”And why shouldn’t a woman be tall and strong?’’ Louisa Lawson, Australian suffragette and newspaper publisher (Australian Dictionary of Biography)


Today (March 8th) is International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is ”inspiring change’’. That fits well with my experiment in belonging. I’m trying to inspire change in myself by learning about Australia.

I’ve been asking women around me who their female Australian role models are (excluding the entertainment industry and sports people). I didn’t want famous people, I was looking for inspirational women. Not one person came back with an immediate and enthusiastic answer.

What does that say?
So I did some of my own research.Why is it people have talked to me about Henry Lawson, who wrote about the Australian bush, but not his mother Louisa Lawson? Louisa was a newspaper publisher, writer and poet who in the 1880s started Dawn. Through Dawn she argued for women’s rights. She was key to women getting the vote in New South Wales in 1902.
Australia was the first country to give women the right to vote in federal elections and the right to be elected to parliament on a national basis. New Zealand gave women the right to vote in 1893.
It bothers me when women, especially young women, reject the notion of feminism. ‘’Oh I’m not a feminist. I like men.’’  I’ve heard this too often.
Feminism is about equality. My husband is a feminist. So is my father. If you think women deserve the same opportunities, rights, and pay as a man, than you’re a feminist. Don’t want to vote? Don’t want to go to school or university? Not interested in having the same job opportunities as your brother? Don’t care if you are allowed to have a bank account or mortgage in your own name?
Hey, if you don’t want these things then, yes you’re right, you’re not a feminist.
So, here are a few of the Australian women who inspire me:
Geraldine Brooks, who lives in the US, inspires me not because she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction but because she kept on writing through children and breast cancer.
Author Germaine Greer is in her mid-70s and is still dynamic, still seeking out new challenges.
Aviator Freda Thompson was the first woman in the British Empire to get her Instructors Licence in 1933. She was the first Australian woman to fly solo from England to Australia in 1934. Actual flying time in her own biplane was 19 days.
Educator and activist Adelaide Miethke established the School of the Air in 1950. The school used the radio network to teach children in remote communities and give them a sense of belonging. Today isolated children have access to new technology but continue to use School of the Air.
The best inspiration comes from our immediate role models, like my mother who told me as a teenager that, if I worked hard enough, I could do anything.