The Black Line

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This year’s Anzac Day post was sparked by an argument with my daughter. Psyche and I argue pretty noisily, which was a problem when we were both teenagers (OK, I was 40) and neither was prepared to back off. Not so much now that I’m a bit older. We were watching the Australian movie The Nightingale (2018) and the argument was about whether Aborigines made guerilla attacks on white settlements, as implied by the movie. I said Yes, and she said, No they didn’t she works with and talks with Aboriginal people and they only made reprisals.

School children learn the names of Aboriginal Resistance leaders these days and Perth’s new city square, Yagan Square, is named after one. Another, in the Kimberleys in WA’s north, who came up when I was writing up Kimberley Massacres was Jandamurra. There are others in every state. The page, Aboriginal Resistance (here), lists many instances culled from just a few sources, stating “when this many are seen in such a long list they help to explode the myth that Europeans walked in here and took over without any real resistance” .

The Nightingale is set in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1825, only a few years after white settlement began in earnest. A young Irish woman convict, Clare, working as a servant is raped by a British lieutenant and her husband and baby murdered. The lieutenant and a small party head off through the bush towards Launceston pursued by Clare intent on revenge. She secures the assistance of “Billy” an Aboriginal man who speaks perfect English . Billy, real name Mangana, is seeking to rejoin the women of his family who have been taken north. There are more rapes and a lot more bloodshed, and some stuff about the Aboriginal and Irish cases being equivalent. Let’s say 3/5.

So. Time for research. If I were home I’d turn to Henry Reynolds, the historian most responsible for arguing that white settlement involved a series of frontier wars. I have a couple of his books, but here I am in Darwin (or there I was at time of writing).

First, the Black Line.

Prior to European colonisation, there were up to 15,000 Aboriginal people in Tasmania living in nine nations. White settlement began in 1803, and ramped up quickly following the end of the Napoleonic wars. The reaction of the original inhabitants was hostile (unsurprisingly) and by 1824 the two communities were clearly at war. In 1826 all Aborigines were declared to be “insurgents”, meaning they could be shot on sight; in 1828 Governor Arthur declared martial law; and in 1830 he commanded the white community to form a line, the Black Line, across the island in order to drive the remaining Aboriginal population south to the Tasman Peninsula where they could be rounded up and relocated to reserves on islands in Bass Strait (between Tasmania and the mainland)

The community being called upon to act en masse on the 7th October next, for the purpose of capturing those hostile tribes of the natives which are daily committing renewed atrocities upon the settlers … Active operations will at first be chiefly directed against the tribes which occupy the country south of a line drawn from Waterloo Point east, to Lake Echo west …

Lieutenant-Governor of Tasmania, George Arthur, September 1830

The operation resulted in only two captures and two deaths, but nevertheless had the desired effect of forcing all Aboriginal people off lands claimed by white settlers. (Source: National Museum of Australia, here).

And that brings us to The Conversation, 24 Apr. 2014, Tasmania’s Black War: A Tragic Case of Lest We Remember (here). The author, Nicholas Clements, a researcher with University of Tasmania, believes that the proximate cause of Aboriginal anger was not so much white settlement as the constant taking by white men of Aboriginal women for sex. This accords for instance with the causes given for the killing of whites in my recent post on Kimberley massacres (here).

The toll from eight years of war, the most violent anywhere in Australia, was Colonists: 223 killed, 226 wounded; Aborigines: 306 killed, thousands dead of disease, just 200 survivors remaining to be exiled to Flinders Island.

The National War Memorial, which is happy to memorialize not just two World Wars but our participation in immoral conflicts from the Boer War and Boxer Rebellion to Viet Nam and Iraq, refuses to recognise the combatants on either side of Tasmania’s Black War for the spurious reason that neither side involved ‘Australian’ soldiers.

I’m not sure the War Memorial – which is increasingly being repurposed as a temple to glorify the Nation, rather than to deplore the conflicts to which the division of the world into nations inevitably gives rise – is in any case the appropriate place to confront our bloody history.  But until we, the right as well as the left, do acknowledge our history then there can be no hope of Reconciliation, and today is a good day to remember that.

