Women’s History Month: Jan Muller

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Jan Muller was a student at La Trobe University in the late 1960s/early 70s. She was heavily involved in protesting against the Vietnam War; as well as being in protests, she also typed and Gestetner-ed many pamphlets, and assisted draft resisters. In this short excerpt, she talk about her motivation for being involved.

Jan Muller interview

Transcript

Jan: First of all, I was a good little Christian girl. And from a middle class, conservative family, and I remember finding in the shed one of the Uniting Church’s early booklets about the effects of napalm and, and so forth, on children and in the villages of Vietnam. And I was pretty horrified. And so I think that was my first – I mean, we did, we did talk about the Vietnam War in school, but it didn’t mean anything in school. 

So I suppose I was about sixteen or seventeen when I saw this, these graphic – graphic photos of, of injuries, and I was pretty incensed about that. So, moving on, that would have been in the mid ’60s. 

And when I was at Teachers College in 1968, ’69, I wasn’t – I was pretty politically naive. But I do remember people talking about going to the demonstrations against the war. … My fiancé, I think, was quite politically active in ’68, late ’68, early ’69. And I think I went to my first demo with him. And it was a very violent demonstration. Not violent from our side, by the way. But I was so naive, I didn’t think that the police would actually hit women. So I had a big wake up then.  

Alex: It seems like your initial problem with what was happening was the way that people in Vietnam were being treated. 

Jan: Yep. 

Alex: And then did you come to oppose conscription kind of because of Vietnam, or conscription in general?

Jan: I do remember, one of the neighbours, who my father called a pinko, driving up the street with a “no conscripts for Vietnam” sticker on the back of her car. And I didn’t know what the word “conscripts” meant. And I didn’t – I knew that Vietnam existed. I knew about Vietnam because I was a stamp collector, so I knew what Vietnam was. But I didn’t know what the word “conscripts” – but I do remember seeing that car every day as the neighbour drove home, and wondered what “conscripts” meant. That’s, that’s in the ’60s, early ’60s. 

 So by the time I got to be aware of conscription, I was already politically active. And, yes, I had a neighbour who was conscripted. And I got involved in the anti-conscription movement, and had friends in the Draft Resisters Union. 

If you know a Melbourne woman who protested against the Vietnam War, please leave a comment!

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