Women’s History Month: Elisabeth Jackson
Elisabeth Jackson was opposed to the Vietnam War and conscription from the beginning, partly through the influence of her parents. She attended demonstrations once she got to Melbourne University, which she discusses in this excerpt.
Alex: Did you do anything to kind of express that when you were at high school, which is obviously where you were at the start?
Elisabeth: I got into a terrible argument with one of the teachers who thought that the war was a good thing; that the communists had to be stopped at any cost. He was from Eastern Europe, I think. And he was staunchly anti communist. Yeah.
Alex: So what other sorts of things did you eventually get involved with? Were you involved in any of the demonstrations?
Elisabeth: Not while I was at school, they weren’t really taking place so much when I was at school. But I started university in 1968. So it was all happening then. So I used to, we’d go to demonstrations regularly.
Alex: Which university were you at?
Alex: Did you feel like there was a strong push to be anti war at university, on the campus?
Elisabeth: Yes. I mean, the left wing clubs and so on were quite strong.
Alex: Did you get involved in any of them?
Elisabeth: Not really. I was sort of nominally a member of the Labor Club, but I was still too young and nervous, too… And there was this organisation called the SDS – Harry Van Moorst, who I notice has just died, he was a leading figure in that. So I sort of buzzed around the edges of that, but I mean, I was just very shy and lacking in confidence at that time. So I didn’t get deeply involved.
Alex: And yet you went along to demonstrations?
Alex: That seems to me like the sort of thing that someone who’s shy wouldn’t automatically do.
Elisabeth: Oh I did, yeah, yeah, I would go with family or friends, yeah.
Alex: Not a solo thing, but a group thing.
Alex: And what was it like being involved in the demonstrations?
Elisabeth: It was just like being in a demonstration. It was interesting. There were sort of violent clashes at some of the demonstrations. And I was a bit horrified by how some of the people attending them seemed to really like the violence. As soon as the policeman came on a horse, they’d sort of rush over there and start attacking the horse and carrying on trying to stir up violence, which I disapproved of I must say.
Alex: So you are obviously not involved in that aspect.
Elisabeth: No, no, I stayed well away from that.
Alex: Did you go to the moratorium march in 1970, the big one?
Alex: Obviously, there are differing reports – 60,000 100,000, depending on who you believe – do you remember what it was like to be there?
Elisabeth: It was just amazing to be with all these people – I mean, I don’t know if it was 60,000 or 100,000 – but it was huge. It just went on for block after block after block in the city. And it was quite exciting to be part of such a huge movement.
If you know a Melbourne woman who was involved in protesting against the Vietnam War, please leave a comment!