 

Jennifer Kent writer/director, The Nightingale, 2018. Featuring as Clare: Aisling Franciosi; Mangana: Baykali Ganambarr, an Elcho Is, NT/Galiwinku man

see also: My review of Robert Drewe, The Savage Crows (here)

A Day to Remember

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Anzac Day is not my favourite day. For a long time it functioned as a remembrance day, fostered by the genuine anti-war feeling of servicemen and women returned from two world wars. By the 1970s in the face of a popular anti conscription, anti Vietnam War movements, Anzac Day was out on its feet. But it was designed by politicians in the immediate post-WWI years as an excuse for jingoism and so it has been revived, in a form nearly as distasteful as (white) Australia Day, by ‘neglected’ Vietnam ‘vets’ and right wing politicians wanting revenge for their defeats in student unions.

In other years I’ve put some work into my Anzac Day post but this year it nearly passed me by, and it’s only in the last couple of days I’ve given it any thought. Monday, coming down through the Mallee from Port Augusta to Melbourne I was listening to Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. Vonnegut enlisted during WWII, fought in Europe, and was captured by the Germans. He writes with feeling of war as the slaughter of children, which of course when you think of the age of most soldiers it is. I wish I was in a position to write a review.

My father’s father fought in WWI, in France. He died when I was 15 and I never heard him speak about it. Dad was in the Air Training Corp while at Melbourne High during WWII, joined the Navy in 1945 and later spent some years in the CMF (now the Army Reserve), as a lieutenant with a swagger stick. He was at a camp in 1959 when I managed to slice my toe while chopping wood in bare feet and mum’s bravery didn’t extend to watching the doctor giving me injections inside the wound prior to stitching it up.

Daughter Gee did a school project on Dad’s war years and if I was home I could have used the photo she used of him, at 19, posed in his Navy uniform with peaked cap; and the matching photo of his father at much the same age in his slouch hat and army great coat, which Dad always had where he could see it on his desk.

So I was a disappointment. As I have written elsewhere, I went up to Melbourne Uni from Mudsville as a Fabian, tried the MU Labour Club and was moved on to the Anarchists where I stayed. First year was a mess. I had left behind a pregnant girlfriend, I was a country boy mixing at Trinity College in (junior) high society; I was clearly over-excited and drank too much; and I plunged head-first into the anti-war movement. And of course I failed. And it shows how out of touch I was, that that came as a surprise.

Three or four years ago, that high school girlfriend contacted me, out of the blue on Facebook, and we have become friends again. Mostly we write, though once or twice a year we catch up for lunch. I asked her early on had she read my blog and she wrote back, “I have read 4 and you may call me Fancy.” So Fancy she is.

To my surprise I find there are limits to what I can write about myself. But a baby girl, Simone, was born and was adopted out. My father was angry. I failed Engineering and he wouldn’t have me in the house, exiled me for the summer to work on a dairy farm. The following year he found two little old ladies for me to board with near the MCG. I lasted a few weeks and took a room in North Melbourne.

I’d been voted first year rep on the committee of the Engineering Students Club and by the end of the year I was President. The club of course was a shambles and on failing I pulled out. The following year, ostensibly repeating (no credit for the subjects I passed), was devoted to the Moratorium, May 8, 1970. I formed a body called Engineering Action to mobilise the engineering students and also worked with SDS on the Melb Uni organizing committee.

May 8 was a Friday. Early in the week Dad wrote and said we should talk and he would be available all day in his office to speak to me. Fat chance! In the morning we gathered near the Union, and then with me and a mate, Bruce at the head, holding our banner between two poles, we marched down Swanston St and across to Treasury Gardens to join the crowd. When the march proper formed up we surged out down Bourke Street, 12 abreast, the full width of the street, still pouring out of Spring St when the head of the march reached the GPO a kilometre down the hill, far more than the 100,000 we were credited with. Our lot were near the head, outside Myers. “Myers belongs to the people, Myers belongs to the people”, “The people have Buckleys” (Myers and Buckleys & Nunn were two prominent department stores). There were speeches, if you could hear them, singing and chanting, it was a joyous day.

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Soon after there was a Socialist Scholars Conference in Sydney, organised by the communists (CPA) probably as I attended a session given by Eric Aarons (party secretary) and became temporarily famous for asking him a question which began “Lenin was a fascist c#@* …”. Most of the Melbourne party took the opportunity of being in Sydney to go and see Hair, but I chose instead to see Zabriskie Point which was a fine movie, but didn’t have Roy Orbison singing the theme song. On the way back down the Hume (driving the Premier’s daughter’s car) I announced I was dropping out and a week later I was a truck driver.

There were other demos. All small, some violent in a mild sort of way. July 4 outside the US consulate was always good for some argy bargy. This year when I got home I found Fancy sitting on my bed. She told me some home truths and left. For the second Moratorium I was in Brisbane but hitched in to town from the transport depot to take part.

