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Penny Davies | Backbone of the Nation: The Women of Australia (20th Anniversary Reissue)

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Folk: Political World: Australian Moods: Type: Acoustic
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Backbone of the Nation: The Women of Australia (20th Anniversary Reissue)

by Penny Davies

BACKBONE OF THE NATION - THE WOMEN OF AUSTRALIA is a history in song of the lives of women in Australia since the convict times. The music and the songs range through styles and genres - but are intrinsically in a folk style.
Genre: Folk: Political
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Polly, Ruby & Jane
3:07 $0.99
2. Treadmill Dance
1:57 $0.99
3. Mrs. Thomas Moore
3:58 $0.99
4. No Land for Ladies
3:45 $0.99
5. Black Mary
3:12 $0.99
6. Pioneer Woman
3:36 $0.99
7. The Sealers' Slaves
3:49 $0.99
8. Give Women the Vote
3:09 $0.99
9. O'Sullivan & Daughter
4:40 $0.99
10. Socks, Socks & More Socks
2:53 $0.99
11. Red Matilda
3:38 $0.99
12. If You Can't Fight, You Can Farm
2:27 $0.99
13. Gardens in the Kunai Grass
3:15 $0.99
14. If I Had a Wife
3:19 $0.99
15. Bankers Are Taking the Land
4:38 $0.99
16. Thancoupie the Potter
1:26 $0.99
17. No Destination
4:23 $0.99
18. Little Stranger
2:42 $0.99
19. Australian Women
3:32 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Each song represents a specific period of Australian history since the European invasion.

POLLY, RUBY & JANE:. Many of the first white women to arrive in Australia came in chains as convicts. Many were ordinary poor women, forced by economic necessity into illegal acts.

TREADMILL DANCE: The ‘worst” convict women were sent to the Female Factory at Parramatta where conditions were crowded and filthy. Here women walked in the treadmill, which was connected to a flour mill or water pump, for many hours a day, without rest.

MRS THOMAS MOORE: Through fortunate marriages some convict women managed to improve their lot. One such woman was Rachel Turner, whose memorial tablet graces the wall of a Liverpool (NSW) church, and bears the name “Mrs. Thos. Moore”.

NO LAND FOR LADIES:. Eliza Walsh was a single, free settler, and was one of the first to fight for women’s rights in the colony. Macquarie refused to grant land to her because she was a spinster.

BLACK MARY: The real story of the woman known only as Black Mary, betrayed by her bushranger lover, is typical of the relationship between black and white Australians since the colony began.

PIONEER: In the German settled districts of S.A. female shearers were the norm and were known for their gentle handling of the animals. It was also common to see them in harness with a pony or donkey, ploughing the paddocks.

THE SEALERS' SLAVES: Aboriginal women were kept as slaves by Tasmanian sealers in the 1800’s. Their slavery lasted to decades until they were finally freed. This shameful piece of history is not generally known.

GIVE WOMEN THE VOTE! White women, meanwhile, were working towards equality. Vida Goldstein (Victoria), Emma Miller (Queensland), and Catherine Spence (South Australia) were all prominent feminists who worked for women’s suffrage. Spence’s efforts resulted in South Australia granting women the right to vote in 1894, becoming one of the first areas in the world to do so.

O'SULLIVAN & DAUGHTER: World War I made marriage and motherhood impossible for many women - 60,000 Australian men never returned. Opportunities for marriage decreased and so many more women began to look for worthwhile work. Sometimes such opportunities were opened up by a tragic loss of a soldier at the front.

SOCKS, SOCKS & MORE SOCKS! The Australian Comforts Fund (War Chest) called for socks to overcome the trench foot experienced by soldiers. Thousands of women responded to this call – the War Chest alone sent 1.354,328 pairs of socks to the front.

RED MATILDA: The depression years left many scars on families. While men roamed the roads looking for work, the women they left behind tried to keep their families together. Such obvious human suffering so close to home helped other women to find their political voices during this period.

IF YOU CAN'T FIGHT, YOU CAN FARM! The daughters of the women who had knitted socks in World War 1, were given more satisfying ways to serve in World War II. The Australian Women’s Land Army, for example, had an unglamorous but fulfilling life in the rural areas of Australia. Their recruiting slogan was “If You Can’t Fight, You Can Farm”.

GARDENS IN THE KUNAI GRASS: Women have worked as Nurses in war zones since the days of Florence Nightingale. The Air Force journal “Wings” (June, 1942), commented on nurses posted in New Guinea “….women …. brought an enduring quality to a temporary scene. Many men will remember as long as they live the debt they owe these women comrades at war.”

IF I HAD A WIFE: In the days before efficient birth control and child care centres, a woman artist could only work and develop in her chosen field by rejecting or struggling against the conventional women’s role. While male artists had the support of wives (or mothers. sisters and mistresses), women artists rarely had similar care and must have longed for “wives” of their own!

BANKERS ARE TAKING THE LAND: It took a long time for “Farmers’ Wives” to be recognised for their important role in farm-work and management. When life on the land gets tough, the farming woman works even harder to help her family cope with the inevitable and stressful changes.

THANCOUPIE THE POTTER: Since the new Feminist Movement began in the 1960’s women artists have found more acceptance and more opportunities to work. Aboriginal women are among the prominent artists now being recognised in what was once predominantly a white male field.

NO DESTINATION: The problem of homelessness has increased in Australia during the last few decades. The romantic image of the “swaggie” roaming the roads has been replaced with a grim reality in which the homeless are people of both sexes, all ages and races.

LITTLE STRANGER: Through all the changes that women have experienced over the years of Australia’s history, one aspect has remained constant – their ability to love and nurture their children.

AUSTRALIAN WOMEN: Despite the social problems crowding in on us, women have stepped off the treadmill and broken the chains of prejudice, link by link. In the 21st century, women are environmentalists, engineers, politicians, doctors, academics, musicians, train drivers and sculptors. They are found in the air, the factory, the stage, the farm and the home, and everywhere they are found, they continue to work for their families and their communities. They are often to be found where people are in trouble or in need – working for the health, the freedom and the peace of everyone.
Penny Davies August 1992

Thanks to the following authors for inspiration: Patsy Adam Smith “Australian Women At War”, Liz Thompson “Aboriginal Voices”, Helen Heney “Australia’s Founding Mothers”, Eve Pownell “Australian Pioneer Women”, Ruth Adam “A Woman’s Place”. Miriam Dixon “The Real Matilda”, and to all the other writers who included women in their histories.



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