An alternate view on missionaries

When asked to comment on the Stolen Generation and destruction of Aboriginal culture in the twentieth century, the general consensus would condemn the actions of the government and missionary involvement with the indigenous community. My findings through an in depth study of John Harris’s We Wish We’d Done More: Ninety Years of the Church Missionary Society and Aboriginal issues in north Australia, provide a contrasting insight of a missionaries experience and understanding of these events in history.

John Harris, author, researcher and missionary to Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory recalls the history of the Church Missionary Society in Arnhem Land with an overarching theme that missionaries (particularly at the Roper River Mission, Arnhem Land) had good intentions although in hindsight could have played a greater role providing support to Aboriginal people and by understanding native customs and beliefs have developed a more effective way to share their Christian faith. This notion is in stark contrast to contemporary writers such as Noel Loos who deems the work of missionaries as too invasive, forcing daily regimentation and Christianity upon an unwilling population.

The culture and language of a people are an important means of identification with contemporary writer, Jillian E Barnes acknowledging the value of preserving traditional values and customs. Unlike the stereotypical paternal missionary, Harris explains his understanding of the uniqueness of Aboriginal culture, languages and the native way of life. In fact, being aware of the worth of native languages he has devoted many years to studying linguistics, learning Aboriginal languages, translating English work to native languages and within this deepening his relationships with indigenous people. While Barnes believes indigenous culture should be preserved in its’ uniqueness as a tourist attraction with Aboriginals continuing to live in their traditional patterns of life, in seclusion, without the need to assimilate to European culture. Harris on the other hand thought missionaries should learn from Aboriginals about their culture and beliefs and likewise, share European traditions and Christianity in mutually beneficial relationships. In contrast to Barnes desire to maintain a secluded Aboriginal population, Harris opts for greater interaction between Aboriginals and missionaries, and views the lack of prioritizing native languages as one of the greatest failures of CMS, considering from a church perspective this would have allowed missionaries the ability to translate and teach Christian beliefs more effectively.

Furthermore, missionaries at Roper River approached communication with the Aboriginal people through a form of Pidgin English yet expected Aboriginal children to learn proper English as taught by their schoolteachers. Harris urges towards the view of contemporary critics when he declares the failings of CMS missionaries in this area who should have spent valuable time learning native languages and better understanding traditional cultural rather than enforcing their own in a paternalistic nature. This is however where Harris flips this agreed point upon its head by declaring that Christianity would have had a greater opportunity to be shared with the indigenous people and flourish in their community if missionaries had not been overwhelmed by busyness and the multitude of native languages but instead developed ways to communicate and translate their beliefs to the native tongue.

Harris also writes in conflict to popular understanding and Bringing Them Home, the enquiry into the Stolen Generation. The separation of children from their parents, in particular half-caste Aboriginal children from their Aboriginal mothers has received a response of admission, from the government, church and private organizations, to the long term suffering caused to Aboriginal communities and the European regimentation enforced upon these children. While the Church Missionary Society apologized in 1997 for the burden their actions has caused, Harris claims that children at the Roper River Mission were not separated from their parents, rather given over to missionary care by their willing parents with regular opportunities to visit and be involved in the lives of their children. Harris defends missionaries who were under orders from the government from whom they received money and the permission to create missions, therefore were required to carry out duties they may not have agreed with. To give a balanced argument however Harris urges all readers to view Bringing Them Home and grasp the pain that was caused to this generation of the Aboriginal population.

Harris provides insight into the experiences and motivations of missionaries in Arnhem Land, who are popularly considered in a negative light. By writing with a sensitive and well-researched approach, Harris admits the faults of the Church Missionary Society and those in his profession yet provides personal insight into motivations and reasoning of missionaries to humanize these people who are so often demonized for their treatment of Aboriginal people.Image

The 1933 Banking Crisis? ‘We have nothing to fear,’ Roosevelt and the fireside chats are here!

During the peak of the Great Depression, the Roosevelt administration used radical economic policy as well as an innovative social policy response in the Fireside Chats that led to the end of the 1933 Banking Crisis. The Chats marked a change in the president-citizen relationship and a new sense of trust that enabled Roosevelt to assuage public fears about the security of the banking system and restore confidence in the economy. Simultaneously, Roosevelt commenced a more intimate style of presidential communication that later presidents would also effectively utilise. Roosevelt’s successful restoration of public confidence, his strong leadership and, in essence, good acting skills allowed him to console the public by presenting an apparent air of confidence and a strong, believable public facade; many historians including Rexford Tugwell, Amos Kiewe, David Ryfe and William Silber agree on this point. 

The 1933 Banking Crisis was the culmination of months of uncertain economic conditions and financial losses; 342 banks had been closed in 1932 alone. A sort of mass hysteria had seized the American public, who had little financial knowledge and who had been left uninformed by President Hoover of the important role market confidence and investment plays in economic stability. Silber posits that the Banking Holiday of March 5, 1933, which paused all financial trading across America, was the shock policy needed to stop the constant withdrawal of funds from the banking system.[1] During the seven-day closure, roughly 4000 banks were declared insolvent, and under the Emergency Banking Act 1933, only a few banks were declared sound for reopening. Under this Act, these banks would be financially guaranteed by the government. The Fireside Chats were implemented to complement the economic policy through a deliberate attempt to reassure the public of the validity of the government policy and banking security by providing some basic financial education to the mostly economically unaware American people. Tugwell notes that the intimate relationship that the president established with his radio audience through the Fireside Chats encouraged feelings of stability in the public though this was not necessarily the financial reality.[2] However, overall, historians concur that the combined action of the government was highly successful restoring half the withdrawn deposits within two weeks of the banks reopening.