The following year I lost my licence and enrolled in my third first year – Arabic, Aikido and MU Rifle Club – I was going to be a revolutionary. There was a world-wide feeling that we were forcing the US government to back down over Vietnam, over civil liberties, over everything. At Melbourne we kept meeting, demonstrating, attending lectures – Jim Cairns was a favourite speaker. I spent one afternoon in the cells under the old Magistrates Court for “publishing” (handing out) a Save Our Sons document against conscription.

I had already been ‘conscripted’ once when I filled in false papers (to “disrupt the system”). By March I was officially a draft-resister and was automatically conscripted for real this time, if they could catch up with me.

By the end of the year, the Federal Police were closing in. I had no wish, and perhaps not the courage, to spend two years in jail. The Young Bride and I took off for Queensland. I got my licence back. We spent a happy year truck driving with the rednecks. In December Labor got in and Gough gave us all a pardon.

Maisie Dobbs (2003), Jaqueline Winspear

By coincidence I spent all today (24th) listening to the first Maisie Dobbs novel. Maisie is a working class girl given the opportunity to attend Girton women’s college at Cambridge, is a nurse during WWI, and subsequently becomes an (English) Independent Woman detective, sort of a more serious Phryne Fisher. Winspear devotes a fair amount of the novel to Maisie’s back story, and apart from the standard horrors of trench warfare stuff, her main thesis is that society needs its returning heroes to look (and act) acceptable, that returned soldiers with facial and mental injuries are forced by social pressure to keep themselves hidden.

Recent audiobooks 

Kathy Lette (F, Aust/Eng), Altar Ego (2012)
Georgette Heyer (F, Eng), Arabella (1949)
Robert Heinlein (M, USA), Beyond this Horizon (1948)
Orson Scott Card (M, USA), Earth Awakens (2014)
Georgette Heyer (F, Eng), Friday’s Child (1944)
Nadine Millard (F, Ire), An Unlikely Duchess (2014)
Mickey Spillane & Max A Collins, (M, USA), King of the Weeds (2014)
Anne McCaffrey (F, Ire), Dragonsdawn (1988)
Tim Winton (M, Aust/WA), Land’s Edge Abandoned this memoir written with Winton’s usual flowery descriptiveness when he claimed that to go down the beach is to commune with god.
Franz Kafka (M, Czech), The Castle (1926)
Raymond Chandler (M, USA), Playback (1958)
P Finn & Petra Couvée (M/F, USA/Russ), The Zhivago Affair (2014) How the CIA published Dr Zhivago

Currently reading

Melissa Ferguson, The Shining Wall (Australian new release)
Gerald Murnane, A Million Windows
Thea Astley, Collected Stories

Randolph Bourne vs The State, H.W. Morton

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“War is the Health of the State”

‘Had Randolph Bourne never written another line he would have earned immortality from those words alone. “War is the health of the State”, he announced, and went on to explain: “It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate co-operation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the herd sense.”‘ Morton.

When I came up to uni at the beginning of 1969 I thought I was a Fabian. But after just one meeting of the august Melbourne University Labor Club I was shunted off to the anarchists next door (in Union House) and there I stayed – though a lot of my activity in the anti-war movement of those years was under the banner of SDS*.

I had been introduced to Fabianism by my school librarian at Blackburn South High when we spent a year in Melbourne while dad finished his BA preparatory to becoming a DI (district inspector of schools). For a boy from the bush this was a year of intense stimulation, social and intellectual, maths and chess, politics and religion (atheism), before I returned to the bush, to the mud landscape and mud minds of Colac, for an inadequate matriculation.

Sometime during 1969-71, the years encompassing two highly successful Moratoriums, lots of smaller demos, anti-conscription pamphleteering and my own ‘failure to register’ and subsequent police dodging, I became the proud owner of a handful of Anarchy periodicals and in particular Anarchy 31 and its lead article ‘Randolph Bourne vs the State’ by HW Morton (about whom I can tell you nothing).

So first, let us be clear about “the State”.

The world is regrettably divided into armed and mutually hostile geographic entities which we call “countries”. Coinciding (usually) with a country is a body of people – a “nation” (Presumably because nations and countries don’t always coincide Morton uses “society” for the people in a country).

The “State” is the organizing principle of a Nation and determines how it is governed, how its Government is formed and what form it should take.

To go on to politics, Socialism is the belief that the wealth of a nation should be equitably distributed to all the people of that nation. Anarchists believe that the socialist State can only be preserved by distributing the powers of government to as many people as possible, while Communists believe the opposite. Strangely, both believe in an eventual utopia entirely without government.

