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The Blackburns. Private Lives, Public Ambition. A lecture by Caroline Rasmussen

July 16, 2019 @ 5:15 pm - 7:00 pm

$10 – $20

When socialist barrister and aspiring member of parliament Maurice Blackburn met Doris Hordern, ardent feminist and campaign secretary to Vida Goldstein, neither had marriage in their imagined futures. But they fell in love – with each other as much as with their individual aspirations to change the world for the better. Theirs would be an exacting partnership as they held one another to the highest ideals. They worked as elected members of parliaments and community activists, influencing conscription laws, benefits for working men and women, atomic bomb tests, civil rights and Indigenous recognition. Together, they shook Australia.

“Maurice and Doris Blackburn were major figures in the history of the Australian labour movement and feminist and Indigenous activism in this country. Maurice’s name lives on in the influential national law firm he founded, but their many contributions to principled decency in Australian public life are now largely forgotten. They needed, as Carolyn Rasmussen puts it, to be “rescued from the footnotes”. In this meticulously comprehensive biography, she has succeeded admirably in doing just that.”

Carolyn Rasmussen completed post-graduate studies in labour history and the peace movement at the University of Melbourne where she is currently an Honorary Fellow. Her work as a public historian since 1985 has ranged over the history of Victorian public institutions, the history of science and technology, education history, the involvement of women in all of the above, and biography. In parallel with this work she has maintained a deep engagement with Victorian labour history. Her publications include Poor Man’s University: Seventy Five Years of Technical Education in Footscray; Vital Connections: Melbourne and its Board of Works 1891 to 1991 (with Tony Dingle); The Lesser Evil? Opposition to War and Fascism in Australia 1920-1941A Place Apart, The University of Melbourne: Decades of Challenge (with John Poynter); A Museum for the People: A history of Museum Victoria and its predecessors, 1854-2000, Increasing Momentum: Engineering at the University of Melbourne 1861-2004Double Helix Double Joy: David Danks the Father of Clinical Genetics in Australia and ‘A Whole New World’ 100 years of Education at University High School. She is a member of the National Editorial Board of the Australian Dictionary of Biography and chair of the Victorian Working Party. Her most recent book is Shifting the Boundaries: The University of Melbourne 1975-2015.

Wine and cheese from 5pm. Lecture at 6pm.


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July 16, 2019
5:15 pm - 7:00 pm
$10 – $20
Event Category:


Royal Historical Society of Victoria
03 9326 9288