Timing played an important role in the success of the Roosevelt administration’s early actions. The public had grown weary of the Hoover administration’s lack of visible, decisive action. The public were hungry for a change of administration and this only helped to foster the success of the Roosevelt campaign; the emotional state of the public meant that they wanted Roosevelt to succeed; they wanted to believe in the ability of their new president to halt the Banking Crisis. Additionally, Ryfe notes President Hoover’s failure to interact with the public had caused the public to lose confidence in his leadership abilities.[3] Hoover preferred indirect public communication through the press rather than giving live speeches or radio broadcasts, whereas Roosevelt was determined to utilise radio to foster a trusting friendship with the public that would result in his administration receiving greater public support and boosting consumer confidence.

Having previously tested the medium of radio during his Governorship of New York, Roosevelt knew that radio had the capacity to establish him as the people’s president by communicating to individual citizens in the comfort of their own homes. Roosevelt evoked what Ryfe calls a ‘friend-next-door’ tone of warmth, intimacy and inclusion that facilitated a new presidential relationship and trust. Roosevelt used phrases such as ‘fellow Americans,’ inclusive language and personal pronouns (‘I,’ ‘we,’ ‘you,’ and ‘our,’) and empathic praise of the people’s response to the Banking Crisis to cement an intimate relationship with the public. The opening lines of Roosevelt’s first, fifteen-minute long Fireside Chat, March 12, 1933, initiated a tone of openness and communication that would shape all future presidential communications: ‘My friends, I want to talk for few minutes with the people of the United States about banking.’[4] By addressing the public as friends and intimating his desire to aid the public in their situation, Roosevelt immediately established a relationship of trust with his radio audience. This, along with what historians agree was a frank and direct style, allowed him to comfort the frightened public by providing them with a fatherly figure that represented safety, affirmative action and a new hope for the future.

Ronald Reagan borrowed Roosevelt’s techniques of directness and reassurance in his television addresses during the Cold War in order to establish an intimate relationship with the public at home and to instil confidence.[5] Reagan’s stylistic mimicry highlights the impact Roosevelt had on changing the way later presidents would approach the American public.

President Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats shifted the president-citizen relationship into a new rhetorical paradigm facilitated by direct communication through radio. This newly personalised communication mechanism played a crucial role in the administration’s successful cessation of the Crisis, by fostering a unique public trust in the administration’s abilities and also reformulated the nature of the president-citizen relationship for years to come.

[1] Silber, William L. ‘Why did FDR’s Banking Holiday Succeed?’ FRBNY Economic Policy Review (2009): pp. 19-30.

[2] Tugwell, Rexford G. ‘Franklin D. Roosevelt on the Verge of the Presidency.’ The Antioch Review 16 (1) (1956): pp. 46-79.

[3] Ryfe, David Michael. ‘Franklin Roosevelt and The Fireside Chats.’ Journal of Communication (1999): pp 80-103.

[4]F D Roosevelt, ‘Fireside Chat no.1’ in Kiewe, FDR’s First Fireside Chat: Public Confidence and the Banking Crisis.

[5] Reed Welsch, ‘Was Reagan Really a Great Communicator? The Influence of Televised Addresses on Public Opinion,’ Presidential Studies Quarterly 33(4) (2003):p 853.

The Cult of Masculinity

Think about it…

When you are sitting on public transport, enjoying your daily commute to work, and you notice an extraordinarily attractive gentleman in a slim cut suit – what are your initial thoughts?

“He’s hot!!!”

Yes. Of course. But ASIDE from that?

“Look at his overpowering masculinity: his well kept moustache, his strong biceps, his washboard abs…”

Exactly. You admire his masculinity. But do you ever wonder why you value these masculine characteristics? Or indeed, why these characteristics are proscribed to be masculine?

“The Cult of Identity: The History Wars Regarding National Identity in Australia” (‘Cult’) is an examination of how certain concepts of masculinity came to be embodied in Australia’s national mystique. It explores how historians in the mid twentieth century, desperate for a national history, co-opted poems and bush-ballads of the past to discern a distinctly masculine national identity for Australians. Whilst this essay could not explore the scope of these ramifications, it certainly outlines how these foundations were created.

So, before we begin, which of these images do you think truly represents the Australian national identity?


A feminist response might say:

  “None of those images are , or were at any time, a true  representation of Australia’s national identity!”

Some of you might say:

“Well… the ANZAC Soldier appears to be the oldest picture above… and we do know that masculine characteristics of strength and fertility were embodied in representations of the solider in the WWI years…”

Whereas others might say:

 “Well hang on… what did Russell Ward say in The Australian Legend (1958)? Something about our national identity being based on the ‘Noble Bushman’ posited in the poetry of A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson and Henry Lawson?’

Cult seeks to explore the historiography surrounding the representations of masculinity in Australian history. Firstly, it engages with the main secondary source Russel Ward’s ‘The Australian Legend’ (1958) (‘Legend’) and outlines Ward’s thesis. By way of brief summary, Legend posited that Australia’s national identity was founded upon the rural values of nineteenth century bushmen. By exploring the poetry of Henry Lawson and A.B ‘Banjo Paterson’, Ward concluded that rural values of the nineteenth century, such as mateship and collectivist democracy, were ‘adopted by the whole nation… [and] became embalmed in a national myth (Ward, Legend, (1958) p.1). Ward claimed that Lawson and Paterson were the chief propagators in facilitating the idea that bush life was representative of Australia’s national identity. Cult seeks to outline how Ward’s text, which became emblematic as it was the first to consider Australia’s masculine past was soon dispelled by historians. Cult also notes that Legend is now a starting point for all historians discussing Australian masculinity: it has been so constantly delegitimised by historians that now, ‘any discussion of Australian national values seems bound to use Russel Ward as a starting point’ (Rickard, National Character and the ‘Typical Australian’ (1979) p.19).

