Women's Voices

One my favourite passages from Jane Austen’s writing is in Persuasion, when Captain Harville says, “But let me observe that all histories are against you, all stories, prose and verse.  …  I do not think I have ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman’s inconstancy.  Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman’s fickleness.  But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men.”

Anne replies “Perhaps I shall. – Yes, yes, if you please, no references to examples in books.  Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story.  Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. “

I was reminded of this quote when watching one of my favourite TV programmes last week, the ABC’s One Plus One, where journalist Jane Hutcheon has a conversation with her guest each week, inviting a wide range of interesting people.   Historian Clare Wright, Associate Professor in History at La Trobe University, and winner of the 2014 Stella prize with her book The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, was first interviewed in April 2015. Last week the programme was repeated and I particularly enjoyed hearing Clare talk about finding and writing about women’s voices in Australian history, too long neglected in her view.

In Jane Austen's day few girls received an education. This interview has prompted me to start writing a blog about my research into the education of girls in the Regency era.  Much has been written about the improved education and opportunities for women since then but there is still much to do in this field. It seems that Jane Austen’s remark, via Anne Elliot, is still valid today.