish soldiers and war, also racing, hunting, football, cricket and all such manly games. We may depend upon it that a compulsory 8 hours Bill would be at once taken up, and with it a minimum rate of wage made law ... Women suffragists are the worst class of socialists.'
Not surprisingly, I put this under the heading ‘betrayal’.
I found it in The Australian Women’s Sphere. They had put it under the heading ‘The Anti’s’
But what I didn’t know – I did in my head, but not my heart – I didn’t know the power, degree and nearly bloody persistence of reactionary women’s groups. I didn’t understand the deviousness of some of their betrayals and I didn’t see the thread that carried through time.
It looks as if they can be like mushrooms, too.
Because this particular story uses some documentation that is not in BETRAYAL, I will tell it this evening. I’ll put it on Women’s Web so you can follow up the sources etc and so you don’t have to worry about the details now.
I hope you like it. I am not an historian, by the way.
2. FROM THE AUSTRALIAN WOMEN’S NATIONAL LEAGUE IN THE 1890’s TO THE WOMEN’S FORUM TODAY – TO ME THEY LIE
They call themselves conservative but they are not just conservative, they are reactionary. They are set up to destroy us. Breweries and the Bible, Industry and Religion, are not supposed to be on the same side at all. It seems they are when the women’s movement is involved, though.
This story starts with brewers in Melbourne in the 19th century.
In 2007 Judy Maddigan said that the anti-suffragists argued 'suffrage would cause women to become men; upset Brewery interests and the Bible.'
The argument goes something like this:
1. The brewers were concerned the women’s movement would close them down if it could. They got together with their mates and formed the Victorian Employers’ Association.
2. The Victorian Employers’ Association formed a women’s branch to be a voice piece for them - the Australian Women's National League, the (AWNL).
These excerpts from quotes are from quote no.9 in:
3. Section 3, EARLY DAYS, THE TIMES OF VIDA GOLDSTEIN
'On 10 March 1904, at a meeting called by the Victorian Employers' Federation at the Melbourne Town Hall, and attended by forty ladies, the AWNL was formally launched… (It was) never feminist ... and hostile to the (feminist) Women's Political Association ... (it) considered it immoral. The hostility was mutual...
The first object of the Australian Women’s National League (AWNL) was, not surprisingly, "Loyalty to the Throne".'
The AWNL, you won’t be surprised to hear, openly and wholeheartedly supported the First World War. I have a quote I took from Women Working Together, suffrage and onwards that describes their position:
'Australians ought to go down on their marrow bones every day of their lives and say, "Thank God men go to war - the war doesn't come to us'.
As an aside, some of the most powerful language in Women Working Together suffrage and onwards is about women’s opposition to the war and their opposition to the Versailles Treaty, a treaty they saw as yet another betrayal.
This quote is no.42 in BETRAYAL– Peace has come. 'Let those who can still deceive themselves celebrate it. It is unspeakable, what there is of it. We have saved the world from the Germans. Heaven send someone to save the world from us…'
Vida once said that ‘we are not a gelatinous people…’ The stories these quotes tell certainly confirm that!
Anyway, back to our story.
In quote.22 (Vida Goldstein) responded indignantly to the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Daniel Mannix, who had criticised women for the declining birth-rate.
Although she had been addressing the issue since 1901, the war heightened her passionate defence of women's right to choose not to have children.
"Women are not going to be made breeding machines for the god of war ... for women will increasingly refuse to give life that men may take it ..." she said.
Dr Mannix led an anti-conscription campaign as the feminists did, yet he also opposed the women’s movement. When feminist claims to fertility control and to economic independence are involved the Breweries and the Bible, industry and religion, are as one.
4. Section B – RECOVERING FROM WARS - THE TIMES OF MURIEL HEAGNEY
In the 1930’s Dr Mannix strongly supported B.A. Santamaria to form Catholic Action.
Muriel Heagney wrote a paper called ‘Santamarianism versus Industrial Democracy’. It isn’t in BETRAYAL but it is in Women Working Together, suffrage and onwards www.womenworkingtogether.com.au.
It says ‘the National Secretariat of Catholic Action was set up in Melbourne with Mr B A Santamaria, as National Director, in all States.'
Are you still with me? We have gone from the secular brewers to the Employers’ Federation to the mainly protestant Australian Women’s National League to the Catholic Archbishop Mannix to Catholic Action and in 1954, Santamaria founded a new organisation, the National Civic Council.
In the ‘70’s women from Women’s Action Alliance were trained through National Civic Council courses.
But I am ahead of myself. We now move to the last section:
5. Section 3, WOMEN’S LIBERATION, THE TIMES OF ZELDA D’APRANO
Zelda is with us here today – would you put your hand up so we can see you, please Zelda?
Our story continues. In the early 70’s the Women’s Bureau of the National Civic Council was formed by Catholic Action.
It was called the Women’s Action Alliance, which (in its turn) established a group called ‘Moderate Feminists’ at Melbourne University. According to the documentation we have available it was neither moderate nor feminist.
