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Arrow, Michelle: Damned Whores and God’s Police 40 years on

Arrow, Michelle

Damned Whores and God’s Police is still relevant to Australia 40 years on – more’s the pity‘, The Conversation, 21 September 2015

The article marks four decades since Anne Summers’ book. A conference is under way. Anne Summers’ speech at the conference is extracted here and commented upon by Gay Alcorn.

Damned Whores and God’s Police (1975) [says Arrow] was that rare thing in Australian publishing history: a bestseller. Since its publication, 40 years ago this year, it has sold more than 100,000 copies. Its success is even more remarkable when one considers its subject: “the colonisation of women in Australia.”

Anne Summers’ ambitious book reframed Australian history by placing women at its centre. The colonisation of Australia, she argued, had created a patriarchal gender order that reduced 19th-century women to one of two narrow roles: virtuous wives and mothers, dubbed “God’s police” and the transgressive “damned whores”.

Arrow concludes by quoting Julia Gillard on her experience, as an indication that change is still needed.