Monthly Archives: September 2018

Movie: RBG

With the State Judiciary Committee hearing into Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, it seemed  particularly apposite to go to see RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsberg) in its last days.  An intelligent lawyer (and strikingly beautiful as a young woman) she worked quietly in the courts, steadily building up cases that showed that everyone loses by discrimination – women in particular.  Nothing came easily to her: the quotas of female students at university (5 male students to every female student), her difficulty in getting a job even though she was an outstanding student because she was a woman – there’s no entitlement here. The documentary does touch on her inappropriate comments about Trump’s nomination, and the question of whether she should have resigned while Obama was still in power. Who knows? Look at the Republican stonewalling over Merrick Garland. But with the prospect of two men on the Supreme Court with sexual assault or harassment allegations, to say nothing of the President, I’m glad she’s there.

Update: Serenading Adela

The best-laid plans of mice and men….

The full length version of Serenading Adela will not be shown after all, because of technical difficulties. They’ll still be showing the other short film, and the cut-down version of Serenading Adela that had already been released online.…and there will still  be cake.

Serenading Adela: The Film Launch

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Update: The full-length film of the performance will not be available for the event. They will still show ‘Against the Odds’ and the shorter version of the film already released online.

You might remember that earlier this year I was involved in the ‘Serenading Adela’ project. It commemorated the night, one hundred years earlier, when women marched up Sydney Rd to Pentridge Prison to ‘serenade’ Adela Pankhurst, who was incarcerated there under the War Precautions Act.  They made a film of our performance, and they’re launching it tomorrow Friday 28th September at the Brunswick Scout Hall, 213a Weston St Brunswick at 2.30 p.m.  As well as the film of the performance, there will be a short feature ”Against the Odds: The Victory over Conscription in World War I’

Surely that’s better than watching two footy teams that we don’t care about – indeed, may even actively dislike- marching in the city!

See the Facebook event at

https://www.facebook.com/events/299952080796125/?active_tab=about

Or if you’re boycotting Facebook, here’s the blurb:

Did you love “Serenading Adela, A Street Opera” and want to watch it again? Or were you one of the many who were too late for tickets?

Please join us to launch our new full-length archival video of the Centenary Performance of Serenading Adela, a Street Opera. It’s being edited from footage of four cameras there on the day, by Jeannie Marsh and Bernard Peasley.

In the best matinee tradition, we’ll show a short first: ‘Against the Odds: The Victory over Conscription in World War I’ tells how diverse groups and individuals collectively defeated conscription and left a lasting legacy for Australia. From the Living Peace Museum, with a Brunswick focus.

We’ll be serving a delicious afternoon tea to follow the film.

FREE ENTRY but donations towards film costs and future projects will be enthusiastically solicited.

The Scout Hall is 213A Weston Street Brunswick. Note as this is the Grand Final Public Holiday, crossing the city by tram may be a challenge – a train to Parliament, then the 96 tram to Miller Street, recommended (or check PTV for updates).

I Hear with my Little Ear: podcasts 16/9/18 -23/9/18

In Our Time (BBC). At least Melvyn Bragg has stopped coughing. Making Montesquieu exciting is a big ask, but the two Richards and a Rachel did a fairly good job.  Even though he died in 1755, Montesquieu’s ideas about liberty and constitutions affected the compilation of the American constitution and provided an intellectual basis for Robespierre during the French revolution.

I Have to Ask (Slate). I’ve been reading Ta-Nehisi Coates recently, and this podcast suggested that it would be about his book ‘We Were Eight Years In Power’. It’s rather rambly, and there’s not really that much about the book as such. A bit disappointing.

Conversations (ABC) I always enjoyed listening to Bea Campbell (Communist, feminist, writer on Princess Diana) on Philip Adams’ Late Night Live, and in this episode she is interviewed by Sarah Kanowski.  Oh- it’s a repeat! Oh well.  Then there’s the interview with Tim Minchin, who has featured on this blog before here and here.  And finally, an interview with Gwynne Dyer, a journalist whose work I’ve enjoyed. Here he is not as pessimistic about democracy as one might have thought he would be.

Revolutions Podcast  Old Porfirio Diaz just kept on keeping on, until he said that he wouldn’t. Episode 9.05 The Creelman Interview.

