Hearing the attitudes aired by Australian men in the 60s and 70s about women in new documentary Brazen Hussies leaves you reeling. As someone born after this period, it’s impossible to imagine what life was truly like. For a woman, entering the workforce was frowned upon, and simply going to the pub for a drink was not allowed.
Across the world, increasing numbers of women took action to stand up, speak and be heard on equal rights, equal pay and abortion – and they would go on to spark incredible change. The Australian Women’s Liberation Movement was born amidst the tumultuous politics of this time, influenced by the anti-war, anti-imperialist, and civil rights movements worldwide.
If you saw the Netflix US documentary, Feminists: What Were They Thinking, you may think Brazen Hussies to be an antipodean take on the subject. There are similar themes of course, but what makes the latter feel more real, is of course, that these women, these demonstrations, these once unjust restrictions were on the very streets, in the very suburbs and cities that we commute through every day. The accomplishments of these legendary women need to be revisited, remembered and celebrated – again and again – and Brazen Hussies does just that.
The film combines a treasure trove of startling archive footage with interviews from key activists from around Australia, including:
- Elizabeth Reid, the world’s first Advisor on Women’s Affairs to then-Prime Minister Gough Whitlam
- Merle Thornton, known for her 1965 chain-in at Brisbane’s Regatta Hotel to protest the exclusion of women from public bars
- Alva Geikie, who in 1969 chained herself to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in an equal pay protest with Zelda D’Aprano and Thelma Solomon
- the trailblazing Aunt Pat O’Shane who was the first Aboriginal barrister in Australia
- Eva Cox, Austrian-born Australian writer, feminist, sociologist, social commentator and activist; and
- best-selling Australian author and journalist Anne Summers.
These women defined one of the greatest social movements of the 20th century, at times at great personal cost.
Writer/director Catherine Dwyer comments “I was concerned that this history was being lost. It was a period of such profound social and political change, that changed the lives and opportunities for all women.” She adds “It was important to me that this story be told by the women who were actually there. I made the film for those women, but I also made it for people my age and younger because it’s so important that we learn where we came from, and we learn how change is made.”
Brazen Hussies opens nationally from 5 November 2020 and will screen at Event Indooroopilly, Palace James Street and Dendy Coorparoo. Check your local guides for screening times.
About Brazen Hussies
Written and directed by Catherine Dwyer