Seventies feminism in Australia

An Early American Feminist
An Early English Feminist
An Australian Feminist


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

The 1970s were a time of great change in Australia. This post is based on my memories of that time, and the beginning of the Women’s Movement in Sydney, Australia.

By 1972, the fledgling beginnings of a feminist movement were evident in Australia. It had started, like many such reform movements, by intellectuals and radicals within university campuses; it was triggered, also, by media accounts at that time.

A Game Changer for Women

And then there was “The Female Eunuch”.

I was 27 when the book came out and she, Germaine Greer, won me over totally. Up until then, my only contact with radical women’s libbers, had been at university,  where they were often loud and raucous voices raised against the status quo and men in general.

Here was this unbelievably beautiful young woman with intelligence and wit, who was talking openly about sex. How could I not be influenced?

I knew about the earlier First Wave feminists, the brave suffragettes who faced the ire of their husbands and of the establishment, often facing prison sentences and social ostracism for their views.

Author of The Female Eunuch

The Female Eunuch was not a political book, but a call to women to take part on the world stage, and to live brighter, braver lives.

If she was not political enough for some, for others, like me, her book was a talisman, pointing us on the path towards change.

On 2 December 1972,  Australia went to the polls,  and elected a new party, headed by Gough Whitlam, a reformer. Probably the only real, amazing reformer on the Australian political scene. He brought in laws that promoted the arts in Australia, and brought us into the modern era on so many fronts.  He also helped the Women’s cause, one of the forward-reaching steps being blame-free divorce laws. The best of times, politically speaking, although short-lived, were about to begin…

A 70s Women’s Liberation March in Sydney

For me, being a Feminist was all about choosing your own path. I’d been against the idea of marriage, because of my parents’ conflicted one. I’d already tried having an  adventurous journey or two, living in France for four years as a student during the 1968 Student/Workers Revolution in Paris.  And I’d travelled with a girlfriend from Paris into the Ukraine during the Cold War years. I was now ready to take, for me, a courageous step: getting married. It was my turn to try my hand at parenting, to see if I would be any better at it than my own mother had been. By this time, you see, I desperately wanted to have a baby, and I’d fallen in love at the ripe old age of thirty-one. But this would entail another journey, an inner one this time, during which I would need to face my fears and trauma from the past—from my upbringing— that were holding me back emotionally.




8 responses to “Seventies feminism in Australia”

  1. very interesting Anne, would love to hear more about your trip to the Ukraine!

    1. Anne Skyvington Avatar
      Anne Skyvington

      It’s all there waiting to be brought to life. Perhaps that might be my next post? Thanks my dear friend for the gentle challenge.

  2. They were exciting times, Anne.I didn’t join the women’s liberation but by then i had three beautiful daughters and an extraordinary wife. I would have burnt my bra for them! As St Ursula said:
    “If you educate a man, you educate one.
    Educate a woman and you educate a family.”
    So true.

    1. Anne Skyvington Avatar
      Anne Skyvington

      Love that, Roger. It’s all about the personal journey, neither right nor wrong. It was just time then for things to change. They’re still going on changing now.

  3. Totally agree with you, Anne. I also marched for Women’s Liberation in the early seventies. with two babies in tow. Their father came along to help with the children, but was booed out of the march because he was a man! We’ve come a long way since those days, but still have eons to go. I loved ‘the Female Eunuch’, and it changed my life, probably contributing to the demise of my marriage, which I now deeply regret. We all made sacrifices then, so that our daughters and sons both, could enjoy true gender equality in their lives now. And I thank Gough for my education under his newly introduces ‘NEAT’ scheme which gave women like me with limited means and interrupted education the chance to get professional qualifications. Vale Gough.

    1. Anne Skyvington Avatar
      Anne Skyvington

      So right! Each journey was different, but similar as well. We all benefited from it.

  4. well done Anne. very interesting post, and so topical.

    1. Anne Skyvington Avatar
      Anne Skyvington

      Yes, and I’m sure your journey was similar in some ways, influenced by the changing times. So, hopefully our daughters will have a different road to take, perhaps not easier, but victorious in the end.

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