Category Archives: History

Women’s History Month: Margaret Williamson

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Margaret Williamson got involved in Young Labor in her late teens. She worked in various roles in the union movement, including as the Bendigo Trades and Labor Council secretary. Margaret participated in anti-Vietnam War activities through both her Labor and union connections. In this excerpt, she discusses her initial introduction to Young Labor, and her experience demonstrating in front of the American Embassy.

Margaret Williamson interview

Transcript

Margaret: It was my mother who got me involved in politics. She listened to the conversations with myself and my father. And it must have been pretty hard to shut me up, I think. So she actually rang the Labor Party and asked them, Did they have anything for a young woman? And so they said, Yeah, we’ve got Young Labor. And, and without me even knowing that she’d done that, I did get a phone call from a young man inviting me to go to a meeting. Well, the first meeting I went to with them, was about chemical warfare. The first time I’d ever stepped foot inside a university, Melbourne Uni. It was a very romantic sort of evening, you know, it was dark, and there were lights, and it was a beautiful building. And then we went after that to – I’m just trying to remember the name of the restaurant, there was a lovely restaurant where – in Carlton there. And I should remember the name… and it was like being inside the tower of Babel, because there were, you know, a stack of people in there, and everybody yelling at everybody else, talking about how to change the world. Talking about the latest on the war, the young group of people that I were with – I was the only girl – they were all on about what the latest was; I just had to get involved. I – there was no, no ifs, buts, or maybes. You know, to me it was a responsibility that I had. I know that sounds a bit severe for a young woman of those times. But, you know, I didn’t even think twice about the fact that I was the only woman in the group. I can remember not even thinking twice about the fact that in that cafe, I couldn’t see another girl like me. I can remember once being told by fellow at a dance that his mother wouldn’t approve of my politics. And that – that sort of inspired me to have a few words with him. And I can remember other young people, young men, actually suggesting that I might have had a mental problem because I was so anti war, and so anti conscription, and so politically motivated. So clearly they’d not struck a person like myself. I never gave it a second thought. I started going – I can remember that we went to meetings, I’m pretty sure, it was at a place called Assembly Hall in Collins Street, which I think is still there. I can remember there were meetings – not so many – but there were meetings in the Labor Party, and certainly huge discussions in Young Labor among the young people. But I can remember going to meetings at Assembly Hall. And I can remember then going to the very early rallies, which were quite small; because the first ones around Fourth of July demonstrations and things like that they were quite small, and at times quite dangerous. I remember at – 

Alex: This was at the American Embassy?

Margaret: Yes, yes. 

Alex: I’ve heard of those.

Margaret: Yes, I can remember being sort of pulled out of the way by a friend, as they rode police horses in on top of people that were sitting in the driveway. One of my friends got – a horse walked on her, which wasn’t good. And I can remember, I can remember another night when we’d been to Assembly Hall. And then people had been arrested. So we marched up to the City Watchhouse, which was sort of up where the old magistrate – behind the old magistrate’s court, Russell Street police station over the road. And there was a lot of brutality that night; a lot of brutality. People were hunted across the city of Melbourne. You just … there’s things that slip into your understanding of what’s happening, about where you are, and where society is. 

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

Women’s History Month: Marion Harper

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Marion Harper was a member of the Communist Party in Melbourne for several years; she was and is a member of the Unitarian Church as well. Marion worked for the Victorian Peace Council in the 1960s, and was actively involved in protesting against the Vietnam War by speaking, writing, and attending rallies. Here she speaks about ‘handing out’ pamphlets, and the women of the Communist Party.

Marion Harper interview

Transcript

Marion: I worked at a place called Kodak. And there was a young guy there who was a conscientious objector. His name was Alex Manzoni – I still remember, he was only a kid, about 18-19. And I worked in – with him in his department. He was conscripted. And I went to court to speak on his behalf. And I argued the theory of just and unjust was at that court hearing, and he got off. So it was I was really very proud of that.

Alex: Did you get involved with many other conscientious objectors or draft resistors?

