Vera Boston was involved in protesting against the Vietnam War largely through Melbourne University connections, having been concerned about the issues since high school. In this excerpt she speaks about being involved with SDS – Students for a Democratic Society.
Note: the sound quality isn’t great, because my recorder got very enthusiastic about picking up all the ambient noise…
Alex: what sorts of things were you involved with? What did you – – –
Vera: Oh, everything. I mean, you know, from printing posters and, you know – the thing that strikes me as bizarre, well, only, I guess, as an indicator of how different the world was then, but one of the early posters that I remember silk screening was one that said, “Girls say yes to boys who say no.” It was an absolute – and it was a very (…)
Alex: That’s amazing.
Vera: It’s amazing. And it’s amazing that women like me and Diana, and everybody else I know, didn’t think anything about that. That was just the – that was us quite consciously, in a way, using our sexuality to encourage young men not to register.
Alex: As a political statement.
Vera: It’s just unbelievable. To me, it’s unbelievable. What else? Well, I joined SDS right away, which was the Students for a Democratic Society. So, you know, I was involved in all of that stuff, you know.
Alex: Was that through Melbourne University?
Vera: Yeah, yeah, Melbourne.
Vera: So it was, you know, organising rallies, speaking at rallies, you know, I was one of the few people in that group who had a car, so the car was very useful for taking things to and from demonstrations, you know?
Alex: I can imagine.
Vera: Like the PA system, you know. Boxes of paper, you know. Not long after that, we got our own press, we had a printing press, so I was involved with the printing, all of that type of thing.
Alex: Wow, that’s incredible. So you spoke at rallies?
Vera: Yeah, yeah.
Alex: And that was fine? The guys were happy to let you be up there, and so on?
Vera: Yeah, no, it wasn’t like that.
Alex: I’ve read a little bit of stuff by Harry Van Moorst and Michael Hamel-Green, and, I guess understandably, they’re a lot focused on their own actions. But often, the women kind of seem to be ignored. You know, Jean McLean and SOS get a line, and so on, but when they’re off avoiding the police, surely it was the women who were kind of organising stuff a lot of the time.
Vera: Some of the time. But, to be fair, SOS was considered by people like us, like Harry and Michael, quite a middle-class kind of – – –
Alex: Yeah, of course.
Vera: not terribly revolutionary (…) progressives, you know. Yeah. So – – –
Alex: Quite different spheres of action, then.
Alex: And so, the printing press was run or owned by SDS?
Alex: Was it housed at somebody’s place, or did you have an office?
Vera: No, SDS – place up in Palmerston Street, 57 Palmerston – that was the headquarters, but a number of people lived there. I never did. My brother did. Harry and Di did, of course, for a long time. You know, Michael Hamel-Green and Frances lived there so, you know. And there was a big garage, and the printing press was in the garage.
Alex: Were you designing posters as well as printing them? Or is that other people?
Vera: Not really. I don’t think I was designing stuff. I think it was more arty people than me. And, well, look, I might have, but they would have been really simple ones, like, you know, “Stop the war now” kind of thing.
If you know a Melbourne woman who was involved in protesting against the Vietnam War, please leave a comment!