Women’s History Month: Shirley Winton

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Shirley Winton got involved in protesting against the Vietnam War particularly through the Monash Labor Club. She is still involved in protesting against war today. In this excerpt, she talks about the perhaps less glamorous work of ‘paste ups’ and starting conversations with people about why she opposed the Vietnam War.

Shirley Winton interview


Shirley: We went – we did paste ups in the middle of the night, we used to go to paste ups, and we…

Alex: Just on like neighborhood streets?

Shirley: Yeah, on neighbourhood – and in the city. And this was at the height of where the, the anti Vietnam War protestors, particularly like the Monash Labor Club I suppose – when was raising money for the NLF, so there was really, anyone associated, you know, with even opposition to the Vietnam War was really maligned. I mean, you know, we were just pariahs. And so we went and did quite a lot of paste ups. They were the kind of the, the brave things, the [unclear] at July the fourth was a protest because – you, you must remember that at that time, particularly with the support for the NLF, was like equal to treachery. So even opposition to the – I remember handing out leaflets in the city, and just – and we were just, you know, abused, and – oh, yeah, this is before, this is two years before the moratorium, you know, and that just shows how quickly the public opinion can change. And, so we got – we were abused as communists, as traitors, we should be thrown in jail, all those kinds of things. And so I think some of us felt quite, you know, isolated. So there was a tendency to kind of join together. And that’s where the women are really – we were having that solidarity, because there was – I remember there were with the, I had a group of about, we had a group of about eight women who were involved in the Monash Labor Club, and then later, even beyond that, who were involved in the anti-Vietnam War activities. And it was the things we did, we did together, because that – there was this – it was bad enough being against the Vietnam War, but being a woman who’s being outspoken – and I remember I was waitressing at the time, you know, to make money, to raise money for my union fees. And I mentioned the war to one of the other people working there and I was – I thought I was going to get the sack. I mean, it was just that, really that bad. And in fact my partner when he was – this is something else, but he was, he’s from South Australia, and he became, also became involved in the anti-Vietnam War. And he said in 1967, or 66, there were only like, 30 of them, just walking down the street with a placard saying, opposing the war in Vietnam, and people would be walking past them and spitting at them… You know, I mean, that was, that was the climate, that was the climate that the media had built up, as well. So we did a lot of letterboxing. And I think that one of the, some of us in particular were, and women were kind of – I thought the women that I was with anyway, had a – quite a strong view of that we need to get outside that kind of left bloc, you know, that we need to do much more outreach work to connect with, with a broader community and, and so there was a lot of letterboxing. And some of the places, like places that we worked, we worked at, we handed out leaflets and tried to engage in conversation.

If you know a Melbourne woman who was involved in protesting against the Vietnam War, please leave a comment!

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