WOMAN SLAYS VAMPIRE vs READER, SHE MARRIED HIM … Buffy the Vampire Slayer vs Twilight

 - by whnadmin


The contrast between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight could not be greater. In character and character development, as well as plot, Buffy eclipses the anodyne Twilight series. Buffy is a character in her own right, a woman who, albeit a student still, knows her own mind, acts independently, and leads her team. Even when she consults with her teacher – the school principal, a man ‘in charge’ of the educational institution where Buffy meets and matches the vampires she slays, she consults with him on a basis of equality. He may advise and mentor, but on Buffy’s terms and on Buffy’s ground. She seeks when she chooses to seek information. She assesses and assimilates where she makes the decision that the information imparted is ‘right’. It is no surprise that followers of Buffy included women who took on powerful roles in the polity – at least one, the former Senator Natasha Stott Despoja -  going on to lead her political party (the Australian Democrats – AD).




Sadly, it is difficult to imagine any of Twilight’s adherents being propelled into independent action, much less political leadership. Publicity for the books, now film series, stays true to the idea of woman-as-server, woman-as-marriage-material, woman-as-secondary-to-leader (and leading) man. Film advertisements show Bella as secondary to Edward – his junior in height as well as intellect (although attributing to one or the other this capacity overstates the fictional reality). Edward invariably looms, Bella invariably succumbs, diminished, supplicant, seeking his protection, his strength to her weakness: after all, she is but a ‘girl’.


Buffy played on US and global television screens from 1997 to 2003. Twilight came shortly after, first as a series of novels, then a series of full-length feature films. Publication of the novels upon which the films are based commenced with the first volume, Twilight, in 2005 with the films released in 2008, 2009, 2010, climaxing in the final two full-length features manufactured from the fourth novel – these films being released in 2011 and 2012.

Comparing and contrasting these two popular series – one playing on television (with one feature length film in 2002), the other screening in multiplex cinemas throughout the Western world at least, provides insights into the struggle between popular media creating and promoting strong, independent women characters, and providing viewers (and readers) with submissive, male and marriage dependent ciphers.



Though Buffy as the leading character in the series bearing her name was played by a slim, blonde beauty, this did not detract from her obvious vigour, ‘fight’ capacity and generally powerful demeanour. The ‘main’ female character in Twilight (no leader nor leading character, she)displays none of this: droopy, pale, bedraggled of hair, her expressions (when they appear) confined to soupy looks directed at the principal male character and, at times, at his rival, it is impossible to see her acting independently, much less playing the major role. Buffy exists as a woman who can act on her own, albeit leading a committed team. Isabella (Bella) Swan’s existence is entirely framed on her relationships with the male characters. When Buffy interacts with male characters, it is as an equal – even where one major male character is far older and in an authority position.





How is it that in less than twenty short years, popular media went from Buffy, powerful, strong, committed and a leader, the main character in her own television series, with the task of destroying the vampire, whilst pale, wan, characterless Bella marries him? Even the titles of these popular vehicles indicate the heights from which a woman can fall – Buffy, the Slayer, to Bella, the housewife … ‘Twilight’ is too aptly named, indeed.

Jocelynne A. Scutt (c) October 2014

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19th Century Women – Possessions, Photographs, Posters & Postcards …

 - by whnadmin



The University of Wisconsin-Madison, has launched an important collection of 19th and early 20th century women’s everyday possessions. Situated online through the University Library, the Dovie Horvitz Collection of objects and printed works came  into being through the dedicated work of Illinois-based collector Dovie Horvitz. Women’s Studies Librarian Emerita Phyllis Holman Weisbard writes that the collection ‘comprises photographs of women’s everyday possessions, as well as numerous digitized texts (magazines, books, postcards, posters and more)’. Dovie Horvitz ‘hopes to find an institutional home for the entire collection some day’ and, adds Phyllis Holman, ‘perhaps the presence of the photographs and digitized works will spark that interest’.

As Phyllis Holman Weisbard reports:

Objects in the collection include clothing (dresses, hosiery, bustles, garters, swimwear, undergarments, aprons, and more), accessories such as shoes and boots, hats, gloves, purses, fans, handkerchiefs, furs, and parasols; menstrual and other health products; cosmetic and grooming its, powders, and related make-up items; dresser sets (combs and brushes); curling irons and other hair care devices; perfumes; boudoir pillow covers; eye glasses; and exercise equipment. The printed matter includes numerous women’s magazines, Sunday supplement illustrations, sheet music about women, suffrage postcards, World War I and II posters, photographs of teen parties, and pamphlets about sex, health, and menstruation. Page after page of ad-filled women’s magazines, as well as pckaging elements such as hairnet envelopes, hosiery, handkerchief and hat boxes, constitute an important part of the collection …


