UOW historian honoured with National Library of Australia Fellowship

UOW historian honoured with National Library of Australia Fellowship

Fellowship allows for deep dive into feminist history

University of Wollongong (UOW) Senior Lecturer in History Dr Sharon Crozier-De Rosa will bury herself in the archives for three months in 2020 after recently winning a National Library of Australia Fellowship.

“It’s a historian’s dream come true,” Dr Crozier-De Rosa said.

Feeling deeply privileged to win one of 10 distinguished fellowships offered to Australian and international academics, she will have time to develop her project titled, ‘Memory-keepers: Women activists’ strategies to document their history and preserve their own memory’.

The women she will study are those who worked tirelessly for reform and yet whose achievements have been overshadowed by the dominant tale of men’s triumphs, which are far more commonly documented in the history books. In the face of difficult odds, however, these women have managed to preserve their own documents; their own histories.

Dr Crozier-De Rosa will focus on Australian history from 1900 to 1960, and later hopes to broaden her search on an international scale.

While there are efforts, now, to correct the omission of women from the history books, what is overlooked is the immense, time-consuming and often costly project of documenting, organising and maintaining the record of women’s activism for these recovery projects to be possible.

Her work will examine the rationale, strategies and tactics that Australian women and women’s organisations employed to preserve their own histories.

“I also want to know how emotional it was to know you were about to be forgotten but to persevere anyway with the task of maintaining your records for a time when the public might be interested in your history,” Dr Crozier-De Rosa said.

“For example, Mary Lee in South Australia, who campaigned relentlessly for the vote, knew that the male politicians who pushed suffrage reform through parliament would be remembered for this monumental achievement. Lee, who died in almost poverty, is really only getting the recognition she deserves now.”

Dr Crozier-De Rosa looks forward to poring through rich and varied collections at the National Library and working alongside librarians who will have the resources to assist her during the residency.

She said social media has been incredible in giving women a voice and helping current movements like the Women’s Marches and #MeToo to be as successful as they are.

“The media often represents these mass movements as something new, but they’re not,” Dr Crozier-De Rosa said. “Feminist activism has a long history.

“If we start to understand how women safeguarded their own histories in the past, despite the challenges they faced, we might be able to help safeguard knowledge about today’s feminist activisms for the future.”