Representing a non-English speaking woman in 1890s Melbourne: some dilemmas

Nadia Rhook

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle in specialist publication


I’m currently curating a heritage exhibition about language and migration in 1890s Melbourne and find myself swimming in the deep end of questions of representation. Each time I view the collection of images I’ve selected to tell a story of polyglot Melbourne, I feel a resurgent frustration at the ways in which women appear; present in highly marginal and whitewashed ways. White bonneted women appear in Parliament, where they’re consigned to the sidelines to listen on as their male counterparts orate. White women also appear in a sketch about Indian hawkers, here, as customers, protected from the hawkers by whip-baring white men. Of course, these images are telling of the racial and gender norms of the day. As feminist colleagues who have surveyed the images remind me, these images reflect the intensely patriarchal world that was 1890s Melbourne. This was, after all, a time when white women were yet to gain the franchise, and when women of colour faced even more layers of marginalisation, and non-English speaking women of colour yet more.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationVIDA: Blog od the Australian Women's History Network
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2016


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