The majority of items are American in origin. However, some come from elsewhere, with a set of suffrage postcards from the United Kingdom and several other items from France, Germany or the United Kingdom.  This should not be surprising, because the 19th century saw women travelling all over the world in pursuit of sisterhood and Women’s Movements ideals. US journalist Jessie Ackerman visited Australia so often that she has been labelled a major force in the Australian women’s struggle for the vote. As WCTU world representative, she spent three months in South Australia having travelled via Aotearoa/New Zealand. The following year she returned to Australia, building on her earlier work in supporting the antipodean arms of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and in 1891 becoming inaugural president of the federated Australasian WCTU – at the time ‘Austalia’s largest women’s reform group’. In 1893 she was back in Australia, then was off to Europe, living in London and returning to Australia in May 1907 as world president of an Anglican organisation, the Girl’s Realm Guild of Service. In 1910 she returned to work in Western Australia for the Australian Women’s National League as a political organiser. In 1913 her book ‘Australia From a Woman’s Point of View’ was published. As Ian Tyrell in the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry on Jessie Ackerman says:

… record[ing] her forthright impressions of her Australian W.C.T.U. work and travels, and … a significant commentary on the position of women in Australia in the early twentieth century. By the time she moved to Johnson City, Tennessee, in the 1920s she claimed she had circumnavigated the globe eight times.

Returning to the Dovie Horvitz Collection, for information and ease of reference, each object comes with a description and metadata. Phyllis Holman notes that as far as possible, LCSH (Library of Congress Subject Headings) and AAT (Art & Archicture Thesaurus Online) have been used for descriptors, however:

… some of the objects had no obvious heading in either system. That says something about women’s things …

Phyllis Holman concludes that the Collection:

… seems of most immediate interest to women’s history classes, but American literature, communication arts (especially marketing), medical history, design, and other fields should also find it useful …

And, as she says: ‘It is also simply a pleasure to browse!’

DOVIEHORPhyllis Holman Weisbard TZdh0087l-300x190


Compiled by Jocelynne A. Scutt from material provided

by Phyllis Holman and Dovie Horvitz (c) October 2014

Note: The fully searchable and browsable online collection homepage is at  http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/GenderStudies.DovieHorvitz

An article about the collection is at


Phyllis Holman Weisbard, Women’s Studies Librarian Emerita, phweisba@wisc.edu<mailto:phweisba@wisc.edu>




Blair’s Snow White bleaching cream 2010.29.3b

From the Dovie Horvitz Collection / UW Digital Collections


Bum pad, ca. 1877
2010.1.2 From the Dovie Horvitz Collection / UW Digital Collections


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Herstory – Women’s Liberation Halfway House

 - by whnadmin


In 1974, a group of women formed the Women’s Liberation Halfway House (WLHH) in Victoria to provide support and accommodation for women and accompanying children fleeing from domestic and family violence. Forty years on, the need for high security refuge services like WLHH has not diminished and, with the incidence of domestic and family violence rising by 400 per cent in Victoria over the last ten years (Bucci 2013), the need is only increasing.  Yet in the context of the increasing corporatisation and privatisation of NGOs, small, feminist-based organisations such as ours are under threat.  Our precarious position has been recently highlighted with the merging of our sister organisation, Elsie’s Women’s Refuge, in Sydney with the Catholic St Vincent de Paul (Summers 2014). In this context, The Board of Management of WLHH has begun writing a herstory of our small organisation. The purpose of this project is twofold: to mark our forty-year anniversary; and to map the distinct and important role WLHH has carved for itself in the sector.  We hope this herstory will raise public awareness of our organisation and the importance of feminist analysis and organisational principles in the ongoing struggle to combat and deal with the effects of domestic and family violence.


Victorian Police Commissioner Ken Lay has recently condemned the State’s figures on domestic violence—predicted to be a whopping 60,000 in 2012-3—as ‘insidious. It reaches across all of our data, and we’ve still got a way to go’ (Bucci 2013). Australia’s first female Governor General, Quentin Bryce, similarly drew attention to the global rise in violence against women in her second Boyer Lecture (ABC Radio, 10/11/2013), linking this to the ‘reality … that women do not have nor are they acknowledged as having, equality of power and rights with men’.

Issues of gendered power, first raised by feminists in the 1960s and ‘70s are still at the core of domestic and family violence. WLHH is now the longest continuously run feminist refuge in Victoria that has resisted amalgamation, either with large charities or within the DV sector, giving it a critical role in the ongoing struggle to run feminist services managed by and for women. But very few Victorians know of our existence or of the obstacles that face our organisation.


