When appointed to the United States Supreme Court by President WJ (Bill) Clinton in the 1990s, Ruth Bader Ginsberg said:
I would not be in this room today, if it were not for the women and men who kept dreams alive … Dreams when no one would listen. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony come to mind …
Photo: H.S. Blatch on Wall Street, 1910-1915. Library of Congress
This week – Tuesday 21 January – is the birthday of writer and suffragist Harriot Eaton Stanton Blatch. She was born in 1856, daughter of women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Cady Stanton’s sixth child, Harriot Blatch held her own as a women’s rights activist and scholar. She recruited thousands of working-class women into the suffrage movement, through setting up the Women’s Political Union.
She. as with her mother, is one of the women upon whose shoulders every one of us stands. Without them, we would not have had the opportunities we now posses – to speak up, speak out, go to university, take on jobs in women’s and men’s fields, lobby in Parliaments where some women sit and make their mark, demand rights of governments where some departments are now headed by women, appear at the United Nations annually at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), use international treaties, conventions and covenants to bolster our claims for women’s rights as human rights, and human rights as women’s rights.
Louisa Lawson – Redoubtable Publisher of ‘The Dawn’
Louisa Lawson made an enormous difference to women’s live when she lived, and has impacted on the lives of every Australian woman, as well as internationally. She published ‘The Dawn’ – using a team of women to ensure its publication, and despite moves against her by men who believed that publishing was a male domain. She invented a special fastening to keep the mail safe and secure – although she was robbed of her invention rights and suffered for it. She stood strong against criminal assault at home and other forms of domestic violence, cognisant of the need for women’s refuges and for the right of women to remain in their own homes, rather than be shunted about as if ‘a man’s home is his castle’ should be taken literally. We stand on her shoulders.
She brought us ‘Frankenstein’ and more – her courage, her fearlessness, her will to make a difference … Mary Shelley’s shoulders are strong. We stand upon them – proud, fearless, powerful!
Dorothy Tangney – Labor Activist and Senator
Although women entered Australian state parliaments earlier, in the 1940s it took Dorothy Tangney to make the break into the federal Parliament. She stood second on the Senate Labor ticket and, as Senator Dorothy Tangney, took her place as the first woman ever to be elected to the Australian upper house. When in Canberra, like Ben Chifley, she stayed at the Kurrajong Hotel … and into Parliament with her went Enid Lyons from Tasmania – first woman ever elected to the lower house of the Australian Parliament. These shoulders provide a stepping stone for all women who have followed after, and to every one of us who lives now – and ever after.
Joan Child, MP and Speaker of the House of Representatives
Joan Child was elected to the federal lower house seat of Henty in Victoria, and at the next election two women joined her – Ros Kelly from Canberra and Jeannette McHugh from Sydney – the seat of Philip then Grayndler – as the only women in the lower house. McHugh was the first woman from NSW ever t be elected to the Australian Parliament. For the first time, too, three women sat – all Labor women. Joan Child became the first woman to take the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives. Many women – though not enough! have followed her into Parliament, and into the speakers chair.
Enid Campbell – Jurist
Enid Campbell was the first ever Australian woman law professor – she went to the new law school at newly established Monash University, from Sydney University Law School where she was a Senior Lecturer. A loss to the University of Sydney, through the foolishness and inability of that University to recognise value and scholarship when it stared them in the face. She became the first ever woman appointed as Dean of any law school in any Australian university. Every woman in academe, law or not, and every woman outside it, owes a tribute to her for her capacity to keep on, along with her academic brilliance and skill.
Margaret Pewtress – Netball Player and Administrator
A great sportswoman and supporter of sportswomen, Margret Pewtress had an enormous impact as a player and as an administrator. Her dedication and contribution continue to have an impact. Netball has the highest number of players of any sport Australia-wide. That it is shown regularly on ABC television is a tribute to all players and to women of the ilk of Margaret Pewtress, who was instrumental in ensuring that this great game should be and would be and is televised, and that the importance of the sport is recognised and valued. Vale, Margaret Pewtress whose sporty shoulders we recognise as powerful and power-giving to us all!
These women demand celebration – along with the many women who could be named and those who should be named yet are forgotten or rendered invisible. Women of the world we salute you, and women of the world, we thank you. let us all praise praiseworthy women!
Jocelynne A. Scutt (c) January 2014