Marion: No, he was the only one that I met through work.

Alex: Did you keep up your writing and being involved with publications across that whole period?

Marion: I think I did. I can’t remember. But I mean, I’ve always written. I’m one of the editors of the Unitarian Beacon now. I’ve always written but I can’t remember – I used to write for the party and newspaper. Really, my memory of it’s not as sharp.

Alex: The pamphlets and so on that you were writing, did you hand those out on the streets like that Communist newspaper back in the day?

Marion: We did. We did. And one one day we did – another lady and I went into, I think it was the Manchester Unity building in those days in Swanston Street. And there was an empty office up on the top floor. And we took a whole wad of pamphlets and threw them out of the window to the crowd. And they just all went fluttering down and people were picking them up. It was great. Yeah. I tell you, I was petrified. I was not – I’m not brave. I was really scared to death that we were going to get arrested. But we didn’t. So how did you have the courage to do it then if you were so scared? I don’t know. You just do, don’t you – do things. I grew up in the war in England in the blitz of London. And you just do. Don’t you; you just do.

Alex: Such I guess courage of your convictions that it…

Marion: I guess – I guess that plays a part.

Alex: In the Communist Party here in Melbourne when you were involved, were there many other women also in the party?

Marion: Oh, yes, loads. [unclear] in Richmond. In fact, the Communist Party headquarters were in Richmond at that time. And the couple that lived in the house there, he was a wharf – waterside worker. And yeah, and we used to, we did all kinds of things like – that’s why we went broke in the fruit shop because there was a big recession at the time. And people in Richmond, it was a really poor suburb in those days. And nobody had any money, people couldn’t afford food. And so the party would come down and say, Could you make up a food parcel for somebody in such and such street? Because they’re really hungry. And we used to do that. And in the end, we just went broke. I mean, we weren’t – we’d never run a business. So we were no good at it. But we did go broke in the end.

Alex: And the other women in the Communist Party: were they also as involved in protesting against the war as you?

Marion: Oh, yes. As much and more in some cases, yes. Oh, yeah. They were all involved.

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

Women’s History Month: Sherryl Garbutt

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Sherryl Garbutt grew up in a “fairly political” family, with discussions about the Vietnam War happening around the dining table. She was involved in protesting against the war when she went to Melbourne University, and later when she was teaching. Here she discusses occasion of LBJ visiting Melbourne.

Sherryl Garbutt interview

Transcript

Alex: Do you remember how you got involved in taking it beyond, I guess, discussions around the family table to actually being on the street and expressing your displeasure in that way? Was it just, you were part of a group and that’s what everyone was doing? 

Sherryl: Well, it was certainly a bit like that. I mean, word just spread around the campus when LBJ did his drive-by. And we all got out there. I just listened and read and heard. I wasn’t in any leadership role at all. Nor were my friends. We were all pretty busy trying to pass our exams. I was on a studentship, and, you know, we needed to pass. Certainly when the opportunity came, we got out there. But others led the effort, and organised, and did it. But there were plenty of opportunities to participate, so that’s what I did.  

Alex: So you were part of the group that, as you said, greeted LBJ as he came past? 

Sherryl: Yes, yes. 

Alex: That must have been very interesting. 

Sherryl: Oh, well, it was, yeah. I just remember the huge hordes of people, and the car going – a big, black, shiny thing, I think, and going pretty fast – well, as fast as it possibly could. Dangerously fast, I suspect. So that was pretty amazing. There were kids climbing up on the gates, and I think there was a fence, I don’t know. Don’t remember. I remember a fence. But it was out on Grattan Street. So it was a big open space behind us. A great big garden or something. So it was perfect for people to gather. But he went, and I can remember Harold Holt saying, “All the way with LBJ,” which I just thought was outrageous. It’s just such a cringeworthy statement. Worthy on its own for a protest, let alone what was going on. And there were some people being outrageous, but, good on them.

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

Women’s History Month: Erika Feller

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Erika Feller did a combined Law/Arts degree at Melbourne University and was a journalist for the university newspaper during the Vietnam War era. In this excerpt she discusses attending demonstrations in her capacity as a journalist, and the importance of doing so.

