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Re-writing 2nd Wave Women’s Movement: Pat Rosier – h/t Hand Mirror

Written By: - Date published: 1:02 pm, July 19th, 2014 - 7 comments
Categories: benefits, feminism, history, socialism, workers' rights - Tags:

There’s a must read post up on the Hand Mirror, acknowledging the passing of a woman who played a significant role in the NZ 2nd wave Women’s Movement: Pat Rosier.

I wasn’t in NZ during the crucial period of the late 70s and the 80s, but the post by AlisonM outlines a life well lived.  And it reminds me of how too many on the left and right have been re-writing the history of feminism, into misinformation about some narrowed, middle class version of the true diversity of feminism.

AlisonM’s post begins,

Pat Rosier died on 12 June. She was many things to many people and won’t be forgotten by any of them. Her death, from a heart attack at age 72, was unexpected, …

Pat is survived by her partner of 17 years, Prue Hyman, and her son, David.

As Prue writes, Pat’s early life was relatively conventional. Her dad was a railway clerk, and she grew up at a time when no one in a working class family, “let alone a girl”, went to university. She married, had two children and trained as primary teacher, which was her job from 1973 to 1985. Then, something happened. Pat found Simone de Beauvoir, the Women’s Liberation Movement, lesbianism – and reinvented herself.

Go to Alison’s post to read the extract that Pat wrote about her life in a series of bullet points.

Pat’s political concerns covered a vast range of feminist and socialist topics.  She became editor of the feminist magazine Broadsheet in 1985.  She edited and introduced a compilation of selected articles from the magazine: BroadsheetBeen Around for Quite a While: Twenty Years of Writing from Broadsheet Magazine, (New Women’s Press, 1992).

Also in the intro, she chronicles some of the discussions, debates and phases, for want of a better word, that both Broadsheet and feminism went through, from abortion in the 70s (and still!), contraception, marriage (and alternatives), child-rearing, equal pay, Māori women’s voices (and challenges to the WLM), lesbians (“with a ‘lesbian cover’ appearing in June 1973”), violence against women, rape in marriage, attacks on beneficiaries… and so it goes. In Broadsheet proper, Pat also wrote numerous feature articles, including in 1986 “Fighting Fat Phobia”, about “how hatred and fear of fat is used to control women”, and several in-depth pieces on reproductive technologies.

Alison writes:

Thinking about Pat these past few weeks also got me thinking about what an important role she played in the politics and culture of this country, and yet how invisible it probably is to those outside her circles. In turn, I began to wonder (yet again) how the WLM years will be remembered – or not remembered – given that we are starting to lose some of the women, like Pat, who were there.

I hope you will excuse the segue into a bit of research, but following these thoughts, I’ve started work on a longer piece about this question, (will, for example, our WLM/ “second wave” have to be “rediscovered” as the so-called first wave of feminism had to be?) and I’ve arranged a few interviews with older, middle, younger feminists. To that end, I would very much welcome any thoughts readers might have on these questions, just pop them into comments. (You can also email me directly at alisonmccull[at]gmail[dot]com)

More importantly, of course, do write about Pat. Reiterating Prue, the more people write and talk about Pat the better. (And for northern readers, a celebration of her life is planned for Auckland on Saturday August 30 at 1:30 pm . I will add location details to this post when they are available.)

This reminded me of my time in the Women’s Movement in London in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  I was surprised at the time, about how much a lot of the activities and perspectives of the 1st wave Women’s Movement had been written out of history. It was far wider than some narrow campaign for votes: it covered a range of social, political, economic and community-focused areas of activism and debate. At that time, feminist historians were working to recover and write about all that had been lost.

Sheila Rowbotham was one of those women.  Her 1999 book: A Century of Women: The History of Women in the Britain and United States in the Twentieth Century, is pretty comprehensive.  She chronicles the similarities and differences between the feminist movements in the US and UK: the US foregrounded racial oppression; the UK women’s movement had/s a strong focus on class oppression, underpinned by socialist principles.

I suspect that the NZ 2nd wave movement had a mix of both those elements: racial and class oppression.  Alison’s project to chronicle the NZ 2nd wave Women’s Movement seems to me to be a very important one.

Broadsheet cover Te Ara Donna Awatere Ripeka Evans

Broadsheet cover Te Ara Donna Awatere and Ripeka Evans: from Te Ara

Prue’s tribute to Pat Rosier is here.