The major issue currently facing WLHH is fighting for our own survival in the face of government attempts to reform the homelessness sector. In Victoria, services like ours are funded under the gender-neutral category of ‘Homelessness’. There is no sector funding specific to the women and children who seek protection from domestic and family violence.  Inadequately classed as ‘homeless’, funding is given only to provide services to women, with services expected to stretch costs to cover their dependent children.  Tony Nicholson, executive director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, has described current sector reform efforts, based on the review by former Howard government bureaucrat Peter Shergold, as follows: ‘[T]he changes could result in some voluntary organisation and charities merging into large businesses and becoming mere “extensions of government” with many smaller groups “sidelined and left to whither”’ (Tomazin 2014). Opposite spokeswoman Jenny Mikalos similarly warns: ‘Under the Liberals, service sector reform has become code for commercialisation of our NGOs, and privatisation of government services’ (Tomazin 2014).


In a climate where the government is bent on following their business-oriented ideology and refuses to see the value in small feminist domestic/family violence organisations, recovering the history of Victoria’s first and longest-running refuge is incredibly important. In taking on this project, the small group of women who volunteer our services to the Board of Management are following in the footsteps of the original members, who documented the first four years of WLHH in a similar project in 1978. Luckily these women and their successors had the foresight to collect together records of their work and preserve them in the archives of Melbourne University. Although much of this archive is embargoed until 2070, the current Board has generously been granted access. Archival research will be supplemented with interviews from the women who have used and ran our service and secondary material, including Jacqui Theobald’s dissertation on the beginnings of refuge services in Victoria (Theobald 2011).  This is a large project—to begin with there are one hundred boxes of archival material in need of thorough investigation, issues of how to treat material that is embargoed, and the ongoing issues of safety for women who give their permission to be identified in our history.


Our story will highlight the difficulties that continue to face women and children who need to utilise WLHH to protect and improve their lives as well as the women who run the service. Women and children have the right to safety and freedom from violence.  WLHH is a small but crucial element in this core feminist project.


We thought the WHN would be interested in our project, but we also welcome any offers of assistance—in terms of publicity, funding or research work. Please contact us on 1800 811 565   or by email kathy@wlhh.org.au for any enquiries.

WLHH (c) October 2014



Nino Bucci (2013), ‘Domestic Violence Drives State Crime Rate Higher Victoria Police Say’, The Age, 28 August.

Anne Summers (2014), ‘Prue Goward’s Tender Touch Brushes Women Aside”, Sydney Morning Herald, June 26.

Jacqui Theobald (2011) A History of the Victorian Women’s Domestic Violence Services Movement 1974 – 2005 (PhD, RMIT)

Farah Tomazin (2014), ‘Fears Charities Are Doomed’, The Age, 25 May.

Women’s Liberation Halfway House Herstory/history Project

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Women as Renegades – Fighting for Peace during War

 - by whnadmin



The split in the Women’s Movement occurring in the United Kingdom over engagement in war was replicated in other parts of the British Empire. When the 1914-1918 war broke out, Emmeline Pankhurst’s rhetoric and actions in unreservedly ‘voting’ to supporting the war and the war effort met with approval and disapproval not only in Britain. The WSPU’s approach in putting women’s rights to one side was complied with or renounced by women in Canada, Aotearoa/New Zealand and Australia.


In Australia, where women had fought for and long since gained the vote, Vida Goldstein led the Women’s Peace Army, attracting to its ranks Adele Pankhurst and activist women who were joined in political struggle. They spoke out strongly against war, for peace, and for men to exercise their right of conscientious objection. They lobbied against proposals for compulsory enlistment, demonstrating, collecting signatures and presenting petitions. They demonstrated against the export of bread for troops in Europe, arguing that wheat shortages led to rising bread prices, so taking this staple out of the reach of the ordinary people, particularly the working class.



 Goldstein and her confreres were assailed by the Prime Minister and government ministers, state and federal, who saw their actions and words as treasonous. State police were admonished to utilise federal laws against demonstrators, with women (Adele Pankhurst, Jennie Baines and Alice Suter) being the first to be charged under these regulations. When state police did not comply with the wish of federal authorities, a federal police force was created. Secret police followed the women and documented their activities in records now held in Australian archives.


The challenge women made to the establishment in rejecting the call to support the war is an area rich in history. It confirms that exploration of the reasons for women to take a stand that put them at odds not only with government but with women who sided with the war effort is esential for undertanding women’s activism during wartime. That women were a particular target of repression indicates the fear held by the establishment of women as renegades.