It is important at this point to note that Cult is a historiographical essay: it seeks to evaluate and synthesise the conflicting viewpoints regarding Australian masculinity.

Cult firstly considers the history war between Russel Ward and Humphrey McQueen. The purpose of this is dual fold:

  1. Firstly, it is one of the few ‘History Wars’ that have occurred in Australia; and
  2. Because this was the founding text which encouraged historians to delegitimise Ward.

McQueen’s argument is that Ward’s thesis should be disregarded because its view on masculinity is too narrow: it fails to consider the varying forms of masculinity experienced in urban centres as compared to the bush. Furthermore, McQueen charges Ward with creating a distorted rendition of the past, failing to acknowledge that Australian masculinity also embodied sinister traits such as racism and selfishness (McQueen, A New Britannia: An Argument Concerning the Social Origins of Australian Radicalism, (1970) p.23). McQueen’s thesis was assisted by the urban historian Graeme Davison who, by studying the contextual backgrounds of the primary sources that Ward relied upon in Legend, concluded that Ward’s thesis was ‘lacking in bush credibility’ (Davison, Sydney and the Bush, (1978) p.10).Davison analysed the urban lifestyles of Lawson and Paterson to conclude that their works, which celebrated an Australian identity based on rural values, could hardly be accurate considering that neither author had spent any time in the bush itself. However, Cult argues that these perspectives are incorrect and that Ward’s thesis may contain some fundamental truths within it. For example, consider this poem:

‘Round the camp fire of the fencers by the furthest panel west,
In the men’s hut by the muddy billabong,
On the Great North-Western Stock-routes where the drovers never rest,
In the shearers’ hut the slush lamp shows a haggard, stern-faced man
…They are drafting future histories of states! (Henry Lawson, “The Men Who Made Australia, 1882)

This poem, which had the intention of contrasting the toughness of rural Australia to the relative ease of urban life, shows that nineteenth century artists were attempting to locate and define a national identity for Australians.

Cult highlights that the contentions of historians such as McQueen and Davison have recently been revised and that the reliability of Lawson and Paterson have been restored through the research of revisionist historians. The historian Garner has re-examined diary entries, letters and ballads produced by Lawson and Paterson and has concluded that they both had ‘demonstrable bush credibility’ (Garner, ‘Bushmen of the Bulletin: Re-examining Lawson’s ‘Bush Credibility’ (2012) p.78). It is this approach that draws us back to the questions that were posed at the beginning of this blog:

  • Why have historians celebrated certain characteristics to be masculine; and
  • At what point in time did we begin ascribing certain acts of strength, patriotism and protection to men?

Whilst Cult cannot answer these questions, it does highlight how the topic of Australia masculinity has been fluid and often dependant on the the historians’ background and political motivations. By considering how Australia’s masculine national identity was formed and fought over by historians, we can broaden our considerations of how certain characteristics have been delegated to men over time.


‘Those women hidden from history’ : Feminism and the impact it has had upon the historical representations and experience of women in late 20th century Australia.

In this powerful national myth-making, the blood women shed in actually giving birth- their deaths, their courage and endurance, their babies-were rendered invisible.” 

Grimshaw, Creating a Nation, pp.7-9

Women of twenty-first century Australia  have come along way from the days when prime minister; career woman and opportunist would never have been an option to even consider. The development of the historical representations and experience of women in late twentieth century has brought to light women’s history of the past in Australia. The reason why women rose from the ranks, previously shaded by patriotism is the uprising of feminism.  One must question if feminism did not exist , ‘Would women have a history?’ or ‘What would women in history look like?’


To understand how women rose from the bottom ranks of history, one must understand the theory behind their actions. Feminism is a set of ideas; a social and political movement which aims to emancipate women from patriarchy. The diverse nature of feminism has meant that there have been a number of different strands of feminism, also known as ‘schools of thought.’ The three main strands are; Liberal, Marxist and Socialist feminism. Each strand represents a different ideological path feminism can uphold. The theory behind feminism is crucial to understand the actions and motives of feminist revolutionaries, as nothing is done without reason.


“Feminism is not a late twentieth century development; it has deep roots which reach back into a time well before Australia’s federation.” 

L.Lwin, Feminism is so 70’s, were all Post-feminists now, pp. 1-76

Historian Marilyn Lake, in Getting Equal. The History of Australian Feminism (1999), claimed that Australian feminism has four historical periods; pre-suffrage feminism (1870’s- 1901) ; maternal feminism (1901- early 1930’s) ; equality feminism (1930’s 1970) and liberation feminism (from 1970). Each period indicates the presence of feminist thought, although it was Liberation feminism from 1970 that sought the resurgence of women within the public domain.

Women’s Liberation Movement, 1975

Julia Gillard- First woman to become Australian Prime Minister (2010)

Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst was arrested several times (1903)










Autobiography has long been recognised as an important feminist genre for expanding and realigning the historical and the literary record. The 1970’s saw a strong resurgence of feminist thought, in which women sought to lesson the effects of political, legal, economic, sexual and social oppression. Reflections of the experience of women during the Women’s Liberation Movement in Australia, 1975 has allowed women to tell what has not been told before.

Zelda D’ Aprano, was the first Australian women’s movement autobiography and major work of feminist cultural remembrance. Her autobiography titled, The Becoming of a Woman, (1977), explores the suppression women experienced within the workplace because of her class, gender and left wing beliefs. Zelda’s story brought to the stage for the first time, the realities of women’s experience.









