Review Blog

Jul 01 2020

In her own name : A history of women in South Australia from 1836 by Helen Jones

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Wakefield Press, 2020. ISBN: 9781743056981.
Recommended. Helen Jones first published this remarkable book in 1986, with a second edition published in 1994, and this third edition published in 2020. The book has grown over those years and this current edition is a large paperback of 387 pages of history, with a further set of supporting data that is 1/3 of the book's size in total. This most outstanding work is a weighty tome, both fascinating and enlightening regarding the way that women developed their own lives, from education, preparation for work, and motherhood, to being married, running a household, or continuing in their education, and gaining the right to not only vote in the elections of Members of Parliament, but eventually to be able to stand themselves for a seat in Parliament. Supporting structures are explored, particularly as they were instituted to enable the women to work and learn, and to have their children cared for, initially, and then educated, in South Australia over the period of time from 1836 to 2020.
Accessing an extraordinary amount of data, much of which is included, Helen Jones has presented a 'story' that covers the world of women from very early settlement to the current times. It is important to note that her work is supported with documentation that includes names, dates, places and purpose. In that we are given evidence of the way that women were able to develop lives, often in ways that had been historically taboo, this book delves into the various categories of education available to the different needs of young women, particularly noting that State education has been free in South Australia. Schools, both state and private, are shown to have played a strong part in both the development of a strong system of education available for girls, and in the preparation of young women to train as teachers from quite early in the colony.
This extraordinary book is a riveting read, both in its attention to detail, and in its breadth of data. It would be a stunning book for students to access in learning about this state and enabling access to real details of the history of women in South Australia. Thus it would be ideal for study both as an historical document, and as a source of data that proves just how deeply women were involved, from its beginning, in the development of South Australia.
Elizabeth Bondar

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