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The Limits of Authorship: The Radio Broadcasts of Irene Greenwood, 1936-1954

John Richardson


Contents


List of Abbreviations

Preface

PART 1. THE SOCIAL, POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC FIELD: 1900-1960

Introduction

Religion and the Women's Movement

The Politics of the Women's Organisations, Perth and Sydney

West Australian Peace Organisations, 1930-1940

Economics and Ideologies

The Australian Women's Charter

The Cold War and The End of the Early Twentieth Century Women's Movement

PART 2. WRITING IN THE MARGIN : GREENWOOD'S SPACE OF RESISTANCE

Programming Policies and Audiences

Production Practices

Censorship

Greenwood's Response

Propaganda --Russian News

Commercial Broadcasting

PART 3. NEW AND STRANGE WAYS: GREENWOOD'S PROGRAMME OF SOCIAL REFORM

Greenwood's Utopian Paradigm: Woman of the Soviet Arctic

The Heroine

Utopias

Bringing Utopia Home

Conclusion

Bibliography

Appendix


LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

AFWV AUSTRALIAN FEDERATION OF WOMEN VOTERS

ALP AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY

CPA COMMUNIST PARTY OF AUSTRALIAN

LBC GOLLANCZ LEFT BOOK CLUB

MAWF MOVEMENT AGAINST WAR AND FASCISM

UA UNITED ASSOCIATIONS OF WOMEN

UAW UNION OF AUSTRALIAN WOMEN

WCTU WOMEN'S CHRISTIAN TEMPERANCE UNION

WILPF WOMEN'S INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE FOR

PEACE AND FREEDOM

WSG WOMEN'S SERVICE GUILDS


PREFACE

This is the story of Irene Adelaide Greenwood; feminist, peace activist and radio broadcaster. Its telling is made possible by Greenwood's practice of duplicating her broadcast scripts and much of her correspondence through the carbon paper of her typewriter. Greenwood bequeathed the copies of her scripts and letters, together with a vast collection of other material, to Murdoch University.

The Collection charts Greenwood's life, from her childhood at the turn of the century through to her political activities of the 1980s. It traces her involvement in the organisations which comprised the early twentieth century women's movement and tells of the actions which this movement fought. It details the hopes of the small group of activists, Greenwood prominent among them, who struggled to secure world peace during the inter-war period. It places Greenwood within a loose circle of intellectuals who were influential during the 1930s and 1940s. Her contemporaries of this period included Katharine Susannah Prichard, Jessie Street, Charles Hartley Grattan and William Macmahon Ball. The Collection records many of the political effects of the Cold War and Greenwood's response to these. Finally, in the 1970s and 1980s, it has her as adviser to Gough Whitlam and later to Brian Burke, a former Premier of Western Australia, on issues related to world peace and women's objectives.

When pieced together the Greenwood Collection is a history of the twentieth century told from the perspective of the campaign for women's rights. It is also the story of a remarkable person and her own place within this campaign. Yet Greenwood's story has never been told. Although she was frequently consulted on topics related to the early women's movement and the individuals in it, little has been written about Greenwood's own contribution. Her unusual role in the history of broadcasting has been similarly overlooked.

Greenwood broadcast her message on both national and commercial radio during the period 1936-1954. Studies in early broadcasting tend to focus on the development of the media, its changing practices and political relations, its impact on the historical listener. All too often they paint a depressing picture of entrapment with the voices of radio disarticulated from men and women with particular hopes and aspirations to become part of the anonymous machinery of a monolithic broadcasting apparatus. But like all media which reproduce the power relations of the day, albeit in a modified form, there is a space for resistance. It was this space which Greenwood struggled to occupy, she became one of Hans Enzenburger's people of innovation - a "potential trouble maker" [1] fighting a guerrilla action to turn the broadcasting apparatus towards the ends of her own vision of social reform.

Greenwood was geographically and politically removed from the institutional centres of Australian broadcasting in Sydney and Melbourne. The social arrangements of Western Australia, certainly during the 1930s and 1940s, did not strictly conform with those in the east. The only detailed account of a West Australian broadcaster of the period is Julie Lewis' biography of Catherine King. [2] King, Greenwood's one-time superior at the ABC Women's Session, lacked the depth of political commitment which was so much a feature of Greenwood's broadcasts. It was from the unlikely platform of the women's sessions, and King's amongst them, that Greenwood disseminated her plan for social reform.

It would be no exaggeration to say that Greenwood is a legend within the current feminist circles of Western Australia. Feminism, however, is a concept which can only be understood in the light of the power relations of a given historical period. The objectives for which Greenwood and her contemporaries struggled can be placed under the catch-all heading of "sexual equality", but equality was read through a different ideological field than that in place today. Part One of Greenwood's biography re-constructs this field, it shadows her life from childhood to the 1960s. It seeks to understand the objectives of the early women's movement and the way in which these objectives came to be drafted and interpreted. The programme of the early women's movement was the basis of Greenwood's message of resistance.

The second part of this biography examines the broadcasting institutions of the 1930s to the mid-1950s, the period in which Greenwood operated. The politics, practices and technology of the broadcasting apparatus are theorised as elements of constraint which had a shaping effect on Greenwood's message while at the same time allowing the necessary latitude for the expression of her politics. Greenwood's particular strategies for exploiting the apparatus are discussed here.

Part Three extracts a number of common themes from the body of Greenwood's scripts. When taken together these constitute a plan of action intended to be applied by her listeners. The plan did not and could not take on an explicit form, it was born of the tensions which structured the philosophies of the women's movement and filtered through the interdictions of the broadcasting institutions.


Notes

1 Hans Magnus Enzenberger, "The Industrialization of the Mind", Raids and Reconstructions (London: Pluto Press, 1975), p. 18.

2 Julie Lewis, On Air: The Story of Catherine King and the ABC Women's Session (Fremantle: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1979).


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Made: 25 March 1996
Latest change: 25 March 1996
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