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

9 people like this post.

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

3 people like this post.

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).





6 people like this post.

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

2 people like this post.

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

4 people like this post.

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




11 people like this post.

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


6 people like this post.

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



5 people like this post.

Remembering Edith Picton Turbervill (O.B.E. 1872 – 1960)

 - by whnadmin


When I lived in Wellington Shropshire during the 90s I learnt that Edith Pargeter ( better known as Ellis Peters ), had lived in the area. But it was only by chance that I found out about another Edith –  Edith Picton-Turbervill . I discovered that she was by far the most important Edith. However, there wasn’t one plaque or memorial to her and she seemed all but forgotten. I read about her in a biography of Jennie Lee. My Edith had been a very early Labour Member of Parliament for the area and as I was interested in politics, I became curious to discover her story.


Where the millennium clock stands in the Church Square in Wellington ( now part of Telford) is where my Edith had been cheered by the residents and voters in 1929 at the time of her election victory. The crowd of three thousand miners and their families had broken spontaneously into song with the words ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow’. When I delved into Edith’s past I discovered that she had also been a writer, held the post of Vice President of the YWCA and campaigned during the First World War for women hostels and canteens.

As my admiration and knowledge about her grew, so did my anger about the lack of recognition. But as a writer I realised that words and writing would be one of the best ways of restoring and resurrecting her into women’s history   I purchased some of her books and read her autobiography ‘Life is Good’ published in 1939.


Edith had come from a privileged background, whose father had inherited Ewenny, formerly a Norman Priory in South Wales. It had land and profitable coal mines.  Born in 1872, she grew up at the time when peoples’ attitudes to women, careers, and their role had started to alter. Edith had a religious ‘epiphany’ and being of a determined character started to forge her own way in life. She had been sent to the Royal School in Bath with her twin sister Beatrice and then she persuaded her father to allow her to go and train to be a missionary with the YWCA. Here she was exposed to the poverty in the slums of the East End of London in the early twentieth century, but undeterred she went to India to set up hostels for women and girls. Later, she became disillusioned with the work in India and felt that the real needy were not being attended to.

On her return to the UK she rose to become Vice President of the YWCA and campaigned for funds to support the women munitions’ workers in the First World War. She helped to set up canteens for them in England and hostels in France. After the war she met many other women who were becoming involved with the fledgling Labour Party, and was eventually asked to join and to stand as an M.P. She helped in the soup kitchens in Wellington during the General Strike and then was adopted as the candidate for The Wrekin constituency there winning the seat in 1929.


She continued to work and strive for the working class, the poor and for women.  She also travelled extensively. She visited Russia in the thirties and later met Kemal Ataturk . She was President of the National Council of Women Citizens. She even appeared on television in the sixties.

In her autobiography she tells us that her family were important to her, but they must have felt astonished that she was joining a political party that was not of their class. Her immediate descendants would have felt uneasy and uncomfortable when she died in 1960 and that is possibly why in the family chapel at Ewenny there is only a plaque to her with the dismissive words … ‘ Sometime Member of Parliament’. She isn’t buried there but in Cheltenham where she lived towards the end of her life.   Women in politics continue to have a particularly hard time and indeed had a very hard time at the start of the twentieth century. It was easier to come from a privileged background with money  (for example, Lady Astor ),  and to be supported by your own class. If the women candidates were supported and backed by the male dominated Trade Unions (as in the case of Jennie Lee and Margaret Bondfield), they would also have had an easier time.   Edith doesn’t fit into this mould. She certainly doesn’t fit into any mould when you realise that her own father was a coal mine owner and she was on the soup kitchens and supporting strikers of the coal miners in Shropshire! Edith never married and must have had some private income. This of course would have helped her in her political life. She also had a very large network of influential and campaigning women friends throughout her life and a large number of male friends and colleagues.


Left to right:

Lady Cynthia Mosley (Stoke), Marion Phillips (Sunderland), Edith Picton-Turbervill (The Wrekin),

Ethel Bentham (Islington East)

Her principles and high morals were always with her. But I don’t think It was a dilemma or a problem for her as she only ever thought that in politics the ‘Christian’ way was the right one to follow.   I wanted to honour and celebrate her by bringing her to life as a person. The research showed me what an interesting and important contribution she had made to women’s history, but I also wanted to show how her thoughts and beliefs might have come about and why she forged such an independent way. So the book I wrote was a fictionalised diary. This came to be the first part of my book ‘A Head Above Others’.