Erika Feller interview

Transcript

Erika: I did a fair bit of journalism at the University – I mean I studied law but I also studied Arts, I did a combined degree. And I was the news editor of the university newspaper, Melbourne University newspaper, Farrago. And it was under, at the time the editor was Henry Rosenbloom, who you may know – he’s quite, he has his own publishing house now. And he’s quite eminent in that area. But Henry was always, you know, encouraging the university newspaper to pick up causes outside – not just what was happening with the SRC, the student representative council, or the Union Building or whatever, but really, so we were encouraged to go out and report these things. And I – a lot of the demonstrations that I attended, I attended actually on behalf of Farrago writing it up. And, you know, you’ll see I mean, if you ever go back into the history of Farrago, and some of the articles – one I used to keep with me for a while, because it was just funny, the headline was “Feller at the demo,” as the principal headline. I can remember some quite violent demonstrations actually, just on the corner of Commercial Road and St Kilda Road where they had police horses breaking them up and tear gas. And so it was quite active. But a lot of my activity came from belief in what I was reporting, but also enthusiastically being the news editor and wanting the Farrago to cover these sorts of stories.

Alex: Why was it important that Farrago cover it – was it simply because there were so many students who were involved in them?

Erika: Well, I mean, the university has traditionally always been – I don’t know if it still is, with everybody working and holding down jobs, and only going to the campus for tutorials and things – but in those days, it was, you know, you were at the university full time. And it was always a place where there were a lot of, you know, demonstrate – a sort of sense of social justice, and an enthusiastic taking up of social justice causes. So for me, it was important that the, that the university newspaper was reflective of this aspect of university life. And if I, I mean I can’t – I can’t remember the conversations, but I’m sure I had many with Henry – and I’m sure that was pretty much his view as well. There were also some quite strongly left wing student movements at Melbourne University at the time. And I can remember being challenged by the head of – just trying to remember the guy who was, you know, he said, Well, what do you know about all of this, you come from one of these red brick university – one of these red brick schools? And I said, Well, you know, I’m happy to challenge you, anytime, any place to a public debate about that; which he never took up. So – but there was, as I said, there was a lot going on. And then there were things happening in the outside world as well. I mean there was Vietnam, but there was also Biafra in in Africa, and I was the treasurer of the African Australian Association. So I also did – I mean, I was always internationally oriented.

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

Women’s History Month: Tony Dalton

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Dorothy Dalton was a member of Save Our Sons (SOS), and a strong supporter of her son, Tony, being a draft resister. She had been a member of the Communist Party in the early 50s, along with her husband Les; she got involved in many community projects throughout her life. In this excerpt, Dorothy’s son discusses some of her involvement in anti-Vietnam War action.

Tony Dalton interview

Transcript

Alex: Courtesy of the news articles that you and I think your father collected – there’s a couple that I’ve found looking through them where it’s – because your mom doesn’t seem just to have sort of stayed at home and supported you. There’s stories of her standing up in court, actively supporting you, there’s this great one – “Mothers: we give backing to resistors” was the was the headline. 

Tony: That’s right. 

Alex: Had you expected her to be quite so publicly in support? Or was that because of the newspapers actively asking her?

Tony: No – I mean that was just what she did. Just what she did, she became a member of Save Our Sons. But you see, she doesn’t become a part of the Fairlea Five, which is interesting. I think there was probably a hesitancy there about going and getting arrested. I never asked her. There’s just so much going on at the time. I never said “Why weren’t you there?” I think it would have – there would have been a bit of hesitancy from my mum. I don’t know. That’s my guess, is that she was hesitant about making that sort of civil disobedience step.

Alex: But she’s obviously involved in other sorts of things.

Tony: She’s involved in driving other draft – you see Barry Johnson was a draft resister and he stood for parliament, while being a draft resister.

Alex: Oh yes, I have read that. 

Tony: She was very involved in that – 

Alex: In supporting his campaign. 