 Jocelynne A. Scutt )c) June 2014



This is an extract fro mthe paper presented by Dr Jocelynne A. Scutt to the 2014 Women’s History Network Annual Conference at Worcester University, 5-7 September 2014

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Can We Talk? Gossip in American History and Culture

 - by whnadmin

KFwhen private talk cover

Rumor, hearsay, tittle-tattle, scuttlebutt, scandal, dirt. From mid-to-late 1600s colonial Virginia churchyards and New England courthouses to the early-twentieth-first-century blogosphere—and in many places and times in between—gossip has been called many things. It is one of the most common—and often condemned or dismissed—forms of communication.  Religious injunctions against gossip appear in Christian, Jewish, and Islamic texts.  The long association of gossip and women has strengthened such largely negative connotations.  Indeed, the late comedian, performer, entrepreneur Joan Rivers built a long, tumultuous, and ultimately wildly successful career on the persona of the simultaneously formidable and frivolous female gossip, whether she was doing a stand-up routine, exchanging barbs with Johnny Carson, or later hosting the popular and influential Fashion Police.   

Obit Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers

Gossip’s contradictory status as both frivolous and formidable has led some scholars to ask why, including in our new, edited collection When Private Talk Goes Public: Gossip in American History.  Those of us who study gossip want to reassess and redeem it as a common cultural practice: as noun, verb, adjective, and adverb.  And to underscore the relevance and legitimacy of gossip as evidence for understanding the world—past and present.  When Private Talk Goes Public provides a much-needed and systematic historical overview, identifying significant continuities as well as changes in the definition, form, and function of gossip in America over the last four centuries.  While history is our focus, our contributors come from and use the tools from a range of disciplines: history, women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, visual and media studies, cultural studies, mass communications and journalism, American Studies, law.

Gossip as a word originated around the twelfth century in Old English as a noun, “god-sibb,” meaning a godparent or other intimate at a christening.  The word evolved, taking on the broader, more secular meaning of close friend or neighbor.  By the 1600s, however, a new, gender-specific definition had emerged: a woman assisting at childbirth.  This transformation in meaning was driven by the rise of separate spheres: i.e., the identification of the public, political sphere with men and the private, domestic sphere with women in Anglo-American society.  Popular understandings of gossip continue this negative association with women’s talk, even though scholars have long since disproved this pejorative and gendered association.

Here’s how we are broadly defining gossip across this volume: information—more often about other people and things, but sometimes about the self—that might be positive or negative, accurate or not, which can be distributed in many ways: via face-to-face talk in the bedroom, backyard, churchyard, courtroom, embassies; via print culture; via the modern mass media.  The in-person exchanges that predominated in the colonial period persist even as mass-media platforms have proliferated over the last century.  Mass-media dissemination has highlighted a central function of gossip as a promotional tool in a market exchange—selling a media product, securing a job, defining a brand.  As a result, modern gossip purveyors have been greatly empowered and enriched—we need look no further than the multi-million dollar estate and cultural influence amassed by Rivers rooted in her embrace of the female gossip persona.

In When Private Talk Goes Public, we take gossip seriously for the cultural, political, social, and economic work it performs.  Gossip can provide personal enlightenment, pleasure, and pain; it can serve as a tool of the powerful, the disenfranchised and everyone in between.  Gossip can celebrate or condemn; it can include or exclude; it can build or undermine community.  From the New England witchcraft crisis to colonial and antebellum political and racial discourse to the Cold War lavender scare to modern diplomatic, legal, celebrity, media, and digital cultures, our authors explore the meaning and significance of gossip exchanges in shaping American political, cultural, social, and economic life.  When private talk goes public, the results can be history making.


Kathleen A. Feeley (c) September 2014


Kathleen A. Feeley is department chair and associate professor of history, University of Redlands, USA.  She is the author of Mary Pickford (forthcoming from Westview Press).

Jennifer Frost is associate professor of history, University of Auckland, New Zealand.  She is the author of Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood: Celebrity Gossip and American Conservatism (2011) and “An Interracial Movement of the Poor”: Community Organizing and the New Left in the 1960s (2001).





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Reading as Life Line: A Literary Mother from 11th Century Japan

 - by whnadmin

“For we think back through our mothers, if we are women,” wrote Virginia Woolf  in A Room of One’s Own, the book in which she reflected on women as writers and pondered the scarcity of women’s writing in world literary history, and therefore the paucity of mothers for women to “think back through.” I was deeply influenced by this comment of Woolf’s when I first read it.  I am a scholar of Japanese classical literature.  An engagement with feminist criticism that began with reading Woolf stimulated me to devote my energies to making the literary works of the women of the mid-Heian period 900 to 1100 CE better known, primarily through translation. After all, this is one of the most remarkable eras for women’s literary production in pre-modern history, and the authors are potential “mothers” for us all.

