Connecting British Anti-Feminism & A Childhood in the Troubles to Write a Transnational History of Gender & Shame

Guest post from Dr Sharon Crozier-De Rosa. First published on her blog: The Militant Woman.

*Growing up in the Troubles, where men were often absent, led me to research women policing women.

*Being a diasporic Irish historian led me to write a book that connects Irish women’s ideas and activisms to those of women across the globe.

In March 2018 my book, Shame and the Anti-Feminist Backlash: Britain, Ireland and Australia, 1890-1920 (2018, Routledge), was launched by visiting academic to the University of Wollongong, Associate Professor Jane Haggis (Flinders University).

Book launch 2


Associate Professor Haggis delivered a wonderfully generous appraisal of the book, emphasising its transnational methods and scope. The book, she said, ambitiously connected the histories of women in sites that did not, at first, appear to fit together – through the application of an emotions history framework. In making those comments, she also remarked on her discomfort with the concept of women using shame in a productive capacity – to police their own emotional and political communities.

In my brief response, I reflected on what motivated me to study the connections and the disparities between patriotic women’s uses of an emotion that is often viewed – and felt – with discomfort across very different sites along the British imperial spectrum. In doing so I connected two seemingly unconnected processes – my doctoral research on British anti-feminism and my upbringing during the Troubles in Ireland.

Book launch 1


First, Marie Corelli.

As I read through her works to complete my PhD on bestselling fiction and a history of women’s emotions, I could not help but be disturbed by the glaring anti-feminist sentiment infusing the novels of one extraordinarily successful woman writer that I was looking at – Marie Corelli.



From the 1880s to the 1910s, Corelli reigned as ‘Queen of the Bestsellers’, far outselling any fellow authors of her day. How did she approach feminism? On the one hand, she poked fun at the ridiculous appearance and habits of so-called New Women who aped the habits of men – bicycle riding, swearing, smoking, atheistic, loose sexual attitudes, like the comically manly Honoria Maggs in  My Wonderful Wife (c.1886). On the other hand, Corelli’s treatment of women’s feminist aspirations revealed a much deeper, darker undercurrent of feminist hatred, or sometimes even a general hatred of women.

It cast light on a world where feminist shaming was an accepted and well-practised custom.

  • There was a war against women, she said, but women were totally to blame for that.
  • These women, she argued, were responsible for lowering the reputation of England which used to be the civiliser of the world.

The latent vitriol in Corelli’s writing surprised me. Here was a woman who was an independent and extraordinarily successful female writer who, by all accounts, was also an incredibly astute businesswoman. Her public life did not seem at odds with the demands of turn-of-the-century feminism.

More puzzling for me was the fact that a large proportion of her readers were women.

  • Why were these 5-600 page novels, which were filled with blatant feminist hatred and feminist shaming – albeit while indulging in feminist transgressions – so attractive to her vast army of women readers?
  • Why was womenshamingwomen such a regular and familiar feature of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century popular culture?

Women Shaming Women

In investigating a practice that I was uncomfortable with, I was mindful of a 1970s historian’s caution to not disrespect the views of those who lost – those fighting against the vote – of not consigning them to history’s ‘rubbish heap’.

When I looked closer at women shaming women, I saw some of the nuances of their practices – here were women policing their own political communities in what was a highly patriarchal world.

Some picked up weapons to fight for their political views.

Suddenly it was all very familiar.

The Troubles

Growing up on a housing estate during the Troubles, where men were often absent – in prison or on the run – I was continually confronted with strong women policing their own communities of womanhood in what was a highly patriarchal society.

Some of these were women who picked up guns to fight for their political views. They were a visible presence as they marched in political parades, armed, uniformed.

Here were women’s practices aligning in what were two remarkably different societies:

  • One an immensely powerful imperial centre in the early twentieth century.
  • The other a fractured, disenfranchised anti-colonial site in the late twentieth century.

Yet both housed communities of womanhood – policing themselves using emotional tools and tactics – picking up arms in defence of their politics if need be.

That led to Shame and the Anti-Feminist Backlash, Britain, Ireland and Australia –

  • An historical investigation of the reasons for women opposing feminism,

…and, more poignantly for me –

  • A transnational history of women policing women using emotions – where I was able to connect the ideas and activisms of diverse groups of patriotic women across the globe.

Today: Anti-Feminism? Woman Hatred? Shaming?