Tony: There was a network of them down in Moorabbin.

Alex: Did your couch ever get used for other draft resisters? Or was that too close to home.

Tony: I doubt it. I suspect it was partly – you never knew, in a sense, as to when, what – when the police were looking. So that’s the ’72 election. Barry Johnson’s underground, and they’re providing active support. And my parents are still living in Moorabbin; as I say, later on, they moved to Carlton, but I just – my hunch is that there was just a little bit of hesitancy there.

Alexandra Pierce  

Did she march in the moratorium marches? 

Tony Dalton  

Yeah, yeah, did all that. And then later on the movement against uranium mining. 

Alexandra Pierce  

Okay. So she continued that… 

Tony Dalton  

She was, again, as part of that; again, my father was sort of, you know, became quite prominent in that in the sense that he was organisationally involved. On whatever committee structure was for, for MORM[?]. And then he wrote a – was like a self published booklet for MORM at the time, which is, you know, about the nuclear fuel cycle.

Alex: Do you think your mum would have got involved in SOS and so on, if you, for instance, had been much younger or much older?

Tony:  I can’t say. I mean, certainly, my involvement was, yeah, was a real spurt. And in some ways, my involvement in – because I’m older than my brother to start with, and he actually gets involved in other things; he goes to Adelaide to do his university degree, which is very unusual, and gets involved in what I’d call cultural politics as well as anti-war stuff – but I’m really at the frontline, because – partly because of my age at the time. But I think it’s really my involvement that gets them going again, politically, yes. That’s my sense of it is, that my involvement in the anti war movement, anti conscription movement, stimulates them.

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

Women’s History Month: Margret RoadKnight

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Margret RoadKnight was, and is, a folk singer. She credits (or blames!) folk singers Glen Tomasetti and Malvina Reynolds for bringing her into the folk scene during the Vietnam War period. She performed at many rallies protesting the war; in this excerpt, she reflects on the May 1970 Moratorium.

Margret RoadKnight interview

Transcript

Margret: I don’t look back and say, Oh, we were young and foolish. No, no, we weren’t that foolish. It’s almost the done thing to look back and say, Oh, yeah, well, silly me when I was young. No: it was the exact opposite for me, I was branching out and discovering things and people and issues and what have you, because I never went to university, so I even blame the folk music scene for being my university, because really through the songs, and the scene was, well, that’s how I got to study, study in quotes there politics and poetry and parody and, and history and geography and whatever, through the scene and the songs. And then you’d get tapped on the shoulder to come and sing for various causes. And usually, well, if I agree with the cause – almost always I did – happy to do it. You look back and think, should have stamped my foot occasionally and said production values should be up a bit higher than that. I look at the classic photo of me on the back of a truck in Bourke Street, I think – and the whole of Bourke Street is locked down with half a million… 

Alex: That’s the first moratorium I think? 

Margret: Yeah the moratorium, yeah. And I mean, there’s a few photos of that, and one of them you can see Jim Cairns behind me on the truck. But if you look closely, you know, there’s one microphone. I’ve got an acoustic, we didn’t do plug-in guitars back then. And I have an acoustic guitar and one microphone. And well, for start, you needs a minimum of two, outdoors with you know, rather large gathering on the back of a truck. However, that seems to work. That was part of the tapestry that obviously did the trick.

Alex: So aside from the shocking production values, what was that like to perform at the moratorium? 

Margret: Look, if it wasn’t for the photo I wouldn’t even remember, I mean, I remember being – really it is the photos, thank goodness some people took photos or whatever. We didn’t tend to document things like everything is documented now from womb to tomb, you know. So it is rather good to go through them; I have heaps of photos. I wish I’d been clever enough to write on the back of them where and when and who. It works as a “Oh, yes. Oh, that’s right.” I don’t remember who asked me to do it. I don’t remember who else was on the back of the truck apart from you know, knowing that obviously, Jim had a few words to say. I mean, it was also one of you know – that was the beginning of the women’s movement sort of era, you know, you’d be singing for this that and the other but I never went to a consciousness raising group session or anything. You know, I was, I never was also one of those other people who did all the hard work, like the organising or the licking of stamps, and all of that sort of thing. I just, I did the glamour stuff. You know, the – you do something for three minutes and people clap. It was good to be involved, happy to be involved. And if I felt like it was helping the cause, so much the better. 