The extant body of texts includes five major autobiographical works, the now world-renowned novel The Tale of Genji, and reams of poetry.  That so much writing by women before the advent of print culture has been preserved is the first miracle. Moreover, this is a body of texts that was never completely marginalized.  The Tale of Genji, in particular, had an extraordinary reception in every age, until it has come in the modern era to occupy a place of importance in Japanese literary history roughly equivalent to the position of Shakespeare’s corpus in English literary history.

whn bog tale ofuntitled


whnblog tale of guntitled



My most recent contribution to the project of making womens’ texts of this era more accessible has been to collaborate with a Japanese scholar It? Moriyuki to produce a new translation and study of the Sarashina Diary  (Columbia University Press, July, 2014). The author of the Sarashina Diary, Takasue no Musume (1008 -?) gives an autobiographical account of her life from the age of twelve to her late fifties. Rather than dated entries giving synopses of events, her account of her life focuses on heightened moments of consciousness that are often crystallized in a poem. She portrays herself as a passionate reader of fiction, particularly of The Tale of Genji.  In fact, her work is a testimony to the enthrallment that The Tale of Genji cast over its first generation of readers. On the surface, the Sarashina Diary author spins a narrative line lamenting her addiction to romantic fiction and the fantasies it generates; she reveals that she worries that she has wasted her life on illusions instead of being more assiduous about religious devotion.  Yet, the lyrical passages which predominate in her text tell another opposite and deeper truth, that to be able to read and write, to bring the magic of imaginative language to bear on the unavoidable suffering of life is as much a consolation as religious faith itself.

This is a subtle work produced for subtle readers, which gives it a curiously contemporary aspect. The author identifies herself primarily as reader and writer rather than wife or mother and this too makes her seem somewhat “modern.” Certainly in this respect, Virginia Woolf would have found the author congenial. The diary also contains a number of exchanges with the author’s working colleagues at court, for she did serve at court in her early middle age, even after marrying.  The tone of the communications range from bantering to melancholy nostalgia, and while the fact that they are all centered around the exchange of poems distances them from our world, they remain fascinating windows into the social dynamics of fellow women workers a thousand years ago.

Sonja Arntzen (c) September 2014

Should this brief description intrigue anyone reading this blog, I recommend the Columbia University Press website for further information.


At the risk of blatant advertisement, I should also add that the press is currently offering a 30% discount on orders from their website with the use of the promo code “SARSUG”

whn blog jaanese womenimages

 whn blog imageuntitled

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Remembering Naomi Jacob (1884-1964)

 - by whnadmin



  August 27th 2014 is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the prolific author Naomi Jacob. Although her books were widely-read during her lifetime they have been somewhat neglected in more recent years. With the first digital editions of her Gollantz Saga being published to commemorate this anniversary, now seems a fitting time to revisit Jacob’s life and work.

Naomi Jacob was born in Ripon, Yorkshire. Her family were well-established in the town – her maternal grandfather was twice the mayor of Ripon, while her father was the headmaster of what is now Ripon Grammar School. Her mother’s family had a centuries old association with the area, whereas her father was a German Jew. This dual heritage was to be a great influence on her writing throughout her career. Many of Jacob’s books celebrate the Yorkshire people and landscape, but she also wrote about anti-Semitism, particularly in her seven novel series about the Gollantz family.



Jacob had a comfortable upbringing, but the family’s fortunes changed when her parents separated. At fourteen, she moved to a deprived part of Middlesbrough to become a student teacher. It is around this time that she contracted TB, which affected her health for the rest of her life.

At eighteen, Jacob began to visit music halls in Leeds. By going to the Stage Door she met the actress and singer Marguerite Broadfoote, and became both her secretary and her lover. Jacob loved the theatre world, and mixed with the big names of the day, including the Du Mauriers, Henry Irving, Sarah Bernhardt and Marie Lloyd. In time, Jacob herself became a character actress, and had a successful career in the West End and in touring productions. Most notably, she played opposite John Geilgud in the Edgar Wallace play The Ringer. Shortly after Marie Lloyd’s death, Jacob wrote the star’s first official biography. A friend at the time commented on the book: “[Naomi Jacob] doesn’t let facts get in the way of the truth.”

Jacob also had a great interest in politics. She campaigned for women’s suffrage, and in 1912 joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). She also stood, unsuccessfully, as a Labour PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) in East Ham, London.

In 1925, Jacob published her first novel, Jacob Usher, which she described as a “very free adaptation of the play Birds of a Feather by H.V. Esmond”. The book became a bestseller, and so began a writing career that was to last the next almost forty years.

Jacob appeared for the defence in the 1928 obscenity trial of Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. She developed a life-long friendship with Hall and her partner Una Troubridge. However, Jacob never broached the subject of lesbianism in her own work, in either her fiction or non-fiction.



A worsening of her TB prompted Jacob to move to Italy in 1930. She took a villa in Sirmione on Lake Garda in Italy. It was called “Casa Mickie”, Mickie being the name Jacob was known as to family and friends.