The recollections of the time suggest that feminism, has provided an opportunity to explore the history of women without the subjugation of patriarchy. For the first time in Australian history the voices of the ordinary woman were being heard and their outbursts of past oppression were presented to the public.


Australia and other western nations witnessed the 1970’s, to be the beginning of a vast array of social and political change. Women’s lives, roles and status had began to transform. This was largely due to the growth of feminism and its proliferation into popular thought and debate. Feminism also gained popularity amongst the masses, concerned with a variety of different issues including; sexual freedom, workplace rights and education. 

Feminism, was not praised by all women, yet majority even if they chose to acknowledge the inequality or ignore it, they understood that it had been there and it was not going to disappear. One must ask… ‘If feminism did not exist would women have achieved….’;

  • The Sex Discrimination Act, 1984
  • Improvement of education
  • Political representation
  • Shift of gender roles

Feminism was the birth of a modern world, one of new beginnings for women. 


The role of women within Australian women has drastically changed throughout history. The shift from domestic housewife and child bearer to career woman and opportunist  is an indication of  just how far women have come over the years. Throughout its history it has been feminism that has proved itself to be capable of achieving great social, political and economic change. The late twentieth century saw the beliefs and oppression’s held by many women over the year to finally reach a public domain and to be heard. Feminism has influenced women’s history as they are no longer absent, not shut down by the pressures of their male counterparts.

Further Readings:

  • Ann Summers, Ducks on the Pond: Keeping a Distance, 1999 (Victoria: Penguin)
  • L.Lwin, Feminism is so 70’s, were all Post-feminists now’(Ph. D. thesis, Murdoch University, 2011) pp. 1-76
  • Marilyn Lake, ‘Getting Equal. The History of Australian Feminism’ (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1999). pp.xi-3
  • Zelda D’Aprano, Zelda: the becoming of a woman (Melbourne: Visa, 1978) pp. 1-21

The C.I.A during the Cold War. It’s impact on American rhetoric and the perception of the United States role in the world.

During the Cold War, the C.I.A became the flag bearer for American ideals, exporting American values across the globe through clandestine operations in the likes of Cuba, Vietnam and Nicaragua. These actions undertaken by the C.I.A, are the skeletons in the agency’s closet.  They reflect an attitude, a vision, pertaining to both the C.I.A and the United States government. Actions that often contradict the strong American rhetoric of freedom, liberty and justice. The C.I.A prides itself on a “Hallmark of quiet patriotism”, but when black operations go public, when this patriotism is not quiet, the C.I.A not only characterizes itself as an agency, but furthermore reveals how the United States sees itself, and it’s role as a global power in the struggle against communism.


In 1961, The C.I.A formulated a plan to oust Cuban leader Fidel Castro from Power. Fidel’s communist regime was a threat on the United States very doorstep. The agency had considered funding rebel groups in previous years, but in 1960 decided that it had to step in. Cuba, according to one U.S. embassy official at the time, “was incapable of maintaing order in its own house.” This declaration is key to understanding how the C.I.A acted during the Cold War, and how the United States defined it’s own global responsibility. If Cuba was incapable of having a democratic, capitalist government, than America would have to step in. The C.I.A began planning an invasion on behalf of President Kennedy, and the agency would become the President’s tool to export Americanness and American values overseas. America was world’s example of liberty, justice and order. Cuba threatened that. And the C.I.A would ultimately have to break these American ideals in order to protect them.

The operation itself showed how the C.I.A reflected this American responsibility of maintaing global order. The agency trained Cuban exiles in Florida, and hired Guatemalan and Nicaraguan mercenaries to fly Air Force supplied bombers. America had a responsibility to protect the free world, but with this responsibility came an air of superiority. One C.I.A trainer declared he would never tell the Cubans he was training when the invasion would take place “because I don’t trust any goddamn Cubans.” Kennedy did not want to risk U.S. casualties and so held back 1,500 U.S marines on standby. America had a responsibility, but if it could get away with using others to fulfill that role for them, then they would not have to risk their necks.

C.I.A activities in Vietnam echoed this sentiment as well, of the value the C.I.A places on American personnel. The agency in the late 60s, formulated what was known a the “Phoenix Program.” It was designed to weed out the Vietcong in rural areas, winning support among villages for the U.S. and South Vietnam. Originally the program would be conducted by U.S. special forces, conducting raids on Vietcong areas, tracking spies and conducting raids. yet as the war went on, the C.I.A relocated American personnel to the front, and started employing new members to the program. Bounty hunters from the Phillipines, and ex Viet-Cong made up the bulk of these forces, and unlike U.S. special forces did not have the same restrictions or political red tape. The program originally designed to win ‘hearts and minds’ turned into one of burning and pillaging villages, torturing farmers for intelligence, extortion and blackmail.

The C.I.A clandestine operations in Nicaragua during the 1980s are the best example of these two prominent attitudes that are thread throughout the C.I.A’s history of black operations. A global American ‘responsibility’ for maintaining order and justice, coupled with an idea of American superiority of it’s own values and personnel. President Reagan, like Kennedy was opposed to using the U.S. military to oust Nicaraguan leader Batista, on the President’s behest, the C.I.A began conducting operations in the country to usurp him. They favored one rebel group known as the ‘Contras’. They paid rebel leaders upwards of $7000 a month. However, also known to the C.I.A was that Contra rebels main proceeds came from cocaine trafficking, the majority of which ended up on U.S shores (particularly Florida), and has notorious cases of human rights abuses, such as the torture and rape of several villages in 1981. SO notorious, that U.S. congress specifically banned direct U.S government support of the rebels. The C.I.A countered this, using the proceeds of weapons trading with Iran (also prohibited by Congress), to supply them with arms and material. Not only did the C.I.A again engage in a war by proxy, but their ignoring of the Contras human rights record, trading with Iran and disobeying Congress demonstrated how highly it regarded it’s aforementioned global responsibility. It ignored the very fabric of justice and order (Congress) in the name of protecting those very values, and in addition to it’s continued use of proxy personnel in Cuba, Vietnam and now Nicaragua, manifests not only it’s idea of the superiority of American personnel, but furthermore it’s own. That the agency, as a tool of American power, can ignore the very ideals of justice, peace and liberty in order to protect them.