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

Women’s History Month: Faye Findlay

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Faye grew up as a Christian, which had a significant impact on her attitude towards the Vietnam War. Her main involvement in protesting against the war was attending the 1970 Moratorium, which she discusses here.

Faye Findlay interview

Transcript

Alex: Did you go to the first moratorium march in 1970? 

Faye: Yes, I did. 

Alex: What made you decide to go to that?

Faye: I suppose some of it would be Jim Cairns. Even though my family, you know, didn’t talk politics, my father was a laborer. And so therefore, I knew that they voted Labor. And I suppose that also falls in line with the community aspects of the church. So I was, I was Labor, you know, left leaning. Jim Cairns and the emphasis on peace, spoke to me. And by then, I was, I had just started working, having finished school with a little bit of trauma – I had to repeat leaving; I’m not an academic, and I repeated leaving and during that leaving University High kind of changed in that the deference to authority, kind of like slipped, and they didn’t want to be tested. So things like underground newspapers, and you didn’t have hats and gloves. And, you know, staff parading at Wilson Hall at the beginning of the year, and speech night at the end of year – that all, you know, crumbled in those two years. So I mean, I know it’s no, these are kind of micro things that are happening, but they do seep through, you know, and influence you on a macro level. So that even though I was a timid little person, you know, and a loner, I went to the march because I thought that was the right thing to do. And I do have the recollections of looking across the street to the wall-to-wall people, and thinking this is significant. I mean, I’ve been to many marches since then. But that’s, that’s been the biggest one, and perhaps the most impactful.

Alex: So it wasn’t a scary experience to be there with so many people?

Faye: I was always on the gutter edge, you know, I’m never literally in the centre of things, you know, I always want to know that I could slip into a store or – but though on that particular day, you kind of couldn’t move except with the flow of people.

Alex: And did you get a chance to hear Jim Cairns or were there too many people in the way?

Faye: I don’t recall; I only recall impressions, looking over the crowds that – how immense it was, but I am – or, no, I am – but even then, I was a pretty earnest type person. So I’m pretty sure I would have seen it from Treasury Gardens, you know.

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

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

Transcript:

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!

Women’s History Month: Martha Kinsman

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Martha Kinsman was a president of the Monash Labor Club, and identified as a Trotskyist. Throughout her time at Monash she participated in many demonstrations and contributed enormously to the political discussions around Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. In this excerpt she talks about the decision to actively support the NLF (National Liberation Front, whom Australian soldiers were fighting in Vietnam). The ‘Albert’ mentioned below is Albert Langer, a well-known (one might even say notorious) figure on the Monash campus.

Martha Kinsman interview

Transcript:

