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Peter Spearritt

I am writing this review in a cafe in the main street of Gympie, a town founded on gold discoveries in 1867. It is 200 kilometres north of Brisbane and seventy kilometres from the coast. Frontier types abound in a town population of 11,000 and in farming communities around. Rough, craggy, sunburnt faces, wizened facial muscles, arms creased by years of hard work and a determined walk. In their everyday habits they exhibit loyalty to friends, a capacity to improvise and a contempt for blacks. And these are the women.

As our feminist historians have pointed out, there are few women in Russel Ward’s The Australian Legend, first published in 1958. Indeed in the index there are only a handful of entries: ‘on goldfields’, ‘prostitution’ or and ‘shortage of, in bush’, the last being the longest entry.

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Making a Life edited by Verity Burgmann and Jenny Lee & Constructing a Culture edited by Verity Burgmann and Jenny Lee

June 1988, no. 101

The title A People’s History of Australia is certainly a grand one. Its multi-volume predecessors have more modest titles, such as Clark’s disarmingly simple A History of Australia or the eleven-volume Australians: a historical library. The People’s History’s aspirations go beyond content to embrace audience. This is refreshing to see as many Australian scholars still regard their colleagues as the only audience that matters. The editors say in their introduction that:

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