Surely the voting in of a highly misogynistic man as US President and the backlash that process unleashed tells us that anti-feminism, woman hate and feminist shaming are not obsolete issues.

Philosopher Michael Morgan says that, today, most people think it is a shame that shame exists. Yet, if we look at that election, women, feminists included, shamed Hillary Clinton –  and each other – across the globe – for everything from feminism to anti-feminism and everything else in between. In a highly patriarchal world, women policing their own political communities using emotions like shame is not dead – it is just a practice rooted in history.

Shame Book Cover


I dedicate this book to my mum and dad for the role they played in helping me get to this point where I can use our collective experiences – of conflict and of mobility – to teach and write about the intersections between gender, nationalism, emotions and violence, nationally and transnationally.

Regulating domestic service in colonial societies – report on the European Social Science History conference, 2018


In April Claire Lowrie attended the European Social Science History conference in Belfast as part of a panel on regulating domestic service in colonial societies.

Claire presented a paper on violent crimes committed by Chinese male servants in Singapore in the 1910s and 1920s. Shireen Ally gave a paper on regulating race and maternity in relation to African domestic servants in South Africa. Nitin Sinha explored how the regulation of bazaars in Calcutta in the eighteenth century impacted on Indian domestic servants. Nitin Varma discussed the failed attempts to introduce law regulating domestic service in India during the nineteenth century.

The panel was followed by a roundtable discussion with Victoria Haskins, Raffaella Sarti and Samita Sen on the concept of regulating domestic work in historical and contemporary contexts, and, in colonial and non-colonial contexts. One theme that emerged from the discussion was that while today the International Labour Organisation pressures states to regulate paid domestic work in order to protect the rights of workers, colonial era regulation often centred upon limiting the rights and personal freedoms of domestic workers.

The panel and the roundtable was organised by Nitin Sinha and Nitin Varma of as part of their European Research Council project called Servants Past.



The Aboriginal Memorial: ‘white people don’t know Australia … we know it from the beginning’

CASS Member Prof Ian McLean is organising a conference which may be of interest to CASS members. See below for details.

The Aboriginal Memorial: ‘white people don’t know Australia … we know it from the beginning’

A conference to critically examine The Aboriginal Memorial and contemporary art’s engagements with colonial trauma. 10–12 October 2018

An exhibition and conference will be held at the National Gallery of Australia to commemorate the 30th anniversary of The Aboriginal Memorial – a large collaborative artwork of 200 burial poles produced in Ramingining by 43 artists from the region for the Australian bicentenary, which is permanently installed at the main entrance of the NGA.

The conference will critically examine the significance of the Memorial at the time of its production and what it can teach us today. The impact of the Memorial when it was produced in 1988 has retreated from our collective memory, but the issues it touched upon have only intensified during the previous 30 years.

Seminar: Dr Maria Elena Indelicato

CASS invites you to a seminar with Dr Maria Elena Indelicato, Endeavour Research Fellow, University of Wollongong.

When: Thursday 26 April, 2018

Time: 4.15 – 5.00pm (informal drinks to follow)

Where: LHA Research Hub, 19.2072

Violence and the Archive: land, labour and violence in the sugar towns of North Queensland

Defined as ‘borderlands’ by Tracey Banivanua-Mar, sugar towns in North Queensland were significantly populated with a plethora of non-white ethnic minorities: Chinese, Indian, Japanese, ‘Malay’, Pacific Islanders and later southern Europeans. Instances of violence between these population groups have been recounted as if they were detached from the socio-historic conditions dictated by colonialism. Against this stance, in this paper I examine the case of three South Sea Islanders attacking a farmer in the city of Ingham in 1927. In unfolding the individual histories of those involved in the incident against the wider context of anti-Italian migration sentiment, this paper will demonstrate how the discursive rendition of the assault enabled the alleged victim to be aligned with the well-respected long-term migrants in town than the very much despised ‘new arrivals’. In so doing, this paper aims to determine how violence can be used by a racially ambiguous minority group such as Italians not much as technology of population management as a technology of belonging – that is, a means to claim the status of legitimate settlers in the country.


Dr Maria Elena Indelicato is a Lecturer in Media Studies at the Ningbo Institute of Technology, Zhejiang University. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney with a thesis exploring the intersections of race and emotions in public discourses concerning ‘Asian’ international students, which was published by Routledge as Australia’s New Migrants. Indelicato is currently an Endeavour Research Fellow at the University of Wollongong and the editor of the ACRAWSA’s blog.