News in Slow Spanish (Latino) Episode 273 had a fascinating segment on Blanca Luz Brum, who I’ve decided to talk about (in Spanish) at my Spanish class. The only problem is that everything on the internet is also in Spanish (hello Google Translate). Episode 274 had segments on NAFTA and the new figures for fatalities in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and the protests about labelling the drink mezcal.

Movie: The Breaker Upperers

I suspect that this is a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it movie, and I’m afraid that I lean more towards the latter.   Two best friends work together to organize an ‘out’ for people who want to break up a relationship, by deception, confrontation or other devious means. It was too loud and in your face for my liking. It’s a New Zealand film, with layers of Maori-Pakeha relations, and an exploration of female friendship. I did laugh in places, but it didn’t have the quirkiness of ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’.

My rating: 2.5

“And the Women Came Too: the Families of the Founders of the Melbourne Mechanics’ Institution” by Anne Marsden

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2018, 187p.

This book is one of a pair, the author having released The Making of the Melbourne Mechanics’ Institution some two years ago. In that earlier book, Anne Marsden looked at the men who were elected to the committee of what later became (and still is) the Melbourne Athenaeum. The Melbourne Mechanics’ Institution (established 1840) was one of the very early cultural and educational institutions in Melbourne. Through her enquiry into the men who were movers and shakers in pre-Gold Rush society, we see the networks and practices that supported nineteenth-century masculine respectability in a new colony.

It’s not hard to find many of the most prominent of these men in the newspapers, churches and business world of Port Phillip: indeed, many of them are interlaced through the pages of this blog that relate to Port Phillip.  Ah- but the women and families of these men! There‘s another degree of difficulty altogether.  In a very few cases there are diaries and letters, as in Georgiana McCrae’s family, but much of Marsden’s information has had to be gleaned from snippets of information. There are brief allusions to the women in the biographies of their husbands and sons, or tangential mentions in newspaper articles and personal notices. Marsden’s challenge has been to integrate these biographies of the families of the founders of the Melbourne Mechanics’ Institution into a perspective on the lives of women and children in Port Phillip. It’s a task long overdue.

The book is divided into two parts. Part I, ‘The Challenges faced by immigrant women’ looks at early Port Phillip from the perspective of women, who were expected to operate within the domestic sphere, support without question her husband’s career aspirations and performance, and most of all, have children. Many of these women had travelled to Port Phillip either from Sydney or Van Diemen’s Land, or had emigrated with their husbands or families.

The book takes a little while to get going with an introduction, a second introduction,  and a prologue addressed in the second person to Barbara Dalrymple, who will marry Dr Alexander Thomson and arrive in Port Phillip in 1836, the first of the women of the Melbourne Mechanics’ Institution.  Introductions over, the text starts off with leaving home and follows the women on the journey, generally cabin class rather than steerage. There is a short chapter about Port Phillip’s brief European history ‘The Settlement’s Early Months’ to set the scene, then she moves onto the ‘Growth of Early Melbourne’. This is in two parts:  (i) the administrative and physical environment, and (ii) the people and community. The final chapter of this section is titled ‘The Early Melbourne Community: divisions and diversions’.  Each chapter is headed with a quote from either Finn’s Chronicles of Early Melbourne, a letter, or a contemporary newspaper.

This section does tend to be rather ‘bitty’. Marsden has used subheadings liberally, and while it makes information easy to locate, it does interrupt the flow of the narrative.  The chapter headings, complete with numbering (i) and (ii) and numerous subheadings give the sense that you are reading from notes, rather than an integrated text. Nor are the separate chapters conceptually distinct from each other.  ‘Community amenities and pleasures’ could fit equally suitably in the ‘Growth’ chapter (where she has, indeed placed it) or the ‘Early Melbourne Community’ chapter.   Nonetheless, there is a life-cycle logic to the information that she has selected, with its focus on finding housing and making it bearable, health and the bearing of children, and educating children – thus bringing to the fore the issues that Port Phillip women had to negotiate.