Further Reading:

Zalin Grant, Facing the Phoenix. Norton and Company, New York. 1991.

Trumbull Higgins, The Perfect Failure, Kennedy, Eisenhower and the CIA at the Bay of Pigs. Norton Publishing, 1989.

John L. Plaster, SOG: The Secret Wars of America’s Commandos in Vietnam. Onyx Publishing, 1993.

Sam Dillon, Comandos: The C.I.A and Nicaragua’s Contra Rebels. henry holt and Co. 1991.

“I Had Everything A Woman Was Supposed To Want… And I Was Miserable”- How the Social Expecation to Conform Impacted Upon The Lives of Women in 1950s America.

We are lead to believe through various forms of media that the 1950s was a time of vast economic growth, a time of social change and awareness, and a time where women were particularly satisfied returning to their place in the home after the Second world War. Only part of this understanding reigns true. The concept of conformity is arguably a strategic move in an aim to prevent suspicion of being allied with the enemy of the decade; communism. Surrounding women with materialistic “necessities” to improve the home and the emphasis on family life and gender roles within the 1950s quickly showed women their place within society. Although white, middle-class, suburban women of America were presumably happy, they had everything they had ever wanted; the social expectation to conform to gender roles had consequences.


Why conform?
The political climate within the post- World War II decade was chaotic. The fear of communism manifested in many aspects of daily life, deeply rooting the concept of conformity with Americans. In the fight against communism, Senator Joe McCarthy allowed for a series of witch hunts against those he considered working with communists. Characteristics such as being a member of a liberation group, being homosexual, having differing political views and simply going against the grain were all considered plausible reasons for communist accusation. With the consequences of such accusations being job loss, being socially ostracized and in some cases, public named, it therefore became increasingly crucial to fit in. The paradigms of what was considered normal began to rapidly shrink. The expected characteristics of women such as beautiful, healthy, with an education that is relevant but does not exceed that of her husbands, were emphasised. There as an expectation to stay home and care for the children and home and that a Woman’s happiness relied primarily on her children, home and husband. There was also an increasing emphasis on what was considered feminine, often making note that women in the workforce was unfeminine. National heroines such as Rosy the Riveter were replaced by pictures of homemakers. Not conforming to such understanding of femininity made way for suspicion of communist activities, which was an accusation many could not socially or monetarily afford.


Betty Friedan’s research into the lives of 1905s middle-class, white, women within the United States allowed for a new kind of understanding of American women within the 1950s. Friedan’s research emphasized that women were in fact, incredibly unhappy. Friedan initially refers to this as ‘the problem that has no name’, and tries to intricately analyse every aspect of white, middle-class life, in order to address such a problem. Friedan explains that women are “kept from growing to their full capabilities” and explains that the problem, which she later calls The Feminine Mystique, is more significant than any form of mental health with America at that time. Through copious firsthand accounts, Friedan defines the problem as “feelings of failure and nothingness”, feelings of “is this all”, guilt, and a longing for some unknown absence. Women regularly felt guilty for experiencing such feelings when they were told by society that their happiness relied on the happiness of their children and husband. Magazines such as Good Housekeeping printed articles such as “Why I Quit Work”, playing upon the notion that women with careers should also feel guilty.

Betty Friedan

Career Women

With the new idea of femininity as the idea of working within the home, women with careers were therefore not conforming to social expectations. Women that were blacklisted by McCarthy, such as Esther Brunauer, Dorothy Kenyon and Mary Jane Keeney all arouse attention through the media through the accusations towards them of communist relations. Newspapers were quick to reveal the job status and accusation of each woman. Making the cases of each of these women public increased the chances of them being both socially ostracized and losing their jobs. It is therefore plausible to assume that not conforming to social expectations aroused suspicion regarding the woman’s place within society, and possibly her involvement with communist associations. In cases such as Esther Brunauer, personal threats were made against her and her family, after the case was made against her in 1951. Job loss, becoming social outcasts, and being labelled a communist was questionably enough to make women conform to social expectations.

Further reading

Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. (W.W. Norton: New York, 1963)

Friedan, Betty. Life So Far: A Memoir. (Simon and Schuster, 2006)

Coontz, Stephanie. A Strange Stirring: The feminine Mystique and American Women at te Dawn of the 1960s. (basic Books: New York, 2011)

One Glorious Day in 1969 – American Memory of the Space Race

Americans have a very fond recollection of the cold war space race. It has become one of the defining features of many parts of American popular culture, politics and ideology. It is one of the few occasions that a majority of the population had been untied for and working towards a common goal. There are a few main ways that American national identity can be seen to be intimately tied to and shaped by the cold war space race;

In Film


Film has been a great representation of the way that the memory of the cold war space race has bolstered American national identity. Most films depicting the Cold War space race in serious terms often have very similar motifs and symbolism. Both depict the space race as an enormous collective effort of patriotic Americans. Most will focus on the astronauts as main characters, but will include numerous characters of support roles, to stress the enormous collective effort of the program. Most are uplifting patriotic fare, with strong emphasis on the ‘American-ness’ of the program as a crucial factor for the success of the program.

