Stopping ‘Ming’ in his tracks

The weapon of feminine respectability
by
July 2021, no. 433
Buy this book

Save Our Sons: Women, dissent and conscription in the Vietnam War by Carolyn Collins

Monash University Publishing, $34.95 pb, 360 pp

Stopping ‘Ming’ in his tracks

The weapon of feminine respectability
by
July 2021, no. 433
World Peace Day March near the Hotel Australia, King William Street, North Adelaide, 1969 (photograph by Hal Pritchard/State Library of South Australia PRG 1561/8/3/2)
World Peace Day March near the Hotel Australia, King William Street, North Adelaide, 1969 (photograph by Hal Pritchard/State Library of South Australia PRG 1561/8/3/2)

Two weeks after he announced the reintroduction of conscription in late 1964, Prime Minister Robert Menzies addressed a political rally at Hornsby, in the Liberal heartland of Sydney’s north-west. Menzies received what historian Carolyn Collins described as a ‘rockstar welcome’. However, when he spoke about national service, a group of black-clad women in the audience rose to their feet and covered their heads with black veils, standing silently for several minutes in the face of jeers and boos. They eventually filed out of the hall, handing out anti-conscription pamphlets as they left. Margaret Holmes, who had helped organise the protest, recalled later that it ‘stopped [Menzies] in his tracks’. Organised by the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom, it was the first women’s protest against conscription in the Vietnam era, but it would not be the last. Weaponising decorous, middle-class femininity would prove to be a potent strategy in the nine long years it took to abolish conscription in Australia.

Michelle Arrow reviews 'Save Our Sons: Women, dissent and conscription in the Vietnam War' by Carolyn Collins

Save Our Sons: Women, dissent and conscription in the Vietnam War

by Carolyn Collins

Monash University Publishing, $34.95 pb, 360 pp

Buy this book

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