Randolph Bourne (1886-1918) wrote The State in New York during the First World War. It was reissued in the early 1960s – hence Morton’s critique in Anarchy 31 – and is now available online. “In its incomplete form the essay defines the State, describes its activities, and discusses its historic evolution.” Morton is critical of Bourne’s analysis of the historical development of the State, and thinks he had not read any anarchist theory. His understanding “could have been considerably enhanced had he studied Kropotkin. Conversely, Kropotkin could have benefitted from reading Bourne on War.” And it is his analysis of the State in relation to War that has most influenced me.

 The nation in war-time attains a uniformity of feeling, a hierarchy of values culminating at the undisputed apex of the State ideal, which could not possibly be produced through any other agency than war.

It is this “uniformity of feeling”, intolerance of difference, this “herd feeling” as Bourne inelegantly puts it, which politicians, the class which benefits most from the power of the State, are constantly aspiring to with their confected but often lethal oppositions to Others.

I could go on. I do don’t I? Anzac Day and the glorification of the Military Ideal does that to me. If you’re interested in reading further, both Morton’s and Bourne’s essays are at the links below.

 

H.W. Morton, Randolph Bourne vs The State, Anarchy 31 (Vol 3 No.9) Sept. 1963, Freedom Press, London. here

Randolph Bourne, The State, 1918 here


*Conscription was conducted by a ballot process—the draft. All men were required to register on reaching 20 years of age, but only those whose birthdays were selected in a twice-yearly ballot would be compelled to serve two years in the army and five years in the army reserve. This was the generation entering Australian universities from the mid-1960s.

The Melbourne University Labor Club initially led student opposition to the war and its membership grew until it split in 1968 over the question of whether to be an activist or educative group. From this split new organisations emerged.2 Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) established itself in a shared house in Palmerston Street in Carlton which became known as the Centre for Democratic Action. Members of the SDS, Harry Van Moorst and Michael Hamel-Green, explained their philosophy: traditional politics was morally unacceptable and should be replaced by participatory democracy. Collective, decentralised decision-making and direct, non-violent action such as theatre, street demonstrations and leafleting all aimed to empower participants in a new politics.3 In cooperation with the Melbourne University Draft Resisters Union and the Radical Action Movement, SDS urged students to refuse to register for the draft, and led them to declare Union House a place of safety for draft resisters who had gone ‘underground’, hiding from the police.

Suzanne Fairbanks, University of Melbourne archives (here)

Internee 1/5126, Robert Paterson

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This year’s Anzac day post concerns the imprisonment without trial of my great-great-great uncle in 1916, and begins with an extract from my late father’s A Family History (1997), which had only private circulation. Family and military history is all he wrote so this is probably his one chance at a guest post:

Carl Zoeller (1868-1926) was a German merchant who came to Melbourne in 1885, and settled in Brisbane in 1886. He spent 5 years in New Zealand and New York, and was highly successful in various enterprises, and prominent in the German community in Brisbane. In 1898 he married Minnie Luya, my mother’s great-aunt. Their children were Richard, b 1902, d in infancy, Lisette 1905, Herbert 1908, Mary 1910 and Barbara 1914. In 1907, his father died and Carl renounced his German inheritance, a pottery factory at Grenzhausen in Nassau, and was naturalized in 1908.

Carl and Minnie and their family were victims of an awful vilification during the Great War. It is hard to imagine the Australian government, let alone the people, having been so brutal in their treatment of naturalized citizens and their Australian-born offspring. Apart from Carl’s summary arrest and internment for the duration of the war, his whole family, irrespective of their having been born in Australia, were snubbed by friends and neighbours, verbally and physically assaulted, and finally deprived of their citizenship rights. Their Lismore branch store was wrecked by a mob on Christmas eve, 1915, and Carl was arrested in February 1916. He was sent first to Holdsworthy, and later to Berrima, where the Emden survivors were interned.

He was deported to Hamburg in 1919. Minnie’s Australian citizenship was taken from her, and she and the children joined him at Grenzhausen, near Coblenz, in mid 1922. Germany did not want them, and their brief residence there was a misery. Minnie and the children came back to Australia, to an unhappy existence, in 1924 (Mary remained until 1926).

Carl applied to numerous former friends for help to re-enter Australia, but no-one, not even his in-laws, helped him, although his mother-in-law, Eliza Luya, prayed for him daily until her death in 1923.

