Waltzing matildas : a study of select Australian women explorers, 1840s - 1940s

Publication Type:
Thesis
Issue Date:
2002
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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. Access is restricted indefinitely. ----- In Australian history, exploration has often been represented as a white masculine tale. While the well known Australian song cited in the title evokes the image of the swagman, the Matilda referred to in the phrase is a bedroll and/or a reference to female travelling companions of apprentices on the move. This thesis looks at 'Matilda's' stories: that is, non-indigenous women's representations of Australian country considered by them to be 'new' and unknown to their own culture. In examining their accounts of participation in expeditions, it questions the assumption exploration was entirely the work of men. Through close analysis of the exploratory representations of women as diverse as governors wives and maids, pastoralists' wives and 20th century bushwalkers, this study argues that the category of explorer and limited ideas of exploration need to be reworked. Representations of the women's expeditions in forms such as diaries, and letters, photography are used. It investigates how these women were excluded and how examining their accounts encourages a rethinking of the term explorer and of exploration itself. Waltzing Matildas aims to achieve a rethinking of exploration in terms of how the women represented their expeditions and what they emphasised in them. Considering their accounts, exploration can be seen as naming and knowing place, as well as adventures in the gendered territories of class, femininity, domesticity and identity. This study uses key terms from the women's own representations to 'tease out' gendered and colonialist and associations of their rich accounts which take the form of letters, diaries, and in the twentieth century photography and articles. Using historical analysis combined with literary studies, feminist and colonial studies particularly, the study demonstrates that when women's representations of their expeditions and themselves are the central focus of analysis, different pasts and places become visible, complicating histories previously told.
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