‘There ought to be a lot of joy in a special year for women’: Conflict, Compromise and Consciousness-Raising in International Women’s Year, 1975

When:9 Oct 2018, 12:30pm - 1:45pm
Venue:Room 310, Morven Brown Building, Kensington Campus
Who:Associate Professor Michelle Arrow, Macquarie University
Michelle Arrow

Abstract: In 1972, the United Nations General Assembly declared that 1975 would be International Women’s Year (IWY). IWY represented a unique opportunity for Elizabeth Reid, who in 1973 was appointed women’s affairs advisor to Labour PM Gough Whitlam. She persuaded Whitlam to allocate $2 million to a grants program in order to achieve three aims: to change Australian attitudes about women, to address areas of discrimination and suffering, and to encourage women’s creativity. Yet the grants program, and IWY itself, was incredibly controversial, provoking conflict outside and within the women’s movement, particularly amongst Indigenous women. These tensions erupted at the Women and Politics Conference in Canberra in September 1975, and the movement’s performative disarray at the conference led to Elizabeth Reid’s resignation just weeks after. This paper examines International Women’s Year in Australia as a case study of the successes and failures of the women’s movement’s engagement with the Whitlam government.

A/ Prof. Michelle Arrow is the author of two books, including Friday on Our Minds: Popular Culture in Australia since 1945 (2009). Her radio documentary, ‘Public Intimacies: the 1974 Royal Commission on Human Relationships’ won the 2014 NSW Premier’s Multimedia History Prize.

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