New book shines a light on women who have changed the world

Historians reflect on role of women’s activism during UOW book launch

A new book from two historians at the University of Wollongong (UOW) has placed the spotlight on the history of women’s activism and examined the trailblazers who took to the streets to fight for equality.

Remembering Women’s Activism (Routledge 2019), by Senior Professor Vera Mackie and Dr Sharon Crozier-De Rosa, captures the history and memory of feminist protest across the Asia-Pacific and Anglophone world.

The book will be launched today (Tuesday 4 December) at UOW, by Professor Heather Goodall, from the University of Technology, Sydney.

The launch is part of a series of events hosted by UOW’s Centre for Critical Human Rights Research to recognise the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Dr Crozier-De Rosa and Professor Mackie, both historians based in the School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, said they were inspired to write Remembering Women’s Activism to provide a record of the countless women who have challenged the status quo, often in the face of violence and persecution.

“We didn’t just want to make women more visible in history, we wanted to write about women who had been active in trying to change their societies. We were interested in whether and how they had been remembered,” Professor Mackie said.

“The timing also seemed right for our book, with the commemoration of significant anniversaries of women gaining the vote. This year marks the centenary of women’s limited suffrage in the UK (full suffrage being gained in 1928), and 2020 marks the centenary of women’s suffrage in the US. Women in Australia and New Zealand gained the vote well before their sisters in the northern hemisphere.”

The book charts the militant suffragist movement; revolutionary nationalists; worker’s rights; and the role of women in the conflicts of the 20th century. It delves into the history and memory of prominent feminist figures, such as Constance Markievicz in Ireland, Qiu Jin in China, and the militant suffragists Emmeline Pankhurst and Emily Wilding Davison.

Remembering Women’s Activism also reflects on the new wave of protest that has emerged in the past two years, in response to political events around the world, such as the Women’s March of January 2017.

“Women activists have been variously needed and derided, but they have always been a source of fascination,” Dr Crozier-De Rosa said.

“Whether protesting silently or loudly, in full sight of the public or in clandestine operations, they were variously lauded as those willing to sacrifice themselves for the cause or dismissed as a public nuisance or condemned as abominable models of femininity.”

The book launch will be preceded by a roundtable on the Global Refugee Crisis. UOW researchers Professor Hélène Lambert, Associate Professor Phil Orchard, and Mr Atsushi Yamagata will discuss policies and politics surrounding the current refugee crisis.

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