Although she was brought up in the Church of England, Jacob converted to Roman Catholicism at around the age of eighteen. But she remained proud of her Jewish heritage. This is most clearly demonstrated in The Gollantz Saga, which she began writing just before the Nazis swept to power in Germany. Beginning in early nineteenth century Vienna, it follow several generations of a Jewish family, as the head of the house establishes a business and life in England, moving among the British upper classes. The series is an engaging and warm exploration of family ties and rivalries, and the principles of honour and loyalty.

In 1935 Jacob was awarded the Eichelberger International Humane Award, for her novel Honour Come Back. Initially delighted, she was moved to reject the award on discovering another recipient was Adolf Hitler. In a letter to a newspaper at the time, she wrote: “…it was impossible for me to accept an award which was given to me and to Herr Hitler, because of the terrible persecution, the monstrous injustices and the abominable cruelties which are even now being laid upon the Jewish race in Germany. To have accepted it would have been to almost betray those people to whose race I partly belong, and who have been my good and loyal friends all my life…”

When Italy entered the Second World War, Jacob returned to England. She joined the Entertainments National Service Association, which provided entertainment for British armed forces personnel. During this time she became well-known for her appearance of crew cut hair, a monocle and a First World War Women’s Legion uniform.

After the war, Jacob went back to live permanently in Sermione. But she continued to visit England often, returning to her beloved Yorkshire, and making regular appearances on BBC radio’s Woman’s Hour programme.

Jacob had a very disciplined attitude towards her writing, which enabled her to publish one or two books every year. She could write quickly, and in later years she dictated her stories to a secretary.

Jacob’s great-nephew, who as a boy spent time with Jacob in Sirmione, remembers that she liked to be surrounded by people and loved conversation. Actors and writers, among them Hall and Troubridge, were frequent visits to “Casa Mickie”. Jacob would write until lunchtime or early afternoon and spend the rest of her day in the company of friends. She enjoyed sitting in local cafés, where she would smoke cigarettes and drink grappa, speaking fluent Italian with a heavy English accent.

Fifty years on from her death, it is time to take another look at the legacy of this most fascinating literary figure.

Ian Skillicorn (c) August 2014

Ian Skillicorn established Corazon Books (www.greatstorieswithheart.com) in 2012. The imprint publishes new fiction and reissues of bestselling works. For many years Ian has produced audio short stories and writing podcasts. His first audio project was supported with a grant from Arts Council England. In 2010, Ian founded National Short Story Week in the UK.

Find out more at www.naomijacob.com

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Homelessness or Heartlessness? When Government Fails Women

 - by whnadmin




As Australians for whom World War 2 and the seventies were emblematic, we are distraught at the destruction of our once wonderful women’s refuges.

Dr Goebbels, Adolph Hitler’s Minister for Propaganda, instructed the world that ‘words are valuable’;  they can ‘convince people that a square is, in fact, a circle.’ The current conservative governments have learnt the Doctor’s lessons well!

Australia for the last forty years benefitted from the women’s refuge movement, a consequence of feminists, Germaine Greer and Dr Anne Summers AO, the later both producing seminal works: The Female Eunuch and Damned Whores and Gods Police.

The first Australian refuge, Elsie, was established in 1973 in a ten

ement in, Glebe, Sydney, NSW by Anne Summers et al.




It was another ten years for such an idea to reach the coastal town of Taree, NSW, where a women’s refuge was established in 1983. In 1992, because of a far-sighted Manager, the first purpose-built women’s refuge funded by both Labor and Conservative governments opened its doors. Unfortunately, it proved to be the last of its kind!

In general, Federal Governments funded the projects overseen by State governments. Volunteer community committees and paid Managers dealt with day-to- day administration, an excellent method!

With 1.5 women murdered each week by a partner or ex-partner, one would think governments would be glad of the refuge movement but the following is the history of its destruction by stealth:

  • Give a woman, Gabrielle Upton, the job of Minister responsible.
  • Persuade the refuge movement to ‘update’ by adopting an acronym, DVNSW and appoint celebrities as ‘Ambassadors’ – which means nothing to the general population!


  • Persuade managers to remove the personal, traditional appellation, Lyn’s Place, renaming it ‘women’s service’!
  • Replace the words ‘women’,’ violence’ and ‘children’ with ‘homeless’.
  • Berate previous governments for not dealing with ‘the homeless’.
  • Compose a slogan: Going home staying home.
  • Change method of funding from grants to tender.

Outcome: control by religious organisations e.g., The Samaritans, Mission Australia and St Vincent de Paul.


All successfully tendered.


