Let’s drink a toast to the Australian Women’s Weekly!

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cover of women's weekly posterised

Glamour, science and intelligent reporting. The Women’s Weekly was a lone voice commending Antarctic exploration for the sake of science.

6 February 1956.

It’s time to salute to a lone voice. The Australian media were mean spirited about Antarctica.  They pushed the line that at some stage there had better be clear financial returns to justify the expense of maintaining a permanent base in such a godforsaken land.

When the Kista left Melbourne, the Right Honourable Richard Casey (the perceptibly tired and emotional Australian Minister for External Affairs) was amongst the crowd of well-wishers gathered to see them on their way. He gave a stirring farewell speech in which he stressed the scientific importance of our Antarctic project. It was essential for Australia to honour our commitment to the International Geophysical Year, he explained.

Harold Campbell, editor of Melbourne’s broadsheet The Age, covered the Minister’s statesman-like speech like this: “Results Please Mr Casey: Australia Steps Up Antarctic Development”.

So you see what I mean. For the press, Antarctica was a story of minerals and loot.

There was one outstanding exception.

Frank Packer’s full-colour, illustrated magazine, The Australian Women’s Weekly. The reporters at the Weekly loved Antarctica because it was huge and beautiful, because it was a wild frontier, and because the men and women who went there were thrilling and adventurous. Their lead articles were outstanding, both for being informative and for focussing primarily on the scientific significance of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition.  

The Weekly ran some wonderful features on some of the real heroes of Antarctica.

The first woman to be featured in an Antarctic story by the Women’s Weekly was Radio Australia’s Jocelyn Terry, and the Weekly was there, too, covering the first Australian woman to visit Mawson, when Phil Law’s stylish, artist wife, Nel, was basically smuggled aboard—against DEA orders—in 1961.

They ran a wonderful double-page spread on the pioneering surveyor Bob Dovers, who I’ll write about in more detail as the year progresses and they featured someone who is aboard with us this year, who I’ve mentioned already, and that’s Harry Ayres.  So in the next post, I’ll feature the Weekly’s report on Harry and fill you in a bit, on why we all owe Harry a debt (even if he did take our best dogs to New Zealand).

 

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About lynettefinch

Dr Lynette Finch. Once I was a poster designer and illustrator. I ran a small poster business called Mantis Prints, specializing in political posters during the odd days of the Bjelke-Petersen Government in Queensland. I’m told my posters hung on the walls of Rizhsky railway station in Moscow, although I’m not sure about that. They are in the collections of the Queensland Art Gallery, on several on-line websites, and in the following book: Lynne Seear and Julie Ewington, eds. Light II, Contemporary Australian Art 1966-2006, Queensland Art Gallery Publishing, 2007, pp. 110-117. In my next incarnation I was a senior lecturer in history. I published books and articles on urban health and feeding people in modern industrial cities, on the Queensland home front in the second world war and the role and history of war propaganda. Sometimes I wrote about Marxism and its impact around the world as well as intimate oral histories of communists in Australia, their experiences in conservative society, their role as social and political radicals in small towns and cities. Once I went through a death phase and wrote about the role of the Coroners Court in colonial society, about abortion and infanticide in nineteenth century cities, and about the role of gossip in policing. My research took a decidedly happier direction when I was granted an Arts Fellowship to Antarctica in the 2007/08 season, as research for a biography about Antarctic surveyor and explorer Syd Kirkby. I bunkered down in a blizzard in Brooke's hut near Davis station and imagined what it was like for Syd, caught for twelve days in a 150-knot blizzard, high in the plateau beyond Mawson in 1960. Some of my books: Australia’s Frontline: Remembering the 1939-45 War. With the rapid escalation of the Pacific War in 1942, Queenslanders suddenly found themselves perilously close to the frontline, especially those in the far north. The book is based on interviews of men and women who worked their farms in the north, some of them Italians and Germans who were interned as enemy aliens. Nevertheless, the book is essentially a story of courage, of community spirit and neighbourliness, and of the public and private war effort of a community facing crisis and loss. Dark Angel: Propaganda in Modern Warfare. This book traces the origins and development of propaganda and media manipulation from the 1800s to today’s ‘spin’ and ‘false news’. Why have governments at war allocated resources to propaganda leaflets, broadcasts, movies and art during major military conflicts? Read the book. You’ll find the answer. The Classing Gaze: Sexuality, Class and Surveillance. Concepts like sexuality and class share the same moment of birth during the nineteenth century as social inquiry turned to analysis of the workings, population growth, thought patterns, economic systems and internal bodily workings of humans (or Man, to be historically accurate). How did these ideological concepts impact in the real world? A great deal, is the short answer, outlined in this book. Young in a Warm Climate: a history of childhood in Queensland is an edited volume about childhood on the Queensland frontiers, at school, at home, in hospitals and other institutions. Fixing Antarctica: Mapping the Frozen South. In 1956, in the height of the cold war, the biggest wintering expedition that Australia had ever sent to Antarctica set out to map the great frozen landmass of Antarctica, driven by official fears that the Soviet Union meant to take the continent for themselves. The fourteen scientists were chosen from a field of hundreds of applicants. The surveyor, the central character in Fixing Antarctica, was Sydney Kirkby. Over the next twenty years, Syd Kirkby explored and map more unknown regions in the world than any other person in history. Earth, Wind and Fire is essentially twelve generations of my father’s mother’s family but it’s much more than that. It’s kind of Game of Thrones without the dragons. It starts with a kidnapped girl in Shelford, Nottinghamshire in the east midlands of England in 1618 and follows an unbroken chain of recorded births, deaths and marriages which spans four centuries until, six generations later, her descendants flee their farms in Ireland and join the diaspora to Australia. Using family stories, family photographs, published diaries and official documents, it’s the interwoven stories of five families struggling to survive amidst the most tumultuous times in European history. What’s next? I’m wandering into the boggy territory of creative fiction, writing a series of crime stories set on King Island, a beautiful windy island in the Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania. I’ve finished the first draft of Book One, The Rock. There will be seven, I think. I’m also writing a stand along novel, called The Key Collector. It’s about a World traveller, Angela who settles in a Tasmanian village near her daughter and grandson where she witnesses a car crash that kills three women. Convinced the collision was an act of murder, she digs into the tragic lives of the victims and is mired in a mystery stretching across three continents and reaching into the second world war.

One response »

  1. Reblogged this on XtraMile Tuition Strategies and commented:
    History is over-looked a bit these days with such comments as “What is it good for?”; “That was then and this is now!” and “What is the point of learning old stuff?”. Our present is, and will always be built upon our past and the only way to progress forward is not to repeat what has been.
    Neither are moments in history always created by great men participating in great moments. The truly fascinating past is created by ordinary people performing their jobs under sometimes extraordinary conditions. I have been following this blog as it describes wonderfully that second style of historic person, the ordinary person doing their job.
    We may not all aspire to become great moments in history but it is comforting to know that history records as great moments the ordinary person doing ordinary work under extraordinary conditions. It illustrates the importance of education and commitment to doing a job well.

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