It’s a really long book and took ten years to write but Clare Wright’s Stellar prize winning “The forgotten rebels of Eureka” plays a crucial role in ensuring that the role of women in Australia’s history is not forgotten. It’s remarkable to think that women have been so widely excluded from stories of history but Clare’s book helps us to see that not only were women present during the gold mining days in Ballarat, Victoria, but even more significantly they were actively involved in the community. Some of them were great characters, well known in the area and running establishments such as theatres and hotels. Others played a more private, though no less important, role in raising children and keeping house – or more accurately tents.
One could wonder why this book is now being written and why it has taken such a long time. One of the problems could be the invisibility of women, which no doubt continues today as women still tend to have a presence in the private sphere and don’t usually make it to the top echelon of our modern society. So in many ways women today are still not being written into history.
I recall being a student of women’s studies many years ago now and while being inspired by the challenges the course created, also found it alarming that we needed to have it as a separate curriculum at university and that there was so much to study – so much that was wrong with our world where women were left out, harmed or ignored. At the same time as Clare’s book is gaining recognition around the country we can still hear feminist activists such as Eva Cox remarking that many aspects of women’s lives are no better than they were four or five decades ago when we first started to think about women’s rights in Australia.
As a mother of two daughters I feel powerless to change the world but I do believe that in my own way I have contributed to the world being a better place for them. They are both tertiary educated and aware of women’s and human rights, but still experience the prejudices of our modern society when it comes to the way they look and dress, the roles they play in society and in negotiating their relationships. We still have a long way to go but at least we are making some small inroads.