For Political Ends

Political use of the space race began as soon as there was a space program. President Kennedy was perhaps the first to use the language of the space race for political purposes. Kennedy was perhaps the first to stress the importance of the space race to the nation, remarking that, “In a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon – if we make this judgement affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.”

Since then it has been used by any number of politicians within America. The two that I have found to be most illustrative of the trend of the space race memory within American popular culture would be President George W. Bush and Congressman Bill Posey. Both have used expansions in the space program as electoral assurances, promising boosted space programs. President Bush promised the development of the constellation program, and Posey promises to lobby to reinvigorate the space program of his electorate, the Florida ‘Space Coast.’

As Evidence Of Ideological Superiority


American successes in the space race have often been taken as a yard stick for measuring ideological superiority between itself and the USSR. The Apollo period was the first time where the United States was able to beat the USSR to a space milestone. The USSR was the first to have a satellite into orbit in 1957, and followed with a string of successes that beat the Americans at every turn. The USSR were also the first to place an animal into orbit in 1958, First man in space in 1961, first woman/civilian in space 1963, first space-walk in 1965, first Robot on a celestial body in 1970 and the first space station in 1971. This has led to the Apollo space race taking a pre-eminent position in the minds of most Americans, becoming a huge part of their national identity. This can be found in any other part of my research, from the characterisation of the Russians in most space race films to the way that politicians are able to call upon the space race as a means to garner political support. What is also interesting is that the first picture that emerges upon a Google search for ideological superiority is a photograph of a footprint on the lunar surface, the photo on the left, above. This is a great shorthand example of how enmeshed the Apollo space race has become to not only American national identity, but a something larger.

Death of Neil Armstrong


With the death of Neil Armstrong in August of this year, the Apollo space race has once again become a prominent feature in the media. Armstrong represented the culmination of the Apollo space program. Armstrong himself has come to represent the Apollo program and the space race in general. He was chosen by NASA officials for his humble personality as well as his skill as a pilot and engineering background. Armstrong was always insistent that his role was always a very small cog in a very large machine. Armstrong withdrew from public life after the Apollo 11 mission, taking a position teaching engineering. These factors, combined with his status as a civilian pilot has led to the memory of the man as the emissary of the entire United States population, a physical representative of the entire population, representing the three main faces of the Space program; the enormous civilian support, the military pilots and equipment, and the enormous engineering processes involved.

What is unfortunate is that there is only one photo of Neil Armstrong on the moon, taken by Buzz Aldrin during a panoramic survey sequence. This is the photo on the right, above. Neil Armstrong is visible in the right of the image, working on equipment in the Lunar Lander Module.


The Weimar Republic Doomed to Fail

As a new era dawned for Germany, the German people had its first attempt at parliamentary democracy with the Weimar Republic.  Born in the ashes of defeat, the Weimar Republic was burdened with the failures of the past.  It dealt with the military defeat and domestic revolution.  Though the Weimar era was a stark difference to the Wilhelmine era, the Weimar Republic was inevitably overshadowed by its ultimate demise.  Some historians argue that due to the numerous difficulties that the Republic faced, that it was in fact foredoomed to fail.  Others argue that the Weimar Republic was a product complex and painful compromises, and may in fact have survived had it not been for the economic conditions that riddled both Germany and the international economy.

From the very start, the Weimar republic faced opposition from both sides of the political spectrum.  It was inevitable that the Weimar Republic would have faced difficulties from the start, but to say doomed is unfair. The republic was beginning to overcome its difficulties during the mid-1920’s as economic, political, and cultural improvements were occurring, and if it hadn’t been for the economic circumstances, the republic may have prospered for many years.

Other historians argue that the Weimar government lacked popular support or enthusiasm, and as a result is a reason why the Weimar government was doomed from conception.  While acknowledging the new system of government did not have widespread support, Kolb argues that the most Germans were simply motivated to the restoration of law and order, and return to peace conditions.  Weitz argues that the opinion of many German people at the end of the Imperial period German people sought a democratic regime.

The dominant political figure of the times was Gustav Stresemann.  Like other Germans, Stresemann detested the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.  His main objective was to restore Germany to its rightful position on the world stage, but unlike previous ministers he differed in tactics.  He realised that challenging the Allied powers would be unproductive.  Instead he decided to adopt the policy of fulfilment; meeting the requirements of the victorious powers as long as it served Germany’s greater interests.

With this new approach, Stresemann was able to save Germany from the brink of collapse.  He was able to reverse the effects of hyperinflation, by implementing numerous policy changes in 1924.  Due to his actions he was able to propel Germany into it’s so called “golden age”.  With the evacuation of the French from the Ruhr, 17% of total industry was back under German control.  This drastically improved the spiraling inflation rate and lowered unemployment greatly.   By restructuring the government, Germany was able to acquire loans from the US under the Dawes Plan.  Through the use of these funds, Germany was able to successfully decrease the level of inflation and unemployment, and launch Germany into social and economic prosperity.

The democratic government of Germany was also able to secure the signatories of Britain and France in the Locarno Treaties.  The treaties main function was to improve the political atmosphere between the western powers and Germany, after the events of the First World War.  This Treaty not only improved Germany’s reputation, as a nation seeking peace, but also improved international relations.  The Locarno Treaties also facilitated Germany joining the League of Nations in 1926.