Martha: We got, yeah, we got some hate mail. This was after we decided to support the NLF, rather than just protest against the war, which was a big, big step forward. And I don’t think it was to do with me being president. I think … let me go through what I remember. Dave Nadal was president from 1966 to 1967. And – but there was an ASLF … there were two – ASLF was the Australian Student Labor Federation, Australia wide. There was – and they used to meet, I think in the May holidays, from memory, because I can’t remember ever going to one in summer. There was one in 1966. And then there was one in May 1967. And that’s where the idea first came up – and it was in Sydney from recollection; it must have been in Sydney because I wouldn’t have gone otherwise. I certainly didn’t have the money. It was always in Melbourne or Sydney, I think; sometimes it was in Brisbane. That’s where, and I can’t remember whether it was formally raised, but that’s certainly where the first discussions came up about, not just protesting the Vietnam War, but in fact, not necessarily supporting the NLF, but recognising that right was on their side, that it was their war, not ours. I’m sure Dave Nadal went to that ASLF one. And I’m sure because he’s been involved in Victorian politics all his life, that he will remember that better than I do. So that, when I came back from that – must have been about June, there’s a huge amount of press about it, in the Victorian press, in particular. That meeting of the Labor Club, which I went to just as an ordinary person, you know, member, there was – somebody moved a motion about protesting against the Vietnam War, or, you know, confirming our opposition to the Vietnam War. And I got up and said, That’s not good enough, what we should be doing is actively supporting the NLF. And I don’t think anything happened at that stage. It wasn’t accepted as a motion or anything. But after that meeting, Peter Price came and talked to me and said he and John Price, his older brother, had been thinking along the same lines and they from recollection had been influenced by – they certainly weren’t Maoists – they had been influenced by Bertrand Russell. So I went and had a look at Bertrand Russell and found that, you know, this great philosopher was also saying something similar. So then there were a number of meetings about getting this motion together. And I can’t remember whether I moved it and Price seconded it, or Price moved it and I seconded it, anyway it was the two of us together, and it got through. And immediately, the Maoists sort of got interested in us, you know, they couldn’t allow this to happen. I think – there were a number of meetings and sort of committees and groups of people, and Albert was certainly involved in it as was Nadal. I don’t recall, however, that the other famous Maoist, Mike Hyde, was at that stage involved. I don’t think so. And then we moved this motion. And then because Dave Nadel’s term was up, there was a whole issue of who would get to be president and Albert, who been vice president didn’t want to be president and didn’t think he’d have the support – thought, I think, you know, wanted to stage manage it. And so they organised for me to be president. 

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

Women’s History Month: Jean McLean (again)

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I’m not sorry that I’m featuring Jean McLean again, because she just has so many amazing stories. The generally-acknowledged leader of the Melbourne Save Our Sons, McLean was a delegate to a Paris conference for women of the belligerent nations; and she also visited North Vietnam, while Australia was fighting in Vietnam…

Jean McLean interview

Transcript:

Jean: And then there was a conference in 1968, the Paris meeting. … I went via the Soviet Union. Then, off I went to Paris. The conference was in a fantastic chateau. Never seen anything like it. Anyway, so they were all women from belligerent nations. The conference was called that. And out of that connection, those connections, it also got involved in the moratorium, which was, you know, the movement started there and then came here. But it was there that the Vietnamese women, Madame Binh from the south and Madam Cam from the north, invited me to visit North Vietnam. Which I did. Which was a pretty incredible exercise. 

Alex: How long was the conference for? In Paris? Was it just a few days? 

Jean: A week long. 

Alex: And was it organised meetings, or just, sort of, hanging around with all the women?

Jean: Well, yeah, no, it was meetings. We discussed the various conscriptions and things in the different countries. The Japanese were – there were quite a few of them there, and they were very vocal. Yes, so we –

Alex: Did you get to speak very much?

Jean: We only had one presentation. The rest of it were group meetings, trying to work out what to do and how to do it. But in Paris, at that conference, I met Jean-Paul Sartre – he was running a draft resistance! He had this little office in an old French building. 

Alex: That’s incredible. 

Jean: I went up the stairs – you know, so I’m sitting there, talking to Jean-Paul Sartre about draft resistance. But he was just like everybody else. He was working away. …  

Alex: So you went to Vietnam a couple of years later, was it?

Jean: In 1969. The next year. 

Alex: Just the next year. How long did you have in North Vietnam?

Jean: Two weeks. You know, I’d think twice about tearing into a war zone now. It didn’t seem – I thought it was perfectly all right. Well, because they said, “We’ll keep you safe.” And I thought, they’re such nice people, they’d know what they were doing. And, of course, they did. But I travelled right up with them, right up to the Chinese border. And to Hai Phong. Something like that. Where there was a Russian ship and a Chinese ship, and they were both giving aid to Vietnam. To the north. But they weren’t talking to each other. So when – it’s marvellous – when the Chinese were getting off the boat, they all walked that way, and when the Russians got off the boat, they walked that way. And they were taken to separate areas.

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