Ruth Morgan Seminar

Dr Ruth Morgan: Senior Research Fellow, Monash University

When: Thursday 24 May, 3:00-4:30pm

Where: Building 24, Room G02

Making ‘a way in the wilderness’: the colonial hydrology of arid Western Australia, 1860s-1900s.


In 1896, Western Australia’s water dreamer, the engineer C.Y. O’Connor, designed a system to transport water from the Darling Range via a pipeline to the thirsty mines of the arid goldfields, nearly six hundred kilometres away. Even the engineering schemes of ancient Rome had not been so bold as to pump water such a distance, let alone uphill. At its opening in 1903, Sir John Forrest, the state’s first premier, referred to Isaiah (43:19) when he suggested that future generations would remember this achievement: ‘They made a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.’ This so-called ‘Golden Pipeline’ followed a trail of waterholes that local Aboriginal guides had revealed to colonial explorers in the 1860s, who sought to develop a pastoral economy in a region where permanent water sources were scarce. With pastoralism and gold came more people and livestock, which combined to exert unprecedented pressures on these shallow groundwater reserves. Around the goldfields, for instance, Kalamaia Indigenous peoples found themselves competing with prospectors, cameleers, horses and camels for access to these precious reserves. By the turn of the twentieth century, the development of the goldfields had utterly transformed their lands and waterways. This paper examines the colonial hydrology of water scarcity in arid Western Australia in the late nineteenth century. Such an analysis of the social worlds of water (and its absence) sheds light on the prevailing ideologies of aridity and the broader dynamics of colonial rule in this dryland outpost of the British empire. 

The paper will be followed by the launch of Sukhmani Khorana’s book The Tastes and Politics of Intercultural Food in Australia (Rowman and Littlefield 2018). Maria Elena Indelicato (Zhejiang University) will launch the book and Fiona Probyn-Rapsey will MC (4:45pm-5:30pm).

Drinks and finger food will follow the seminar. Please click here to RSVP for Catering Purposes

Jane Haggis Seminar and Launch of ‘Shame and the Anti-Feminist Backlash’

CASS, FRN and CCHR invite you to the following:


Date: Monday 19 March 2018
Seminar: 3.00pm to 4.30pm, Book Launch: 4.30pm to 5.30pm
Location: Panizzi Room, UOW Library

Associate Professor Jane Haggis: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Flinders University

What Was the Steward Up to? Indian Women Touring Europe in the 1930s: Vernaculars of Friendship, Cosmopolitanisms and Anti-Colonialisms at the End of Empire  

Jane Haggis is an historian who combines historical analysis with social and cultural theory. Her research interests are wide, but cluster around three themes: cross-cultural encounters, affect and power in imperial and post-imperial contexts. She has published widely internationally in feminist historiography and gender and empire, and is currently leading an Australian Research Council funded project [DP 170104310 2017-2019), ‘Beyond Empire transnational religious networks & liberal cosmopolitanisms’ with Professor Margaret Allen, Professor Fiona Paisley and Professor Clare Midgley. With these scholars she recently published, Cosmopolitan Lives on the Cusp of Empire: Interfaith, Cross-Cultural and Transnational Networks, 1860-1950, Palgrave Pivot, 2017. Her long engagement with critical race studies most recently saw the publication of “Situated Knowledge or Ego (His)toire?: Memory, History and the She-Migrant in an Imaginary of ‘Terra Nullius’” Ngapartji, Ngapartji. In turn, in turn: Ego-Histoire, Europe and Indigenous Australians (ANU Lives Series in Biography, 2014). It also led to an Australian Research Council funded project (with S Schech) From Stranger to Citizen: Migration, Modernisation and Racialisation in the Making of the New Australian” (DP 0665782) results from which she most recently published in “White Australia and Otherness: The Limits to Hospitality” in Cultures in Refuge: Seeking Sanctuary in Modern Australia (2012). She is currently working on a monograph from that project, provisionally titled: Storying the borderlands: imaginaries of modernity and the refugee in Australia. The book (with S Schech) Culture and Development, (2000), pioneered a postcolonial feminist analysis of International Development and remains a seminal text.