Now, refuges are in a state of flux, with different individual outcomes – none of which are anything like their predecessors. One or two were not required to tender but managers are ‘gagged’. DVNSW imploded leaving the refuge movement without a base.Taree is now a non-secular, non –specific house run by The Samaritans.

Note: the odd thing about this scenario is that New South Wales has been subject to Royal Commissions and enquiries into church- run organisations. And yet, irrespective of these commissions and disturbing findings these very organisations are handed another group of damaged people. It beggars belief!


The State Labor Opposition held protest meetings, gained the required amount of petitions and in September, will debate this issue in the Conservative controlled State Parliament.

Marion Hosking OAM……… for Socialist Women for Justice, Australia




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Gender-Biased Sex Selection – Manifesting Patriarchal Power

 - by whnadmin



Releasing a report on the problem, UN Women and UNFPA hav joined forces in deploring the extreme manifestation of gender discriminaton and inequality against women in India:

Biased Sex Selection an Extreme Form & Manifestation of Gender Discrimination & Inequality against Women, Say UN Women & UNFPA’ … Study on History, Debates and Future Directions of Gender Biased Sex Selection launched in New Dehli


The sharply declining child sex ratio in India has reached emergency proportions and urgent action must be taken to alleviate this crisis. The study ‘Sex Ratios and Gender Biased Sex Selection: History, Debates and Future Directions,’ undertaken by Dr Mary John on behalf of UN Women and with support from UNFPA, helps to understand gender-biased sex selection more  holistically, and aids in the identification of the important way forward for organisations and people working on the problem.

“Gender-biased sex selection is first and foremost a reflection of how little our society values girls and women. The sharply declining child sex ratio in India has reached emergency proportions and urgent action must be taken to alleviate this crisis. The deteriorating ratio from 976 girls to 1000 boys in 1961, to 927 girls in 2001, and to 918 girls in 2011, demonstrates that the economic and social progress in the country has had minimum bearing on the status of women and daughters in our society,” says Ms Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, Assistant Secretary General of the UN.


The study maps existing evidence on gender biased sex selection in the Indian context, weaving in significant social debates and  policy developments, and the way forward on action. It offers practical suggestions to advance research and understanding on the subject by focusing on different areas such as family and household, education, labour and employment, and on institutions that directly or indirectly aid or fight the practice of sex selection.

“This report provides a road map for what has a widely researched topic and includes study on several pertinent topics such as  the emergence of female infanticide from the mid-nineteenth century, the discovery of declining sex ratios in the 1960s and  1970s  through the use of census data, history of relevant legislation and policy and a critique of its implementation, an interesting viewpoint on the extent to which dowry is a cause for the practice of sex selection and, finally, a look at different perspectives for research, namely culture, violence and political economy,” says Dr Rebecca Tavares, Representative, UN Women Multi Country Office for India, Bhutan, Maldives & Sri Lanka.


The study forms part of a component of the UN’s joint work on Sex Selection. This joint group is made up of UN Women, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP, WHO and the UNRCO and endeavours to support the UN’s work on preventing and reducing Sex Selection.

“India has witnessed many critical initiatives made by the government, academia and civil society to understand and resolve the issue of gender biased sex selection. UNFPA has played a key role in drawing attention to the issue in the last one decade, through engagement with multiple stakeholders. UNFPA leads and coordinates the efforts of the UN core group on sex selection in India, and is pleased to support UN Women in this joint initiative to map existing evidence on the issue.  This report bears testimony to the research work thus far, and points to the wisdom that we can build on for evolving a definitive response to skewed sex ratios in India,” added Ms Frederika Meijer, Representative, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) India.

The report also provides a brief overview of the sociological and ethnographical areas of study, including the role of civil society and the state, and changing familial patterns. Unequal inheritance rights, dowry, unequal socio-religious status, unpaid work, unequal pay, lack of economic opportunities for women, focus on male lineage, a culture of honour [sic] that places a greater burden of safety and protection on the parents of girls  all contribute to building a society that favours sons and men, and neglects daughters and women.


“The government and the civil society must go beyond policy-making and must quickly identify specific behaviours, cultural attributes, practices, media representations, mind-sets, and notions that propagate discrimination against daughters and, consequently, help sex-determination testing flourish despite its illegality. While we are witnessing a rapidly changing Indian society with modern and egalitarian values finding their way into the traditional and conservative family systems, the numbers, however, prove otherwise. A wider mindset change is cru/cial if we are to indeed save and empower our daughters,” adds Ms. Puri.

“The Government’s commitment to gender empowerment is evident  from Prime Minister Modi’s speeches confirming zero tolerance for violence against women to the very substantial funds that are being allocated for schemes. When it comes to gender biased sex selection, however,  ntire social structures including those linked to work, marriage and community need to change and the root causes of son preference, acknowledged and fought,” concludes Ms Lise Grande, UN Resident Coordinator, UNDP Resident Representative in India.


