Occupation of CT Mort St office 5 Sep 1975

by Crispin Hull on December 5, 2017

At the Canberra Times reunion lunch 4 December 2017 there was talk about the invasion of the CT Mort Street office. Timing and details were scant. Many had no knowledge of the event but were eager to find out more.

The Editor at the time, Ian Mathews, who was at the lunch, recalled that he had been on holiday at the time and that his deputy John Farquharson was in the chair.

Whenever Farquharson was acting editor, editorial policy lurched to the social right, underwritten by the editorial writer at the time, Harold Fry, a noted DLP type.

Mathews said that on his return to Canberra, oblivious to the event in those pre-internet days, he was horrified at the editorial.

Anyway here is the news story and the editorial. Alas the photo is a black splurge, alas, but it is here, too.

Found in Trove http://trove.nla.gov.au

Saturday 6 September 1975.
Caption: Some of the women who occupied the editorial office of The Canberra Times yesterday afternoon. The acting editor, Mr John Farquharson, is addressing the women.

Headline: Women delegates occupy newspaper office

Story: About 150 women at- tending the Women and Politics conference in Canberra occupied the editorial offioe of The Canberra Times yester- day afternoon demanding the opportunity to give their reply to the paper’s editorial of last Tuesday.

Standing on desks and chairs and filing cabinets, and even sitting on partitions in the office, some of the women shouted abuse and insults at the acting editor, Mr John Farquharson.

A spokeswoman for the group said the editorial had expressed sexist views and had contradicted reports written by Jacqueline Rees who has reported the conference during the week.

They also demanded that women members of The Canberra Times staff be allowed to write editorials.

Mr Farquharson told the women that The Canberra Times had given the most coverage to the conference of any newspaper in Australia, and that the newspaper was entitled to express its opinion in its editorial.

After considerable discussion between the women and Mr Farquharson, the women left the office.

The women were in The Canberra Times office for about an hour and had earlier blocked traffic as they marched on footpaths and on the road.

The ACT Police were on hand in the office and were also controlling the traffic outside the office during the confrontation where about 50 more women were marching and chanting.

At 11.30 last night, about 80 women returned to The Canberra Times to continue the protest Statement. — Page 3.
Conference reports. — Page 9.

Editorial under Canberra Times masthead. Tuesday 2 September 1975.

The role of women.

MUCH of the feminine wisdom, the intuitive insight, the deep anger, the bitter humour, and the facts about the “condition of women in a male-dominated society” as women see them will be lost unless the ‘Women and Polities’ conference now being held in Canberra finds a way to reach the male half of the species whom some of the conference delegates regard as “the enemy” or “the oppressor”. The object of the conference, according to one of yesterday’s speakers, is to wrest from the grasp of men by all possible means, including hitting back where it hurts, the rights and the recognition which women are being denied. But one has to assume also that if inveighing against the male for “the crime” he commits against womankind is to do any good the message has to be taken to him. Perhaps the conference program should have included a plenary session at which the principal women speakers would have told a males-only audience how the other half of humanity sees them.

‘Women and Politics’ is of course not what one would call a feminist issue, except for the fact that so few women the world over seek and exercise political power. The issue is more of persuading the women themselves to seek political office, something they have not been particularly anxious to do, and, apparently, of persuading them to vote for women rather than for men, which sounds like a simplistic assumption that women would necessarily be better politicians than men. The aim, as one speaker put it, is so that “we don’t have “pigs and worms raising our taxes”. Another speaker came closer to the heart of the matter when she said that poverty, welfare, and peace are “women’s issues”, that women heads of government would much more reluctantly go to war, and that women were more sensitive than men to environmental issues. This woman’s touch is deeply linked with woman’s role in “transmitting, fostering, and protecting life”.

There is in much of the literature, the thought, and the promotion activities of women’s movements a cry of rebellion against the assumed superiority of the male and the injustice which this inflicts on women. There is also a more diffuse and groping attempt to prove one of two things: either that there is no essential difference (save the biological one) between man and woman, or that the differences are so unimportant that they can be overlooked altogether in any conception of the contribution each of the sexes can make to society.

In this view woman is a substitute for man.

Different gifts

Fortunately not all women agree that woman has no specific role and that the sexes are, in all things that matter, interchangeable. It would be curious if nature had gone to so much trouble to make women and men different merely so the difference could go to waste.

Although about half the women at yesterday’s session were dressed like men, hardly any had so far relinquished their feminine identity as to go without a handbag. If the universal philosophical principle that function follows the nature of a being is true, there must be things that women alone can do or can do better as well as things that men can do better. The solution of many of the as yet “imprecisely defined but real difficulties which women face lies not in a “simplistic levelling of the sexes in spite of all the facts, but in acknowledging , their basic human and intellectual equality while admitting and putting to use their different emotional gifts and in fighting for the elimination of “discrimination and injustice”.

Looking at the place woman fills in society inevitably invites an examination of the whole of society itself, of a husband’s attitude to his wife, of the family, of the child, and of the workplace. The view that woman finds in paid repetitive work release, emancipation, social fulfilment, and personal contentment which she cannot find in the care of a home and a family is often justifiable on pure economic grounds, but it is another matter to accept as necessary, inevitable, and progressive the view that the place of married women as a class is in industry, that the employment of married women “is here to stay”, and that this in no way threatens the integrity of the family. This is not the same thing as saying that where women do work the conditions of the work must be adapted to their specific obligations and that trade unions must accept the obligation of promoting the welfare and protecting the dignity of women in industry, a task in which they have been rather negligent.

The Canberra conference, and all activist movements concerned with the rights of women, will have a better chance of succeeding if the women concerned in them are careful to leaven their rightful anger with humour and if they open their ranks to a wide diversity of opinions, choices and life styles.

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