Gillian Polack, a historian and writer (can you be one and not the other?) has recently been celebrating Women’s History Month over at her blog/livejournal by inviting an impressive number of women writers to provide guest blogs about overcoming obstacles.
My contribution is one of the last to go up, alongside an amazing plethora of talented, obstinate, insightful, passionate women who have overcome a diverse range of obstacles during their lives: from completing a Masters Thesis on Jeanne d’Arc, to a double migration from Rhodesia/Zimbabwe to England and then to Australia, from a bad marriage to drug-fuelled musician, to becoming a successful manga-style comic book artist. These are snapshots of the rich and strange world women live in, and have lived in for centuries. (You can find a full list of contributors here).
According to a lovely potted history Gillian provides, Australia’s Women’s History Month was first celebrated in Australia in 2000. Gillian writes eloquently about the grass-root, behind-the-scenes, in-the-margins creation of Australia’s Women’s History Month:
I was meeting Helen [Leonard] for coffee at Gus’s, a café in central Canberra. The first Women’s History Month committee meeting in Australia was that coffee. I don’t know if the others knew before they arrived – one day I must ask them. I certainly didn’t know. There is a formal list of the initial committee on Australia’s Women’s History Month somewhere, I believe, but I really don’t know if it actually represents all the people Helen had in mind or had worked with … I can remember the coffee, every mouthful. We sat outside at a little table that was diminished further by Helen’s overflowing ashtray. I had a cappuccino and took so long to drink it that the last mouthfuls were icy. Lulu Respall-Turner walked out of a radio station where she was interviewing me late last year and we looked at that table from across the road and asked each other why it was so far in our pasts. Five years is not a long time, but the underlying fabric of life changed when Helen died: that first meeting was aeons ago.
Like that coffee, my images are frozen. I remember thinking, “In the US they had an Act of Congress to create Women’s History Month; in Australia we have a declaration by Helen.”
Australian Women’s History Month Come, join the rumpus!