‘A Head Above Others’  - fictionalised memoir of Edith Picton – Turbervill O.B.E. By Sue Crampton ( Pub. Perigord Press -ISBN 978 – 9573977 – 8 1 available on Amazon and other bookshops and as an e book)

Edith’s book ‘Christ and Women’s Power’ seemed to me also as important for today’s women as it was in 1919. In this,she wrote to urge women, to take an active part in public life and to assert their power and influence.


‘Woman and the Church’ by Burnett Hillman Streeter and Edith Picton-Turbervill


That’s why I transcribed her the words of her book for the second part of ‘A Head Above Others’.   The town of Wellington should be proud of what she did and who she was. I hope they will commemorate her in some way and that my book begins the process of retrieving the history of this forgotten woman. I have succeeded now in putting her on Wikipaedia and am very proud of that.

Sue Crampton (c) July 2014



Sue Crampton is author of ‘A Head Above Others’  - fictionalised memoir of Edith Picton – Turbervill O.B.E.  (Pub. Perigord Press -ISBN 978 – 9573977 – 8 1 available on Amazon and other bookshops and as an e -ook)


7 people like this post.


 - by whnadmin

A talk given at the House of Lords, London, on 5 June 2014 as part of a seminar on ‘Oppression, Repression and Resistance – Renouncing the Fundamentalist Yoke’, organised by WWAFE (Women Worldwide Advancing Freedom & Equality (Pt II).

Cont. (Pt 1 – http://womenshistorynetwork.org/blog/?p=3877)


Another thing that has not changed is the kind of response you will get if you challenge Catholicism. Now as then, if you take issue or even ask awkward questions (such as, did Jesus know he was God and had divine powers? If not, he can’t have been God because God knows everything. If he did know, his so-called humanity was bogus, since humans in general do not have those powers) you get told one of the following.

  1. It’s a mystery, and you have to have faith.
  2. It’s in the bible, so it must be true. (the fundamentalist approach.)
  3. Or, even if it isn’t in the Bible, it is part of Catholic tradition so it must be true. This is also fundamentalist, but in a different sense. Catholic tradition is created by popes, cardinals and priests. All of whom are men. It’s true because men say it is.

If we look at the justification offered for the all-male priesthood, we find an example of this circular reasoning. The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth, which, published in 2007, has the Church’s imprimatur, i.e. official declaration that the document is ‘free from moral or doctrinal error, says this:

The Catholic church ordains only baptised men because Jesus chose men, not women, to be his Apostles…for this reason the church is bound by Jesus’s choice to ordain only men. [3]

By this analogy it might be argued that since Jesus only chose Jews to be his apostles, only Jews can be Catholic priests. But Catholics don’t exclude non-Jews from their priesthood, so why should they exclude non-men? Here’s the answer.

The Magisterium of the church has consistently upheld that this practice is part of the Tradition that has been revealed by God and cannot be changed by human beings.[4]

Or, to put it another way, It’s true because we say it is. And who are ‘we’? Celibate men.


I’m not knocking celibacy. Lots of people are celibate, either through choice or force of circumstances. But to make it part of a job specification, as the Catholic church does for its priests, does suggest the kind of fundamentalism under which individuals who are not women, and who have chosen to forego sexual contact with women or indeed anyone, nevertheless seek to control some of the most intimate areas of women’s lives.


Some Jesuit monk is supposed to have said, ‘Give me a child before he is seven and he will be mine for life.’

I wonder sometimes if the Sisters of Mercy who taught me were working on the same principle. Did it work? Am I ‘theirs for life’?


In one sense, yes. My brain is full of Catholic clutter. I can effortlessly recite prayers, Biblical quotations, questions and answers from the Catechism, the words of hymns in English and in Latin. While I was preparing this talk, I came upon an online Catholic general knowledge quiz, and had a go. I ticked the boxes, and checked my score.

I got 87%. I am, apparently, a Catholic Genius. I was invited to CLICK HERE to become a missionary.

