Title: Rebel Women Who Changed Australia
Author: Susanna de Vries
Publisher: Harper Collins Australia
Published: 15th April 2019
Synopsis: Celebrate the women who changed our nation. From Lillie Goodisson, pioneer of family planning, to Eileen Joyce, world-famous pianist, Enid Lyons, our first female cabinet minister, Stella Miles Franklin, who endowed our most celebrated literary prize, and Dr Catherine Hamlin, whose fistula hospitals in Africa have given hope to thousands, Australian women have made a difference to our own country and the world.
While the history of Australia is rich with the accounts of the deeds of men, women’s contributions have often been overlooked. This updated and condensed edition of Susanna de Vries Complete Book of Great Australian Women remedies that and celebrates, for a new generation, women who broke the mould, crashed through ceilings, and shaped the nation in the fields of medicine, law, the arts and politics.
These are women who helped to forge the Australia we know today.
Dr Agnes Bennett – Dr Dagmar Berne – Nancy Bird Walton – Edith Cowan – Fanny Durack – Stella Miles Franklin – Mary Gilmore – Sister Lillie Goodisson – Dr Catherine Hamlin – Eileen Joyce – Annette Kellerman – Sister Elizabeth Kenny – Kundaibark – Louisa Lawson – Joice Nankivell Loch – Enid Burnell Lyons – Mary McConnel – Nellie Melba – Roma Mitchell – Oodgeroo Noonuccal – Sister Lucy Osburn – Margaret Rose Preston – Henry Handel Richardson – Joan Rosanove – Rose Scott – Ella Simon – Dr Constance Stone – Florence Mary Taylor – Kylie Tennant
Rebel Women Who Changed Australia brings to life many stories that have been hidden for a long time – and some that might not have been wholly known, mixed in with the few whose names are often known. Of the women in this book, I probably had heard of and knew something about at least eight, whilst the rest I may have only heard in passing or never heard at all in my history lessons – something that I think can effectively be included without denying other important events and figures their place in history. They all matter, why shouldn’t we teach them all?
Books like this allow hidden history to be revealed, and it covers white women, Indigenous women, rich women, and poor women. Women whose families had different ideas about what they should do, and women whose families supported them and helped them. These women all made different sacrifices or changes in their lives, and never let anyone else define them.
They each had a different journey, and passion but what unites them is their stories have often been hidden, forgotten or even framed alongside those of men, as many of the women in the medical field were. They fought to have their voices heard, and eventually did. Sometimes, they may have received credit in their day, and other times, it may have been assigned to a man in their field or lives – and only later did they get equal billing.
But now, we are hearing these stories and it makes history richer – and interesting as well. It allows women who achieved things in times when they were expected to do not much more than marry and have kids within society to be showcased, and gives girls heroes to look up to who aren’t passive princesses (although, in some fairy tales, the girls do hold their own. One just needs to read the originals instead of the sanitised, watered down versions).
What I’m enjoying about books like this is it shows women as more than what history books represent them as at times, and identify who they are and what they did, what made them exceptional for their time. It allows for readers of all ages to see what women could do, not only what they were expected to do, proving that these unstoppable rebel women refused to let anything, and anyone stop them reaching their goals. They pushed through barriers as much as possible, and at times, worked in their field until they were physically unable to, but by that time, they had made their mark and will forever be remembered for their remarkable achievements in the face of various barriers and attempts at resistance. A book that would effectively complement any Australian history course, and many women overlap, and indeed knew each other, and seeing these connections made it interesting as well.