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Respectable Radicals

A History of the National Council of Women of Australia, 1896–2006

By Marian Quartly and Judith Smart

$39.95

‘In this impressively produced volume Quartly and Smart take us beyond superficial responses into fresh insight into these women’s energetic transnational activism. Despite discouragement and setbacks, the NCWA was a remarkably effective body that kept issues of women’s status, opportunities and rights in the public eye for over a century. We are in the authors’ debt for this illuminating study.’ — Pat Grimshaw, Labour History: 111

‘Highly readable and painstakingly-researched, Respectable Radicals offers a comprehensive account of the origins and operation of mainstream feminism inn Australia, and a fresh perspective on the animating forces in twentieth-century history, from Federation to the damn of the ‘Asian Century’. — James Keating, Lilith: A Feminist History Journal, 22:2016

For much of the twentieth century, the National Council of Women of Australia was the peak body representing women to government in Australia, and through the International Council of Women, to the world. This history of NCWA tells the story of mainstream feminism in Australia, of the long struggle for equality at home and at work which is still far from achieved. In these days when women can no longer be imagined as speaking with one voice, and women as a group have no ready access to government, we still need something of the optimistic vision of the leaders of NCWA. Respectable in hat and gloves to the 1970s and beyond, they politely persisted with the truly radical idea that women the world over should be equal with men.

Read Professor Marilyn Lake's 11 October launch speech.

About the authors

Prof. Marian Quartly holds the position of Professor Emerita at the Monash School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies. Her long-term research concern is the history of family in late twentieth century Australia. She has recently completed two large co-operative projects: a history of Australian adoption, and a history of the National Council of Women of Australia.

Judith Smart is a principal fellow at the University of Melbourne and an adjunct professor at RMIT University. She has published on Australian women's organisations in the first half of the twentieth century, as well as on women and political protest, women and religion, the Miss Australia beauty contest, and the social history of the home front during war.She is the co-editor with Shurlee Swain of The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia.

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