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Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
WOMEN AND WAR
As ANZAC Day approaches, Tracey Edstein speaks
to the recipient of the $20,000 NSW Centenary
of ANZAC Commemoration (2014-2018) Histor y
Fellowship, the University of Newcastle's Associate
Professor Victoria Haskins. Professor Haskins is
researching the impact of World War I on women of
the Hunter region.
Victoria Haskins' great-grandmother handed
the sword to Francis de Groot as he careered
in front of Premier Jack Lang who was about to
declare Sydney Harbour Bridge open, slashing the
ceremonial ribbon. This goes a long way towards
explaining Victoria's love of stories, especially
history, and most especially "her stories". The
research for "ANZAC: Her stor y" will focus
on the local area and Associate Professor
Ha skins has already uncovered many threads
which she hopes to weave into an engaging and
"One of the things I'm looking for ward to is
researching Maud Butler who stowed away as a
soldier and caused quite a sensation at the time,"
"Maud, a Catholic woman from Kur ri Kurri, was
ar rested three times for wearing the uniform
of the AIF. Recruiters had actively engaged her
to suppor t the war effor t and the judge was
repor tedly disgusted that she'd been brought
"She wanted to join the Red Cross, another area
I'm interested in, but she was only 16 and so
wasn't allowed. I suspect she wanted to get to
Another aspect that interests her is the historical
context of the war, both locally and beyond. "The
Hunter is interesting because it wa s such a volatile
working class area, and the place where the big
coal miner s' strikes happened. There's a whole
history of labour r adicalism and I'd be interested
to know more of women's involvement. The
Russian Revolution of 1917 forms par t of the
backdrop of this period and the labour movement
at the time was lively, to say the least.
"The conscription debates were also volatile and
I want to pur sue those too. Catholics were often
seen as anti-conscription because theirs was a
working cla ss ba se, and also because the war
effor t was seen as suppor ting the British Empire."
The Easter Uprising, a passionate call for Irish
independence, took place in Dublin just days after
the first commemor ation of ANZAC Day in 1916
-- and of course, many Australian Catholics were
of Irish background and would be sympathetic to
the Irish cause.
Victoria says that nurses are tr aditionally the
"female counterpar t of the br ave soldier" and
there is much material on the nurses of World
War I. "I'd like to look at the nur ses who went
to India where they nur sed prisoners of war;
soldier s , but not their own soldiers. They would
of cour se have been aware that other women
would be nursing Australian prisoners -- this was
an experience of war that men didn't have.
"When I'm teaching this period of Austr alian
history I a sk my students to think about what it
means that Austr alia chooses this day, a military
day, to be significant. Does this story mean that
we're a par ticularly aggressive and warlike society?
The stories we choose to tell, about our selves as
individuals and as a nation, matter. "
In this centenary year of the beginning of World
War I, there are stories waiting to be told of
inter nment camps, of the women who pushed
for six o'clock closing, of new-found career
oppor tunities for women. If you have a stor y to
share, plea se contact the editor.
inserted monthly into the Newcastle Herald, Maitland
Mercury, Scone Advocate, Singleton Argus, Muswellbrook
Chronicle and Manning River Times.
CONTACT CRAIG SLAVEK
E cslavek@ fairfaxmedia.com.au
Associate Professor Victoria Haskins.
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