Finally, he was allowed entry to South Africa, and he left England for Capetown in June 1926. His daughter Lisette left Australia on 12 October to visit him, but on 17 November he committed suicide, knowing that Lisette would reach him four days later. Minnie died in 1948.

All this was told to me on various occasions by my mother [Nancy Clare Holloway (1902-1977)], although she had forgotten some dates and details. But the story is now recorded in Robert Paterson’s book, Internee No 1/5126. Robert is the son of Mary Zoeller, and has since sent me a copy of his book.

David Clare Holloway (1927-2014)

Paterson’s self-published book naturally provides much greater detail, particularly of Zoeller’s frequent appeals against his imprisonment and subsequent deportation; of the (Billy) Hughes war-time government’s vilification of German-Australians; and of the mistakes and blame-shifting involved in the government’s ongoing refusal to accept that Zoeller was stateless and had never at any time been German. The  ‘Demit’, granted prior to his departure in 1885, releasing him from Prussian citizenship, was conveniently lost for a number of years by Australian authorities around the time of his deportation after the war.

The Zoellers were in fact from Grenzhausen (near Coblenz) in Nassau. The Duchy of Nassau was taken from the Austrians by the Prussians in 1866, and was subsequently incorporated into a newly united Germany in 1871. Carl Zoeller, by renouncing his right to German citizenship and emigrating before his 17th birthday was never ‘German’ and this was belatedly accepted by (parts of) the Australian government only after his deportation, when they were obliged to return (some) of his property which they had, as it turns out, illegally seized or sold up during the war.

On his arrival in Australia, Zoeller worked in Melbourne and Brisbane and then spent four years in business in NZ, before returning briefly to Germany, via New York, on a visit to his family in the 1890s. He was able to become the agent for a number of German medical products and returned to Brisbane and established a business which was soon flourishing.

As dad writes, he married Minnie Luya in 1898 – and let’s be clear, Minnie was Australian born, of Anglo/Irish heritage. Her father was a timber trader/shipper from Gympie Qld, and her mother was the illiterate Eliza Clare, out from Ireland as a servant (no doubt via one of the bounty schemes) I mentioned in my post of a couple of years ago, Educating Women. Zoeller’s wife Minnie, and my great great grandmother Maria were both sisters of Abraham (‘Eb’) Luya, who headed the trading conglomerate later known as Luya Julius, and whose trucks, by then part of Fleetways Ltd, were still prominent on Qld roads when I worked there briefly in the 1980s. Eb Luya was also for a while Chairman of the Queensland National Bank.

In 1911 his business was doing so well that Zoeller was able to purchase for cash a house in Wilston on a large block of land – he ran cows, an orchard, and 60 chooks – which he “gave as a present to my wife and children so that they will always have a roof over their heads”. He named the house “Munna”, and in 1983 it was still in use for wedding receptions, at twenty-nine Murray Street.

In 1912 Zoeller and Dr Euchariste Sirois built a private hospital at Marburg near Ipswich, and Zoeller also provided the backing which enabled Fred Peters, the owner of Eskimo Pie, to establish Peters Ice Cream. Fred Peters was later Mary Zoeller’s godfather.

War was declared against Germany in August 1914, and the sentiment against German-Australians was strong right from the beginning. Late that same year Zoeller was the first person prosecuted under The Trading with the Enemy Act (1914) and received a £100 fine for importing some small items of medical equipment from Germany on a client’s order. Zoeller was kept under surveillance and in 1915 his file with the local (Brisbane) military read “believed to be disloyal but nothing can be obtained against him”.

In Feb. 1916 he was “detained for the duration of the war”. The actual conditions of his detention at Holdsworthy and Berrima weren’t too bad, but unfortunately Zoeller wrote an intemperate letter to his sister in law, which after sections were cut out by the censor, ended up being pasted together to read:

Xmas here in camp … we all prayed extra hard for an early German victory on all fronts, wished damnation to war … if only half the curses which I heap on those flaming Australian idiots who are responsible for my internment hit their mark they will roast in hell for all eternity … Am taking every possible care of myself so as to be as fit as a fiddle when the fight for Germany’s commercial and economic victory comes to be fought.

This letter and the conviction for ‘Trading with the Enemy’ were held against him (and were all that could be held against him) through all his appeals to officialdom for the remainder of his life.

In 1919 Zoeller’s naturalisation as an Australian citizen was removed and in late September, after 20 years as a prosperous Australian businessman, he was one of “5,276 [Germans] deported in nine ships which sailed at various dates between May 1919 and June 1920.” He had no option but to return to his family home in Grenzhausen where he lived with a cousin but was able to obtain only minimal employment. “Luckily”, as the German economy slowly collapsed into hyper inflation what little money he was able to obtain from Australia was sufficient to keep him going.

