Tag Archives: women

Women make history

Well-behaved women seldom make history.
― Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Agree or disagree?


Vida Goldstein selling “Votes for Women” newspaper, 1912





Women of Empire 1914-1918

I often think of Virginia Woolf’s words — for most of history, anonymous was a woman — so I was really pleased to come across the exhibition Women of Empire 1914-1918.

Fiona Baverstock and her husband Keith came up with the idea of the touring exhibition during the 90th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign. At the time there seemed to be little recognition that women were involved in the First World War. Fiona and Keith were determined that this should be addressed for the centenary of the First World War.

The exhibition profiles Australia and New Zealand women whose experience of the First World War was especially eventful and illustrative of the varied roles women played during the war. Each woman is represented by an original outfit of the era from the extensive collection of the Dressing Australia Museum of Costume. These costumes are a simple and powerful way of letting us imagine the lives of these women.

A few of the women featured in Women of Empire 1914-1918 are familiar names in Australian history. Most though are women, who at best are remembered as historical footnotes, but should be better known in Australian history.

To me all these women sounded remarkable but especially interesting were:

Marion Leane Smith: The only known Indigenous Australian nurse to have served in the First World War. A Cabrogal woman born in NSW, she was raised in Canada and served that country and Britain as a war nurse. During World War II she brought the Red Cross to Trinidad.

Ettie Rout: She set up the New Zealand Volunteer Sisterhood taking them to Egypt in July 1915 where they manned canteens and established a Soldiers’ Club. A safe-sex pioneer Ettie devised a prophylactic kit — eventually adopted by the military — to sell at the New Zealand Soldiers’ Clubs in England in 1917. After the war, she was called the wickedest woman in Britain for her book Safe Marriage, which provided instruction on avoiding venereal disease (VD) and pregnancy.

Dr Elsie Dalyell: In the laboratory at the Scottish Women’s Hospital at Royaumont her pioneering protocols for the treatment of gangrene saved limbs as well as lives. After this, she enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a senior bacteriologist in Malta and Salonika. In Constantinople (now Istanbul), she tackled a severe cholera outbreak. Twice Mentioned in Despatches, Elsie was awarded the OBE in 1919. In World War II, she organized the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service.

If you want to know more about the women featured in Women of Empire 1914-1918 you can read their profiles here.

GOLD STAR to Fiona Baverstock and her husband Keith for their work to ensure that women of the First World War are not overlooked during the centenary.



Miles Franklin and Vida Goldstein, two of the more well-known Australian women featured in Women of Empire 1914-1918


What is a convict love token?

This month I have been writing about Convict love tokens at the National Museum of Australia.

What is a convict love token? These tokens are coins that were smoothed and engraved with messages of affection. Convicts that were transported from England would use the tokens, as a memento, to leave with their loved ones. They are also called leaden hearts.

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The Valentine, 1876

History, where are the women?

More women for the Australian Dictionary of Biography

My blog post History, this time its personal highlighted what a great resource the Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB) is for exploring Australian history. One aspect, though, that needs to be acknowledged is its gender imbalance — about 1,500 females are documented, compared to about 11,000 males.

To improve the gender balance the ADB has decided to add 1,500 new entries to the dictionary, of notable women who lived during the colonial period. As a first step, they are compiling a list of possible candidates for inclusion.

If you would like to nominate women of the colonial period for possible entries in the ADB, you can send their names to ncb@anu.edu.au with a brief summary of the woman’s achievements and date of birth and death if known.

Please let us know if you have a nomination for the ADB to consider?