Associate Professor Haggis will then launch:

Shame and the Anti-Feminist Backlash, Britain, Ireland and Australia, 1890-1920 (Routledge 2018)

Dr Sharon Crozier-De Rosa

Shame and the Anti-Feminist Backlash examines how women opposed to the feminist campaign for the vote in early twentieth-century Britain, Ireland, and Australia used shame as a political tool. It demonstrates just how proficient women were in employing a diverse vocabulary of emotions – drawing on concepts like embarrassment, humiliation, honour, courage, and chivalry – in the attempt to achieve their political goals. It looks at how far nationalist contexts informed each gendered emotional community at a time when British imperial networks were under extreme duress. The book presents a unique history of gender and shame which demonstrates just how versatile and ever-present this social emotion was in the feminist politics of the British Empire in the early decades of the twentieth century. It employs a fascinating new thematic lens to histories of anti-feminist/feminist entanglements by tracing national and transnational uses of emotions by women to police their own political communities. It also challenges the common notion that shame had little place in a modernizing world by revealing how far groups of patriotic womanhood, globally, deployed shame to combat the effects of feminist activism.

Subjects and Aliens symposium, November 2017

One of CASS’s postgraduate members, Emma Bellino, reflects on our recent symposium.

On 28 November 2017, CASS hosted the Subjects and Aliens symposium. The symposium brought together scholars from the Australian National University, the University of Otago, La Trobe University and the University of Wollongong.

Until the middle of the twentieth century, residents of Australia and New Zealand were categorised by law as either ‘British subjects’ or ‘aliens’. Using these categories as a starting point, the Subject and Aliens symposium considered histories of nationality and citizenship in Australia and New Zealand over the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It explored the intersection of nationality with gender, race and ethnicity in a range of legal and social contexts.

Emma Bellino, Kate Bagnall, Sophie Couchman, Jane Carey, Kim Rubenstein, Julia Martinez and Angela Wanhalla at the Subjects and Aliens symposium, 28 November 2017

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Reflections on Colonial Formations

Adam J. Barker shares his thoughts on the first Colonial and Settler Studies Network conference, Colonial Formations: Connections and Collisions, held at the University of Wollongong in November 2016. You can follow Adam on Twitter: @adamoutside.

What is a ‘colonial formation’ and why should such a thing matter? The answers, it turns out, are ‘many different things’ and ‘because without understanding colonial formations, we cannot understand the shape of contemporary life’.

That lesson was brought home to me during the conference titled ‘Colonial Formations: Connections and Collisions’, hosted by the University of Wollongong in Australia, in November 2016. This conference was a intended as an opportunity to explore the intersections and divergences between a variety of state polices, individual actions, and community developments that can be described as ‘colonial’. More than that, the conference cast a wide net, crossing all continents and encompassing several centuries, and considering concepts such as slavery and indentured labour, carcerality and prison colonies, identity and place-relationships, the role of landscape in either inscribing or resisting colonial power, and – of course – the internecine conflicts between scholars over the meanings of any and all of these terms. While that may sound like an unlikely mix of interests, approaches, and personal entanglements, what emerged was an exceptionally rich intellectual discourse that also made us laugh and cry, and intense interpersonal interactions that were as enlightening as any course of study could be.

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Lynette Russell lecture, 20 October 2017

On Friday, 20 October 2017 CASS will host visiting speaker Professor Lynette Russell, ARC Professorial Fellow and Director of the Monash Indigenous Centre at Monash University. Professor Russell will present a lecture titled ‘Writing history and affect in the archive: trauma, grief, delight and texts, some personal reflections’.

All welcome!

Date: Friday, 20 October 2017
Time: 2.30 pm to 3.30 pm (refreshments to follow)
Location: LHA Research Hub, Building 19, Room 2072
RSVP: For catering purposes RSVP to by Monday, 16 October 2017

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Overturning aqua nullius – more than symbolism

Dr Virginia Marshall in front of a colourful blue, brown and yellow Indigenous artwork.

Dr Virginia Marshall, first Indigenous woman to gain a PhD in law from Macquarie University and principal solicitor at Triple BL Legal, reflects on her first book, Overturning Aqua Nullius (Aboriginal Studies Press, 2017). Dr Marshall was a keynote speaker at the 2016 CASS Colonial Formations conference.

Here I was in Townsville, Queensland, presenting a session on the findings of my doctoral thesis for the National Native Title Conference and passionately explaining to the packed venue why Australia hasn’t embraced the High Court Mabo decision in securing Aboriginal water rights. Indigenous peoples sitting in front of me were nodding and agreed at various intervals that our water rights have been swept away by colonial governments, federalism and the national water reforms.

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