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.
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: Broadsheet, Been 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.
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.