There were many weaknesses in the political structure of the Weimar Republic.  With the benefit of hindsight, historians are able to observe the many areas in which the unintended consequences of constitutional laws, such as Article 48, came back to haunt the Weimar Republic.  Though it is important to note that had the Weimar economy not suffered, hyperinflation or the depression, many of the constitutional Acts may never have occurred.    There is no single cause for the disintegration of the Weimar Republic, not the disintegration of the constitution, nor the implications of the Treaty of Versailles, the impact of the Depression, nor the actions of prominent individuals, it was the peculiar combination, under specific historical circumstances which produced the ultimate outcome.  Therefore it is reasonable to argue that the Weimar Republic was not foredoomed to fail.

Further Readings

Craig, Gordon. Germany 1866-1945 (Oxford: Claredon Press, 1978)

Evans, Richard. The Coming of the Third Reich, (London: Penguin Books, 2004)

Kershaw, Ian. Weimar. Why did German Democracy Fail? (London: Harvard University Press, 1990)

Kolb, Eberhard. The Weimar Republic, (London: Penguin Books, 1988)

Weitz, Eric. Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy (New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 2007)

Housekeepers of the state: Women and Citizenship in Australia, 1900-1930s

“There is much that women themselves can do to raise the status (of domestic service)…and so shall the whole domestic atmosphere of our country be better and brighter…”

The Australian Woman’s Sphere 10th July 1903

Nowadays we do not often have cause to think about our individual relationship to the Australian state.  We might, on occasions, feel wronged by the government, ignored and overtaxed.  We might disagree with the latest development in immigration policy or feel misrepresented by our government’s sluggish human rights record, but we rarely think of ourselves as citizens.  Voters, swing voters, or members of minority or lobby groups perhaps, but not citizens.  When we think of citizen’s organisations we picture a handful of earnest grey heads huddled over the latest proposal for graffiti removal at the local shops, the echoes of their eager suggestions bouncing off one another before landing in the dusty corners of the old church hall.

It has not always been this way.  Citizenship was a charged concept that carried much social significance in Australia in the first few decades of the twentieth century.   Despite the strong link between masculinity and the Australian national identity, the swaggering and independent bushman was not the only figure to vie for status on the Australian social and political stage.  Having gained the vote in the lead up to federation, women’s organisations of every political hue, conservative and radical alike turned their attentions to how the vote should be used.  In short, they began to enter into what might be usefully described as citizenship debates.  They were involved in local affairs, in school milk campaigns, in child endowment, contraception and equal wage campaigns, and helped to widen the base of female participation in the public sphere, and create an image for politically engaged women beyond that of the ‘shrieking’ suffragette.   The concept of maternal citizenship emerged at this time and became the basis from which women sought not only to be ‘let in’ but to bring about what historian Alison Holland (2001) has called the ‘feminisation’ of Australian public policy.


Breadwinners and bread losers

Social welfare and social reform were high on the agendas of women’s organisations.  Calls for female police and prison wardens, maternity hospitals and child health services, children’s courts, kindergartens, prison reform, the raising of the age of consent and wage parity, not only aimed to soothe the impact of specific disadvantages, such as child and family poverty, but also to lay bare the systemic injustice that caused social problems.  To redress the problematic dependency of women and children on men’s ‘good grace’, women argued for the introduction of a maternity or child endowment scheme ( similar to our present Family Tax Payment) and fought for equal wages.  In doing such they cast themselves as protectors of families and children, as mothers of a wayward society that needed maternal guidance to treat its members in a caring, equitable and civilised way.  It was also a demand for material affirmation of their citizenship status as women, for ‘economic citizenship’ as Alice Kessler-Harris calls it (2003).   Historian Marilyn Lake (1990) has argued that working class women developed the concept of maternal citizenship in order to topple the paradigm of the breadwinner citizen and the soldier citizen that had come to define Australian citizenship.  By appealing to the qualities that motherhood offered to the public sphere, women were insisting that they had an important role to play in the decision making and housekeeping of the state.  It was not only a matter of equal rights then, but a responsibility to ensure the ‘application of morality to politics’.

“Spiritual growth (emancipation?) through citizenship”

Women’s periodicals during this period reveal the level of engagement with political debates and the extent of women’s efforts to be involved in how their society was run.  It was not only the overtly political publications such as Woman Voter and Socialist Woman that contained discussions about citizenship though.  Citizenship themes popped up in unlikely places.  As avowedly political women were insisting that the state was in need of a feminine influence, women’s lifestyle magazines such as The Australian Women’s Mirror were asserting that motherhood was not a pastime, but a science.   In the Journal of the Progressive Housewives Association, editor Mrs Portia Geach declared in 1935 “Let us have spiritual growth through citizenship”.   Nor was it only the lifestyle magazines that valorised motherhood.   In the Woman Voter, amidst rousing articles about equal pay, equal marriage and divorce, political education, equal custody, analyses of war, parliamentary representation, juvenile street trading, fiercely and overtly political women regularly referred  to the importance of mothers and ‘enlightened motherhood’.   A diverse cross-section of women were involved, then, in elevating the status of women within the domestic and the public spheres, and there was considerable overlap between lifestyle and political periodicals at the time.

Of course there were limits to ‘maternal citizenship’.   There has been some historical debate about whether, in emphasising their maternity, women were writing the terms of their 1950’s entrapment within the gilded cage of the domestic sphere.   It is also clear that although the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Women’s Services Guild, as well as many individual women, campaigned during the 1930’s for the rights of Aboriginal women and their families, they were maternalistic and failed to critique the prevailing paternalism of government organisations like the Aborigines Protection Board.  The concept of citizenship was salient at the time and provided women with a way to frame their demands for public participation, and although theirs were deeply gendered and not always inclusive articulations of citizenship, the legacy of their social welfare emphasis remains in Australia’s comprehensive social security system.