Zoeller missed his wife and children, and they missed him. We have the evidence of his considerable correspondence with one of two men who stood by him throughout, Dr Sirois (the other was his attorney, Arthur Birley). As his appeals to be allowed to return continued to be refused, Minnie and the children had no choice but to join him in Germany. Minnie applied for a British passport, but the most she could obtain was an obnoxious ‘permit to travel’ which identified her as a ‘German national’. They stayed from 1922-24 but conditions in Germany continued to deteriorate and they came back to Australia, leaving just Mary, who was thriving in boarding school.

Even after restrictions on Germans emigrating to Australia were lifted in 1925, Zoeller continued to be denied (re)entry. On the advice of Australian officials, he was also denied entry into NZ and so he sent Mary home and in June 1926 he moved to South Africa from where he wrote “being back in an English colony is to me like being in heaven.” However in November of the same year he wrote to his sister in Germany, “I do not want to be a burden on my beloved ones and therefore I have decided to put an end to my life with a bullet tonight.”

Paterson paints a clear picture of his grandfather as a cheerful, optimistic and loving family man ground down by the obduracy of an Australian government playing up to anti-German hysteria for which it was largely responsible in the first place. Shades of 2017!

 

Robert Paterson, Internee 1/5126, self published, Brisbane, 1983


29 May 2017

I’ve been contacted by a distant (third, I think) cousin who came across this post by googling ‘Zoeller Murray St’ after the house, recently renovated, was entered in a TV competition. He reminds me that I failed to mention that Minnie’s story was also told in the novel Struggle of Memory (1991) by Joan Dugdale.

Miles Franklin’s War

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The Great War (WWI) broke out in Europe on 28 July 1914, with the Austro-Hungarians preparing to invade Serbia in retaliation for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Miles Franklin was in the USA – which stayed neutral until 1917 – working with fellow Australian Alice Henry on the journal Life and Labor and for the National Women’s Trade Union League of America. Franklin, like most of the Australian suffragists, but unlike their fellows in England led by Emily Pankhurst, took an anti-war position.

This was not Franklin’s first war, although it was the only war in which she would be directly involved. Born in 1879, she was still home on the farm at Thornford in 1899 when troops from the various Australian colonies were sent to fight alongside the British in South Africa in the Boer War. Franklin even then was anti-war and in the often autobiographical Cockatoos, originally written in 1902 or 1903, she is scathing about the young men she had grown up with who rushed to enlist:

Wynd Norton came and was triumphantly conducted inside by the boys. He … hoped to make an impression on Sylvia by announcing that he had joined a local rifle corps and from that would get into a contingent for South Africa …

“Wynd, you’re not really going away to murder people, are you?”

“I wouldn’t call it that,” protested Wynd, not at all happily. He had hoped for quite a different response from the girls. (p.129)

Later, she gets in a dig for her no. 1 passion as well:

“I hate this killing. Hypocrites, going to free the Uitlanders, and they haven’t given their own women votes yet!”

“Yes, but don’t you think all the men’ll have to be free first and then the women?”

“No! England should practise what she preaches and free her own women first. I despise soldiers. Even that silly old Cowpens can be a soldier.” (p.149)

In America in 1914-15 Franklin’s first inclination seems to have been to continue with work as usual in the women’s labor movement. She had had published one American novel and was working on another, On Dearborn Street (not published until 1981. My review here). When war breaks out, during the course of the novel, she intrudes her own voice over that of the (male) narrator:

… came to the last week of July 1914, when into the regular routine … crashed the appalling news that Europe had gone mad overnight and was at war.

One pack of pampered hell hounds, maddened by the delusion that it was menaced by all the other packs, and freed from leash, had almost annihilated another nation before the other dogs of war could be whipped into readiness. (p.110)

Roy Duncan in his Introduction to On Dearborn Street writes:

The shock of World War I, together with continuing irresolution about woman’s position in society and marriage as an institution, stimulated five full-length manuscripts [by MF]. One of the earliest, “Red Cross Nurse” (1914), is an impassioned piece. Digressing savagely on male responsibility for the War, it speaks of “this half-tamed yahoo, this ninety percent criminal which is known as civilized man”.

