A century of Yay or Nay

December 2017 will mark the centenary of the 1917 conscription plebiscite in Australia. For the second time during World War I, Australia declared 'no' in response to the question of conscription proposed by then Prime Minister Billy Hughes. By 1917, voluntary enlistment had waned and conscription was proposed to keep up with troop requirements overseas. The question of conscription was debated across Australia and was divisive politically, socially and religiously.

What’s in a title?

Recently, a book with its title printed simply on a brown dust jacket went on display in the Treasures Gallery. Like many items in the Gallery, what makes it a treasured collection item may not be immediately obvious (I am reminded to not judge a book by its cover). It is a first edition of Henry Handel Richardson’s (1870–1946) novel The fortunes of Richard Mahony: Australia felix (1917), which was among the author’s personal papers, now preserved in the Library’s Manuscripts Collection.

Looking for Lady O'Connell

As Alan Bennett wrote in his play, The History Boys:

“History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men. What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket.”[1]

As we mark another International Women’s Day on 8 March 2017, and in the midst of #nastywomen hashtags and pink pussy hats, I decided to explore the Treasures Gallery to see who I might discover ‘following behind with the bucket’.

The rise of the cookbook

Before Masterchef, foodtrucks and celebrity chefs, the eating and cooking habits of Australians were limited to the knowledge of recipes passed down to them by their family or shared by their friends. Eating out was an infrequent activity and cooking to a certain degree was a means of providing fuel for the family rather than providing a ‘dining experience’. The influx of immigrants after the Second World War and increasing wealth meant that Australians had access to a wider range of food and more leisure time to cook new and interesting meals.

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