Hearn, Mark.  ‘Making Liberal Citizens: Justice Higgins and His Witnesses’.  Labour History 93 (2007): 57-72. <;dn=884636983173065;res=IELHSS&gt; ISSN: 0023-6942.

Holland, Alison.  “Wives and Daughters Like Ourselves?: Exploring white women’s intervention in the politics of race, 1920s-1940s”.  Australian Historical Studies, 117 (2001): pp. 292-310.

Kessler-Harris, Alice.  “In Pursuit of Economic Citizenship”.  International Studies in Gender, State and Society 10 (2003): pp. 157-175

Lake, Marilyn.  “The Independence of Women and the Brotherhood of man:  Debates in the Labour movement over equal pay and motherhood endowment in the 1920’s”. In Same Difference: Feminism and sexual difference, ed. Carol Bacchi, Sydney: 1990, pp. 1-24.

The Woman Voter, Mitchel Library

The Journal of the Progressive Housewives Association, Mitchell Library

The Women’s Daily Mirror, Mitchell Library

Protectors of the South: How the Citizens’ Councils legitimized their campaign against de-segregation between 1954-1965

Earlier in the year, this video of Reverend Dr Phil Snider addressing Springwood, Missouri City Council on gay rights went viral, with over 3 million YouTube viewings. It shows Snider delivering a speech comprising direct quotes from white preachers of the 1950s and 1960s, simply substituting ‘racial integration’ with ‘gay rights’. His concern was that these archaic racial segregationist ideas were being applied in Springwood to legitimize the campaign against gay rights.

The religious justification for continued segregation across the Southern States in America in the 1950s and 1960s, which Snider draws upon, may seem ridiculous to many hearing it now. It may also prompt responders to question its effectiveness in convincing Southerners to support a campaign that sought to deny African Americans equal rights, particularly in a period of universal human rights re-evaluation. In actual fact, these justifications were used extensively by white resistance movements during this period with considerable success.

Massive Resistance v Passive Resistance

No white resistance movement was quite as prominent and successful in the late 1950s and early 1960s as the Citizens’ Councils, who legitimized their campaign and ideology by promoting themselves as protectors of the ‘Southern Way of Life’ and the Nation from the mongrelisation of de-segregation. They aimed to combat the passive resistance of the civil rights movement with massive resistance, by gaining immense popular support. They managed to rally this support through the medium of a monthly newspaper entitled The Citizens’ Council, which allowed them the space to justify their stance on segregation.

The Citizens’ Council, July 1956 Frontpage

Black Monday and the Birth of the Citizens’ Councils

The first Citizens’ Council was founded in July 1954 in Mississippi by plantation manager Robert B. Patterson and a dozen other likeminded men. They were impelled to act after hearing Judge Tom P Brady’s ‘Black Monday’ speech, given in response to the 17 May 1954 Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision to overturn the notion of “separate but equal” founded in the Plessy v Ferguson trial of 1896, thereby starting a process of de-segregation. This angered many in the South, such as Marvin Griffin, Governor of Georgia who stated:

“Come hell or high water, races will not be mixed in Georgia’s schools.”

The Councils attracted many members because of their aim to “put society back together in its accustomed pattern.” Evidence of the success of these justifications has been documented by Numan Bartley who stated that their accomplishment can be seen through the speed with which the Councils expanded from Mississippi across the South, together with their incredible membership growth of 250,000 within the first year.

White Resistance to the Brown Decision

Respectable White ‘Bigots’

The Councils were able to attract much of their support by disassociating themselves with, in Judge Tom P. Brady’s words, “the nefarious Ku Klux Klans”. According to David Halberstam, the Councils had an “almost self-conscious desire for respectability.” They steered clear of any associations with violence, and pledged to defend the ‘Southern Way of Life’ by purely legal means, which attracted the middle class moderate.

Our Dixie Forever!

George Lewis argued that white supremacy and religion were central pillars of the ‘Southern Way of Life’, which constituted their past and identity. They were comfortable in their superiority, and in the uncertainty of the post-war period, they clung to the certainty of their roles in society. Council publications would use religious ideas to justify the separation of the races, with one article from April 1957 stating:

“God made different races and put them in different lands. He knew the races must live apart so they won’t mix.”

Brown was a direct threat to their identity as it promoted this race mixing, so it is unsurprising so many Southerners rallied behind an organization who promised to preserve their way of life.

Integration: A Communist Plot

The Citizens’ Councils were able to take advantage of Cold War paranoia, with one Council article linking integrationists with communism because they sought to create “one huge mass of humanity”. They also claimed that the integrationist’s real intentions were for inter-racial sexual relations, which, according to McMillen, “sought to exploit the white community’s darkest fears about racial co-mingling.” George Lewis noted that because communism was a National issue, the Councils were able to transform a Southern sectional problem into a problem of America’s national security. This tactic undermined integrationist organizations such as the NAACP as well as creating an atmosphere of fear.


The success of the Citizens’ Councils during 1954-1965 is undeniable; they were an extremely popular organization who effectively convinced their members they were protecting their sacred ‘Southern Way of Life’ as well as the Nation by standing against segregation. They were successful due to a strategic campaign of using religious and Cold War rhetoric to undermine the de-segregationists and create fear, which they spread around the South through their monthly newspaper. The move to de-segregation was arguably inevitable, however the Citizens’ Councils slowed the process and were a major obstacle to the civil rights movement.

With regard to the gay rights movement in Springwood, Snider concludes perfectly – “I hope you won’t make the same mistake. I hope you will stand on the right side of history.”