Have Women Been Written Out of Australia's History by Editors?
Connie Levett, in smh.com.au (March 8, 2004):
An instruction to"up the mateship and increase the larrikinism" in an account of Australians in World War I came at the cost of the role women played in the war, says a Sydney historian, Caroline Viera Jones.
Likewise, she says, a Henry Lawson poem was tweaked by an editor to endorse mateship at the cost of a woman's reputation.
Ms Jones, an editor and historian, had noted the Australian story was littered with the feats of men, and wondered whether editors and publishers, rather than the writers themselves, were responsible for the women missing in action. In the early manuscripts of C.E.W. Bean's 12 volumes on World War I women were present both as battlefield nurses and back in Australia, until publisher George Robertson, of Angus and Robertson, told Bean to"up the mateship and increase the larrikinism".
"With Bean, by encouraging a great narrative, the everyday lives of women were excluded from the first chapter and women were pushed to volume 11 on the home front," said Ms Jones, a Nancy Keesing Fellow at the State Library of NSW, who is about to submit her PhD on the subject.
When the feats of nurses were written about, she said, they were not indexed. To locate their contribution it was necessary to make reference to hospital ships.
For Ms Jones, the question of the editor's power arose when she was interviewed for a job of producing an Australian version of the Encarta encyclopaedia." 'What would you do to make it Australian?'" I was asked."It made me realise how much it's the editor's choice," she said.
In her study, she focused on Angus & Robertson because"most of the Australian icons like The Man from Snowy River , the Anzac legend and the larrikin spirit came through them".
"The publishing house can manufacture national myths and legends through a careful selection of authors and subtle manipulation of their manuscripts," she said."When people read Lawson or Bean they see it at face value."
Readers did not see the editor's hand shaping the work, she said. In the Henry Lawson poem For'ard , written as women in New Zealand got the vote, after editorial tinkering the line An influence of women revolutionised the world became The sense of human kinship revolutionised the world .
In Out Back , the line 'Twas little he dreamed that a shearing mate had care of his home and wife became And no one knew but a shearing mate twas the fault of a faithless wife .
Ms Jones said Robertson and his editors"wanted to protect the idea of male mateship" so casting the shearer as cuckolder was unacceptable.
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