I’d be a funny kind of missionary, believing as I do that God the Father, as envisaged by Catholic tradition is a bully, a tyrant, a sexist and a sadist, fully worthy of our fear and contempt, but not our love or admiration.

Eternal damnation is a frightening idea, which is why the threat of it is such an effective way of controlling some religious devotees. If Hell turns out to exist after all, that will be bad news – but not only for nonbelievers.

It will be bad news too for believers, because they may have to go to heaven – a heaven devised by someone whose idea of justice is to torture people with fire for using a condom. A person whose idea of good governance to have their own son crucified in order to teach everyone else a lesson.. How sure can we be that this individual’s idea of eternal bliss would be as blissful as it sounds? In the words of the Irish-American lapsed-catholic writer Mary McCarthy, author of Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, ‘I should not care to spend eternity in the company of such a person.’



I’ve heard that, since the revelations about sex abuse in the Catholic church, Catholic priests get spat at in the street. I don’t imagine that Pope Francis’s recent comments on the subject have helped. “A priest who has sex with a child betrays God,” [5] he told journalists recently. Betrays God? No, Francis, sexual abuse is an offence against the human victim, not God. God is all-powerful, according to you, and so cannot be abused. A child can.

At the same press conference, Francis also said “I compare it (i.e. child abuse) to a satanic mass.” What is the point of this simile? Is he really saying that the evil and cruelty of child abuse can only be expressed by comparing it with what a recent correspondent to the Guardian identified as “a harmless ritual that is neither illegal nor immoral”?

I would not defend anyone spitting at Catholic priests or anyone else. But you can see where that sort of anger and disgust comes from.



Sheila Jeffreys in Man’s Dominion calls on feminists to reconsider the idea that other people’s religions should be treated with ‘respect’.

Disrespect is crucial. Disrespect for the cultures, values and institutions of male domination is the very foundation of feminism. Since religion is crucial to the construction of cultural norms of every culture, disrespect for it should be the natural amniotic fluid of feminist thought and activism. [6]

I wouldn’t go that far. Christianity and other religions have bequeathed some good values to humanity, as well as fine literature, art, architecture and philanthropy. There are plenty of religious feminists and multiculturalists out there whom I don’t disrespect, and don’t want to.

So what has been the outcome of my non-Catholic Catholic education? Am I ‘theirs for life’? Here is my answer. I am a feminist, secular, and a humanist. I am a woman who has lived with a man for 40 years without marriage. I have chosen not to have children, and have used contraception to achieve this. I support lesbian and gay rights, and abortion rights. I do not believe that the existence of God can be either proved or disproved, any more than the existence of Father Christmas and the tooth fairy can; but I do not believe in any version of God that has been constructed by men to promote patriarchal power, and I do not know of any others. And I have the same respect for all religions, including fundamentalist ones, as they have for me.

 Zoe Fairbairns (c) June 2014

[3] P 199

[4] P 199

[5] theguardian.com 27 May 2014

[6] 3%

Zoe Fairbairns studied at theUniversity of St. Andrews, Scotland, and College of William and Mary, USA. Former poetry editor of Spare Rib,she is a freelance journalist and creative writing tutor, holding appointments as Writer in Residence at Bromley Schools (1981-3 and 1985-9), Deakin University, Geelong, Australia (1983), Sunderland Polytechnic (1983-5) and Surrey County Council (1989). A widely acclaimed novelist and nonfiction writer, her first novel, Live as Family, written at seventeen, was published in 1968, followed in 1969 by Down: An Explanation, whilst still at university. Benefits (1979) was followed by five further novels: Stand we at Last (1983), spanning 120 years, three continents and five generations of women living through Victorian repression, prostitution, the suffragette movement, war and the women’s movement; Here Today(1984), awarded the 1985 Fawcett Society Book Prize; Closing (1987), depicting working women caught between feminism and Thatcherism; and Daddy’s Girls (1992), three sisters enmeshed in a family’s secrets. Zoe Fairbairns’ most recent novel, Other Names, was published in 1998.





A talk given at the House of Lords, London, on 5 June 2014 as part of a seminar on ‘Oppression, Repression and Resistance – Renouncing the Fundamentalist Yoke’, organised by WWAFE (Women Worldwide Advancing Freedom & Equality (Pt II).


8 people like this post.