Ann Curthoys Lecture
2 October 2019
An African-American feminist visits Perth in 1960: who she met, what she saw, what she said, and what she wore.
Keynote Address by Emerita Professor Ann Curthoys, chaired by Wesfarmers Chair of Australian History, Professor Jane Lydon
In December 1960, Eslanda Robeson visited Perth with her famous husband, singer and actor Paul Robeson. She gave several press and radio interviews, and spoke to university students, a Peace Council reception, and to the Union of Australian women, including Aboriginal women. In these talks, she consistently emphasised the role of women in international struggles for racial equality and peace. Newspaper interviews often emphasised her appearance, contrasting her tiny physique with Paul's huge powerful figure, and portraying her as sparkling and dynamic. Although no-one in Australia knew it at the time, she was recovering from extensive radiotherapy for several cancers, and died from breast cancer in New York five years later. In the book Ann Curthoys is writing on the Robesons' visit to Australia in 1960, the Perth visit is the subject of the last chapter, bringing together issues of women’s rights; Aboriginal rights; health, illness and celebrity; and the meaning of peace in the Cold War.
Ann Curthoys is a historian who writes about Australian history in a transnational and imperial frame and about questions of history, theory, and writing. In addition to many essays and co-edited essay collections on topics ranging from women's historical writing to the Cold War, her books include For and Against Feminism (1988); Freedom Ride: A Freedomrider Remembers (2002); (with John Docker) Is History Fiction? (2005); (with Ann Genovese and Alexander Reilly), Rights and Redemption: History, Law, and Indigenous People (2008), and (with Ann McGrath), How to Write History that People Want to Read (2009). Her latest book is (with Jessie Mitchell), Taking Liberty: Indigenous Rights and Settler Self-Government in the Australian Colonies, 1830 - 1890 (2018). She is an emeritus professor at ANU, and an honorary professor at The University of Western Australia and the University of Sydney.This public event is part of the annual Australian Women's History Network symposium 'The Female Frame: Biopolitics and Wellbeing in Australian and Global Perspective’, being held at The University of Western Australia on 2nd October 2019. It is supported by the UWA School of Humanities, the UWA Institute of Advanced Studies, the UWA Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and the Australian Academy of the Humanities.