I took this from Women’s Web stories actions, the Anti-Feminist page:
'(Women's Action Alliance) is an insidious arm of a semi-secret organisation whose full-time members have managed to hinder and wreck work done in vast areas of progressive women's liberation activities.
It has tremendous reception in the press (particularly the Women's Weekly) ... it has managed to create 'controversy' and divisions over 'educational and moral issues'.
Through clever manipulation of feminist terms, aims and principles, it has worked to co-opt the (women's liberation) movement, recruiting large numbers of women. This is vital to their success.' www.womenworkingtogether.com.au Scarlet Women's Collective
And No. 94 in BETRAYAL states: ‘It is essential for feminists to examine closely and examine the distortions of Women’s Action Alliance letters, articles and actions. They are NOT operating in our interest.’
That was in the late ‘70’s.
6. SINCE THEN,
Rosemarie Gillespie – later known as Waratah Gillespie - leaked the infamous 1978 Women’s Action Alliance Report to the National Civic Council to Women’s Liberation. She did it at personal, career and economic cost to herself which has never been acknowledged as far as I know.
The selection I have put in Appendix 4 of BETRAYAL exposes a process that has been going on for over 100 years - from the Victorian Employers’ Association to the Australian Women’s National League to Dr Mannix to Catholic Action to the National Civic Council to the Women’s Action Alliance to the so-called Moderate Feminists.
And things don’t stop there. We can trace a thread from where BETRAYAL ends in 1975 through Senator Harradine to the present so-called ‘pro-life’ groups such as the Women’s Forum today.
That is my story. Where does that leave us today?
Edith Morgan was the inspiration for Women’s Web stories actions. She said in her interview in 2002 "I have a strong belief that unless you look politically at what you are doing, and understand the power structures, you are not going to get anywhere, really."
Power structures do matter.
I finish this talk with two current examples:
a. Recently I heard that groups that have no feminist agenda, in fact that represent industry and religion, were interested in picking up the feminist women’s refuge that Elida Radig and others have been running for the last 30 years and has recently closed.
Some of these groups tried to take it over when they heard it was closing. Elida is here tonight. Would you raise your hand so we can see you, please?
Elida is also an organiser of the Melbourne Feminism Sisterhood Meetup. http://www.meetup.com/Melbourne-Feminists-and-Women-Liberationists/events/66746012
b. I recently attended the Free University where the subject was pornography. There were anti-porn feminists at loggerheads with pro-porn feminists. It got to me. All I could see was a modern version of the Breweries and the Bible – Industry and Religion. I thought ‘why should we let either define us?’
I remembered that in 1979 women in Iran were faced with the choice of being defined by the Shah or Ayattolah Khomeini – industry and religion. ‘In the midst of freedom there is no freedom’ they chanted.
If tens of thousands of Iranian women had the courage to refuse this false choice then, we can and will here and now, surely.* Is feminism something off the supermarket shelf you can pick and choose a bit of, a brand of this bit here and another brand of another bit there?
I think we can respond to this with a quote in BETRAYAL from Zelda. I end with quote no. 74, where Zelda said:
'I now knew that the personal is political, and all human suffering, whether it be at work, in the home, in human relationships or through lack of money can only be tackled in totality.'
And the evidence shows we are like mushrooms too.
I can’t think of a better example of magically appearing somewhere else when you don’t expect it than what Christine Gordon is involved in at the moment http://thestellaprize.com.au/, so I will pass over to her.
*I took this from Sisterhood is Global ed. Robin Morgan 1984,
Iran: p.332 ‘In 1978 massive anti-Shah demonstrations broke out and escalated until Jan. 1979, when the Shah and his family went into exile. In Mar. 1979, 100,000 women gathered at the University of Tehran to celebrate the Shah’s fall. A few days later, these women were protesting the fundamentalist policies of the new leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini.
“In the dawn of freedom, there is no freedom” was the slogan shouted by 6,000 women in a Teheran march on Mar. 8; 2 days later, 15,000 women seized the Palace of Justice, demanding their rights. Women’s marches in major Iranian cities were the target of attacks and stoning by male onlookers, but support demonstrations were held by feminists in cities all over the world.’
p.xvi and xvii Prefatory Note and Methodology
The Statistical Prefaces – these introductory sections to each contributor’s article (Mahnaz Afkhami in the article from Iran*) are intended to perform two vital functions:
1.to free the contributor from having to explain basic facts…
2.to be of use to scholars…women scholars (and some male scholars of conscience) have persisted nonetheless in their research on the more than half the human species which is female. They are doing so more and more in independent research, and sometimes with the beginning of academic or governmental support for their original contribution. Many of the Contributors to Sisterhood is Global are among these scholars…
Each Statistical Preface was put through a crucible of care…
After a country was assigned to a particular researcher, she immersed herself in various sources… she drafted the statistical preface. It then went through… five stages of fact checking, source evaluation, copy editing and styling and my final rewriting/editing… it was then sent to that country’s Contributor for her critique.