In 1915 Franklin replaced Alice Henry as editor of Life and Labor but within a few months she had clashed with her patron, Margaret Robins, resigned and in October sailed for England, with these bitter parting words:

Perhaps it was the general war poison which has affected me this last year to the extent of feeling that I had never met one single human being not excepting my mother who would not exploit me to the last inch for what usefulness and entertainment was in me and then throw me on the scrap heap without qualm. (Quoted in Coleman, 1981, p.178)

For the next part my source is Jill Roe’s great biography. In turn, a great deal of Roe’s material comes from Franklin’s (unpublished, I think) record of 1916, How the Londoner Takes His War by a Dissenting Diarist, 20,000 words in 43 sketches.

Franklin had excellent connections in London, from her previous visit in 1911, from her suffragist friends in Australia, and from all the women who had passed through Chicago during her 9 or so years at the heart of the US women’s movement. She was already a member of the Women’s Freedom League – a breakaway from the Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union – and they found her (minimal!) employment for 2 days a week as a cook/waitress at their Minerva vegetarian cafe. The rest of her time was spent visiting wounded soldiers, attending rallies, conferences and conscientious objector tribunals, plus some journalism for Australian newspapers.

Her first intention was to go to France as an orderly in an Ambulance unit (think Phryne Fisher or Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas), but that cost money which she did not have. So, early in 1917 she applied to join the Scottish Women’s Hospitals (SWH) for Foreign Service, an all-women organisation established by Dr Elsie Inglis (my post here) in 1914 under the auspices of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies and run on a voluntary basis by women doctors. ‘The British War Office repeatedly declined its services but it found plenty to do on the Continent, where it served mainly alongside French armies.’ (Roe, 2008,p.202).

Franklin was almost immediately offered a position (food/expenses covered but no pay) as a cook with a SWH unit attached to the Serbian Army under the command of Australian doctors Dr Agnes Bennett (Wiki.) and later, Dr Mary De Garis (Wiki.). She departed for Macedonia in July ’17, one of 3 women on a troopship with 3,000 men. In one of her few surviving letters from the period she writes to friends in Chicago:

You should see my boots! I’m terrified that they’ll sink me, and I have gaiters like the ‘bus conductoresses right up to my knees, and such a jolly short skirt. It is a peach to walk in. All women should be compelled to wear short skirts.

And in a postcard to Rose Scott, her earliest mentor in Sydney:

… I sail today as a member of Scottish Women’s Hospitals for service in Ostruva, Macedonia. I am looking forward to the trip out as we go by Paris & Rome & many other places …

I am very proud to be an accredited Scot at last with the Gordon tartan on my shoulder strap & a thistle in my hat band.

A month later she writes to her mum:

I am quite well & quite happy – for me. I am enjoying the old Australian heat & we go swimming nearly every day in Lake Ostrovo. I am trying to pick up a little Serbian as one is perfectly helpless without it. We are far and safe from war’s alarums here – haven’t heard a word about it since leaving London.

In fact, the Serbian position was well behind the lines and she probably heard more gunfire in London – she comments on the boom of artillery from across the Channel – than she did on ‘active service’. After the six months she had contracted for was up she returned to a London experiencing Zeppelin air-raids, ill with malaria and influenza, convalesced for a while on the south coast and then, right at the end of the war, in Nov ’18 secured a position with the National Housing and Town Planning Council, through her WFL connections, which was to be her mainstay for the next few years.

She wrote on her time in Serbia in the essay Ne Mari Nishta: Six Months with the Serbs*, and by happenstance I found this connection to it (here) in the comments following a Historians are Past Caring post from last year (here), so thankyou Marion.

In 1950 Miles Franklin came over to Perth to deliver a series of talks on Australian literature to members of the public and students of the English Department of the University of Western Australia. These talks resulted in a book of essays, Laughter, not for a cage (1956). In the chapter on Anzacs, Franklin writes:

At certain anniversaries you will hear in windy rhetoric from countless platforms that Anzac (Gallipoli) made a nation of Australia. But what is nationhood? What is the value of nationhood if achieved only through murdering the pick of the male population in its youth? What intelligence, splendour or freedom is there in motherhood that will submit to the “superb specimens” of its travail being wasted as cannon fodder?

What is the value of nationhood indeed.