In the second part of the book ‘The Women’s Stories’, Anne Marsden looks at individual women whose husbands were influential in establishing the Melbourne Mechanics’ Institution. She starts chronologically, with Martha Lonsdale, who accompanied her husband Capt Lonsdale down from Sydney to be the first police magistrate in Melbourne, the earliest form of administration from Sydney. Her second chapter involves Sophie La Trobe, the French-born wife of Port Phillip’s first superintendent. Much of the information (and scuttlebutt) about Sophie La Trobe comes from the (compromised) but very useful journals of Georgiana McCrae, who is dealt with in the third chapter. Familial relations are also important in her chapter ‘A tale of two sisters’ which covers Henrietta Yaldwyn and Caroline Simpson/Braim.  The fifth chapter ‘The minister’s wife’ involves Margaret Clow, whose husband the Rev James Clow arrived in 1839. Mamie Graham, ‘The merchant’s wife’, also had a connection with the McCrae family, thus highlighting the familial as well as professional networks within this small community. She married James Graham, whose extensive archives of correspondence give us  an insight into the family’s domestic life. This is followed by another chapter about sisters – or at least sisters-in-law, Caroline Wright and Elizabeth Kirby, who married brothers David and Donald McArthur. Their husband’s (and thus their own) fortunes varied, with David becoming a highly-prominent banker, while Donald’s  career as a surveyor faltered. So too did the marriage, and Elizabeth McArthur became a well-known and respectable school proprietor.  The final two stories are of more shadowy relationships: Celia Reibey (daughter of Mary Reibey who featured on the $20 note) who died soon after marrying Thomas Wills, then his two partners Mary Ann Barry and Mary Anne Mellard.  Four ‘more elusive women’ complete the analysis: Mary Anne Peers, Mary Wintle (the jailer’s wife), Elizabeth Beaver and Hester Hurlstone. These brief biographies highlight the difficulties of finding sources and reading between the lines of the public record. The final chapter ‘Out of the shadows and into the half-light’ serves largely as a summary of the book.

Marsden has been very faithful to her sources. While speculating and assuming in places where the documentary record falls silent, she has tethered her analysis of early Port Phillip society to the lives and experiences of these women. While I respect her fidelity to primary sources, I wish that she’d roamed a little further into the secondary literature. She cites Penny Russell’s Savage or Civilized, but I think that she could have used Russell’s analysis of ‘manners’ more fully and explored the meaning of ‘the visit’ and the nature and implication of chain migration in family clusters. As a British colonial outpost, Port Phillip did not differ greatly from other such port towns, and she could have drawn on Kirsten Mckenzie’s work, and sources from Upper Canada that also explore the women’s world, with its own stringent expectations, that existed underneath the more publicly-documented world of their husbands.  In addition, by tethering her analysis of Port Phillip in Part I to the experience of these particular women, there is also a fair bit of repetition when the same details are retold in Part II. The final chapter summarized the preceding text, but did not prod the reader into new questions.

Notwithstanding, Anne Marsden’s book is a testament to her patient digging as a historian and her recognition that all these ‘mover and shaker’ men starting up new enterprises and institutions in an infant colonial town, had women behind them. It reminds you that Port Phillip was a town for women and children as well as for the ambitious new arrivals, and that even though it might not be readily visible in the public record,  the domestic always underpins the civic.

Sourced from: Melbourne Athenaeum Library. $20.00 – well worth it.

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I have posted this review to the Australian Women Writers Challenge Database.

 

I Hear with my Little Ear: Podcasts 8/9/18- 15/9/18

Sandra continues….but hold on! It just stops! Episode 7 then nothing! I haven’t felt this betrayed since the last episode of The Hour ( where I still don’t know -did Freddy die or not?) What ever happened to the obligation to round something off???

Revolutions. Episode 9.03 conservative-liberal-conservative (sounds a bit like Australian politics at the moment). No wonder Gabriel Garcia Marquez had so many clapped-out old generals to write about. But in Episode 9.04 all of a sudden – I remember from Revolutions 1 in first-year uni! Portfirio Diaz!

Russia If You’re Listening (ABC). Oh no! The last one in the series. Episode #17 Robert Mueller: ‘Trump’s Worst Nightmare’

The History Listen: (ABC). Plane Crash 1940: Living with the dead.  The plane crash ‘belongs’ to history and grandchildren now. What are the responsibilities in revisiting an event when the participants are still in living memory of a later generation?

Chat 10 Looks 3 Ep. 88: A Square Inch of Unkissed Arse. Of course, Leigh Sales and Anabelle Crabb are talking about the Liberal leadership change. What else would they talk about?