7 comments on “Re-writing 2nd Wave Women’s Movement: Pat Rosier – h/t Hand Mirror”

  1. greywarbler 1

    I remember Pat Rosier and Broadsheet. Faded into the past as so many important people have although they have caused or made important advances in life for other NZs.
    And Prue Hyman, economist relating to the people’s economy, important too.

    Sadly the old will pass. I hope that what will follow are people into physical betterment for both themselves and others by doing real things, not just making a mass of electrical impulses pulsing through the air. And they must ensure that what they do is remembered and understood, so it’s not taken granted and forgotten., but retained and built on. Together we can do much, alone at our computers we are limited. The tech culture scares me.

    • karol 1.1

      I always think there are up and downsides to digital culture. But, one of the things it is enabling, is more access to documents, newspaper articles, and other material from the past.

      The NZ National Library is doing great work in that area: papers past, image databases, etc. Is why I added links to Te Ara for the scans of Broadsheet covers, in my post. Also Alison, in the Hand Mirror post, said that Broadsheet is in the queue to be digitised by the National Library.

      For those people who are interested, there’s an increasing amount of historical material available online – and for those of us with access from home, it’s enormously useful.

      But, of course, the corporates are increasingly trying to take over the web. And too many people are enticed by the seductively shiny things online.

      Agree also, that politics, and social movements, need to be conducted offline as well as online.

  2. Tracey 2

    Thanks for finding and posting this.

    • karol 2.1

      Actually, I saw it in the feed down the right side of TS. Thank Lynn.

      • lprent 2.1.1

        That is what it is there for. Makes it easier to find material across the blogs. I add them as I notice them, other authors can as well, and when they are relevant for the people who read this site.

        Did a bit of work when I put it in place to make sure that it should register as a click on the appropriate site’s stats as well.

  3. Lucy 3

    I remember Broadsheet as I was a teenager with a mother active in a number of movements. Like most movements it appears to made life easier for women now without leaving a legacy of how we got here which always leads to the possibility that we can go back to the start point at any time. We have already started on the slide with pay and conditions and a justice system that does not take women’s voices seriously. Even though we have women judges the gender balance is nowhere near correct. Media is disproportionally male as are our boardrooms and upper management. The road back down to the fifties ideas are being pushed by TV and movies to return us to an era when women have no power and are at the mercy of their male protector. If young women continue to claim to be feminists without understanding what that actually means then in one to two generations we will be back to the servitude of Victorian times. Unfortunately even though we have everything loaded in a digital age to learn the lessons of history we have to know our history and women as a whole have failed to do this

  4. greywarbler 4

    Even though we have women judges the gender balance is nowhere near correct.
    I think the problem is that class and class culture are still very entwined with womens issues.

    If young women continue to claim to be feminists without understanding what that actually means then in one to two generations we will be back to the servitude of Victorian times
    I’ve watched the advance of one woman to try and get it all, good job on about $80,000, marriage, children, aspirational houses, outings in corporate boxes. She doesn’t live with her husband, he lives with his parents and collects the children after school if his work allows, his mother looks after them in the evening often and gets them to school, their mother may want to take part in corporate outings in the weekend, gets mother-in-law to babysit. Husband has invested in the house, but doesn’t live there. WTF

    I don’t think feminists were going for a missing, working. socialising mother to replace an unsatisfactory model of missing, working, socialising father. And the action now is for women to get on boards, where they are considered to bring valuable feminine insights yet many seem to be more interested in matching men’s sensibilities.

    The average woman is better respected than the 1970s and has more opportunities for work, and has the help of maternity leave, and in general can choose to go further in her individual plans than ever before. But the idea of females being the decorative species still maintains its grip, and the womens magazines are obssessed with looks, and shape, and celebrity and marriages to celebrities. The number of womens clothing shops are an indicator of being in thrall to appearance also though dressing for male appeal is denied. And most young women seem to wear make-up, which is nice for the profits of the cosmetic industry. And the tide seems to have swung from girls can do everything as a slogan for expanding work opportunities, to girls can do and drink anything and still remain teflon-dry. In fact young women had bolder aspirations in the early 20th century as I look at the rebellious and confident heroines of some old novels from family shelves. Well women had got the vote for the first time, and life was opening up. I think attitudes are closing down now, for many reasons that women’s studies courses would investigate although I don’t know how often that subject is available now at secondary and tertiary level.

    And a gamechanger would be if females were respected for the extra cares they bear because of their fertility, whether they are childless or not. Also feminists haven’t been able to break down that male arrogant tunnel vision attitude that child raising not being an important job, instead the male line is no that it is no more important than caring for a puppy.

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