Ne Mari Nishta  – Serbian, one translation is ‘It matters nothing’

Debbie Robson, Australians Working with Scottish Women’s Hospitals here
Debbie Robson, The SWH and the Australians who served in it. Talk, here
Miles Franklin, Cockatoos, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1954
Miles Franklin, On Dearborn Street, UQP, Brisbane, 1981
Miles Franklin, Laughter, not for a cage, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1956
Verna Coleman, Her Unknown (Brilliant) Career, Sirius, London, 1981
Jill Roe (ed.), My Congenials: Miles Franklin & Friends in Letters (vol.1), Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1993
Jill Roe, Stella Miles Franklin, Fourth Estate, Sydney, 2008
Miles Franklin Central (here) for links to all my MF posts and reviews

To mark the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings

To mark the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings win a ticket to the ABC’s commemorative WASO concert, go to a footy match, buy stuff, carry on endlessly in all media about the importance to this country of sending young Australians to kill people in other countries to advance the commercial interests of the British Empire.

Well, I could hardly write under the heading “The Australian Legend” and not write about the confluence of the Noble Bushman and Anzac myths. I had thought this was the work of CEW Bean, who wrote The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, but Ward says that it was down to war correspondents generally, both in Australia and in England (p. 229 onwards of my paperback edition). “ … even the English at home insisted on seeing [the soldiers of the 1st AIF] as noble, if regrettably undisciplined, bushmen, every one slouching six feet or more tall in his socks.” “The newspapers stated that by April 1915 there had been enrolled 12,000 shearers and station hands … and 1,000 bank clerks.” In fact, diggers came from the city and the country in about equal proportions. So it came about, in the words of Banjo Paterson, “By the end of the war, we ourselves had a tradition.”

Over the last twenty years the most trenchant critic of this tradition has been Marilyn Lake:

“The point is that in Australia, Anzac serves as our creation story. In proving their manhood, Australian men proved our nationhood; a nation was born on that day of death. So the legend ran. And it ran like wildfire amongst anxious colonials seeking British approval. As the laureate of Anzac, CEW Bean pronounced: ‘The achievement of the men lay not in the Allies’ military prowess, rather it lay in the mettle of the men themselves.’ That great phrase, ‘It lay in the mettle of the men themselves.’ The Australians had proved their mettle. Or as the official British war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett reported before Bean wrote, Bartlett said, ‘These raw colonial troops proved worthy to fight side by side with the heroes of Mons, the Aisne, Ypres and Neuve Chapelle.’ Colonial anxieties had to be assuaged. They might have sighed in relief; they had proven themselves worthy.

“The myth of Anzac with all its imperial, masculinist and militarist baggage has yet become our creation story. And it will remain so until the nation is reborn, until we have the audacity, boldness and courage to detach ourselves from the Mother Country, declare our independence, inaugurate a republic, draw up a new constitution expunged of is race traces and that recognises the first wars of dispossession fought against Indigenous peoples, their heroic patriotism here in this country, and their never-ceded sovereign status. In that way we can truly make history here in Australia.

It is clear that John Howard, needing to see off the threat from his right of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, wrapped himself figuratively in the Australian flag as Hanson had literally.

“The myth of Anzac has become more significant in recent years, ubiquitous even, with what I have called the militarisation of Australian history, mightily subsidised by the Howard government in the 1990s and early years of this century. War stories have figured ever more prominently in our culture, in our school rooms, on our TV screens and in our bookshops, but they do not usually tell of the perpetual state of warfare, as once colonist described it, entailed in the colonisation of Australia. To represent this phase of warfare in the Australian War Memorial would challenge the legitimacy of the nation-building project at the heart of Anzac and the Australian War Memorial. Lake, Beyond the Legend of Anzac, RN Hindsight, Sunday 26 April 2009

In Crikey on Thursday (16 April 2015) the issue was tackled, with different emphases, by my two favourite correspondents, Guy Rundle and Helen Razer. Rundle believes that WW1, which for a long time has been popularly regarded as a meaningless slaughter, is being reinterpreted (or re-presented): “As Anzac Day approaches, the World War I wars have started up again! About 15 years ago, WWI ceased to be a futile struggle and became a struggle against German militarism. The reason was obvious: as the Iraq War bogged down, the usual historical argument for war — the failure of “appeasing” Hitler — stopped working. We needed the example of a meaningful quagmire, and so WWI was it. Razer, who always comes up with an odd angle, claims that for Anzac Day to remain relevant we must allow it to be constantly reinterpreted (and commercialised!):“The reality of Gallipoli is secondary to its function as a powerful but empty signifier… “We believe that we can see in a clear line to the sacrifice and slaughter a century ago, but what we see instead is an idealised and ideological version perfectly, if crassly, expressed by Woolworths [“Fresh in our Memories”].

After all that, if you ask me, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, pause a minute, remember the dead, walk on.

For more on Marilyn Lake and the Anzac debate see also The Resident Judge this time last year

Also this excellent article by Jane Rawson