UN Women and UN Women South Asia (c) July 2014

Thanks to Lois Herman of WUNRN   http://www.wunrn.com and Dr Lynette Dumble of GSN  http://www.global-sisterhood-network.org/  for making this report available to WHN Blog


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Discovering, Uncovering, Recovering Women’s History

 - by whnadmin




FLA: Feminist and Women’s Libraries and Archives Network

First official FLA Gathering – 14th and 15th September at Nottingham Women’s Centre

The first official Feminist and Women’s Libraries and Archives Network gathering is to be held at Nottingham Women’s Centre on 14 and 15 September. All women librarians, historians, archivists, independent scholars, graduates and undergraduates studying history, politics, women’s and gender studies – and all women interested in and concerned for the preservation and promotion of women as significant actors in work, industry, politics, economics, philosophy, science – and everywhere - welcome. You don’t have to be associated with a feminist library or archive to come to this event but get in touch if you have any questions!

Please note that Nottingham Women’s Centre is a women only space and therefore this event is open to self defining women only.

nottingham womens centre

What is FLA?

In February 2014, Nottingham Women’s Centre hosted the first Feminist Libraries and Archives Gathering in partnership with Feminist Library London attended by Feminist Archive North, the Women’s Liberation Music Archive, Unfinished Histories, and Dr Sara de Jong with active support from The Women’s Library Glasgow, Women’s Archive of Wales and Feminist Archive South as well as interest from as far as Turkey and Japan.

After a fruitful weekend of discussion, knowledge sharing and a wealth of feminist solidarity, and as a response to the lack of networks between feminist and women centric libraries and archives in the country, we decided to form FLA: Feminist and Women’s Libraries and Archives Network (notes from this discussion are available).

Our manifesto:

-          To improve communication between our libraries and archives and to develop and strengthen connections and networks.

-          To provide a platform for feminist and women’s libraries and archives and to highlight their importance.

-          To promote feminist and women’s libraries and archives to a wider audience.

-          To support each other in various aspects of running feminist and women’s libraries and archives and to share knowledge and expertise.

-          To ensure the continuity of feminist and women’s libraries and archives.

-          To create and maintain links between feminist and women’s libraries and archives, other women-friendly archiving projects which chronicle the heritage of progressive social movements and the wider feminist activist community.



We envision this network to fulfil two purposes. Firstly, on the network side of things, we will create a directory of feminist and women’s libraries and archives which will be a resource for ourselves as well as for external audiences. We will hold regular events for networking and knowledge sharing – the next one happening on the weekend of 13th and 14th September at Nottingham Women’s Centre. We will also be hosting a workshop at the Feminism in London conference in October.

Secondly, in the longer term, we will start looking at the possibility of creating a more uniform system of categorising our material where appropriate. This will take time, research and effort so for now it is something to begin thinking about.



To help with planning this event, we would like you to answer a few questions (see below). In addition to the provided questions, we welcome any other ideas, comments, and feedback.

Please answer the following:

  1. Are you and/or your organization interested in this conference?

o Yes           oNo


If yes, approximately how many people would attend?



  1. We plan to charge a small donation fee for attending in order to cover costs. Would you be willing to pay this fee?

oYes             o No


If yes, how much?

o£0-£5       o£5-£10       o£10-£20       o£20-£50         o£50

In addition we will be providing cheap and tasty vegetarian food.


  1. Please state if you have any allergies or dietary requirements:



  1. Will you require childcare?

oYes               o No


  1. Some rooms at Nottingham Women’s Centre do not have complete disabled access. Please mention your access needs here so that we can make appropriate arrangements:



  1. We are unable to provide accommodation but will direct you to the different options available in Nottingham. However, we can explore the possibility of organising accommodation with local participants. Would this be something you would require?

oYes                 o No

Do you have any special requirements, e.g. cat-free house, must have bed.



  1. Are there any topics you would particularly like to see covered by the conference? If so, please write them in below:


  1. Would you or your organization like to lead a workshop, discussion group, or talk?

oYes                   o No

On which topic(s)?


  1. Can you suggest other people/ organisations we should invite?


  1. Anything else you would like to add?



  1. Name, address, email address, and phone number for your main contact person



Please return this questionnaire as soon as possible and no later than 22nd August to zaimal@nottinghamwomenscentre.com.

Thank you.

We look forward to meeting you soon.



Thank you to Zaimal Azad for providing this information, survey, notice and invitation to the FLA: Feminist and Women’s Libraries and Archives Network 13th and 14th September 2014 Nottingham Women’s Centre 30 Chaucer Street Nottingham NG1 5LP



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