The Sibyls Salute: Gloria Steinem

by The Sibyls

Gloria Steinem Quote

Gloria Steinem, feminist icon, founding editor MS magazine, social activist and commentator is currently on tour in Australia. In an article titled Gloria Steinem at 82: a hopeless hopeaholic always on the move by Susan Wyndham (18 May 2016, SMH) Gloria claimed she will have to live to 100 years of age to keep up with her current commitments.

‘On her to-do list: help get Hillary Clinton elected as US president (“I think she can win and she has to win”); introduce a Vice series of documentaries on violence against women around the world; consult on an HBO TV series about Ms, the feminist magazine she co-founded in the ’70s; work on a one-woman theatre show in which actor Kathy Najimy plays Steinem and the real Steinem joins in for an audience Q&A.

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We, The Sibyls, salute Gloria Steinem for her lifetime involvement in social reform and her continuing commitment to improving the lives of minority groups and the disadvantaged. She has been politically active for over 50 years and an inspiration for generations of women. Now, at 82 years of age, she is a role model for older women. She is an articulate, intelligent and vital life force, who demonstrates how much can be achieved at any age by anyone willing to put up their hand and become involved.

1 hour interview on ABC Radio 774 with Jon Faine and Kaz Cooke

This is what 74 looks like: FABULOUS!

by the Sibyls

Arethra Franklin Quote Sibylesque

Despite all her fame and success, Arethra Franklin has not had an easy life. Her mother died when she was only 10 years old. She was first pregenant at 14. She’s had 2 marriages, one involving domestic violence, given birth to 3 sons and struggled with weight gain issues all her life.  In 1979 her father C. L. was shot at point blank range in his Detroit home. Aretha moved back to Detroit in late 1982 to assist with the care of her father, who died 1984. Yet, despite all of her struggles, Arethra has bounced back again and again. This is Arethra Franklin singing and playing piano at the Kennedy Centre for President Obama in 2015. She is  74 years old and magnificent!

We, the Sibyls, salute Arethra Franklin not only for her sublime artistry, but for her gutsy attitude to dealing with so many of the tragedies and difficulties life can throw at you.

The Sibyls Salute: Merle Thornton and Ro Bogner

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Merle ThorntonQuote

Fifty years ago on 31 March 1965 Merle Thornton* and Rosalie Bogner chained themselves to the Regatta Hotel bar rail in a strategic and planned protest for women’s rights.

The protest was aimed at lifting the marriage bar whereby women were forced to resign from the public service when they married. Merle had not informed her employer, the ABC, of her marriage, but when she fell pregnant she was forced to resign.

Merle and Ro staged the protest in a hotel opposite the ABC buildings in Brisbane in time for the evening news. Their husbands handed out leaflets and both news reporters and the police turned up. Following the publicity that ‘the wives of two well know university lecturers’ had staged a protest, both Merle and Ro received death threats and abuse over the phone but also some support.


Questions asked in the Queensland parliament included: ‘Where were their children?’, ‘Should the children be put in care?’ and ‘Should their husbands be psychologically examined to see if they are fit to be academics?’

Merle and Ro went on to form The Equal Opportunities for Women Assoc, the first in Australia and possibly the world. Neither the unions nor the political parties were interested in lifting the Marriage Bar.

After much lobbying Bill Hayden, a member of this association and a federal member of parliament introduced a private members bill to lift the ban. An emergency Cabinet meeting was called, followed by an announcement that the ban would be lifted under a Commonwealth Act.

In August 1966, 18 months after Merle and Ro’s bar protest, the lifting of the marriage bar was signed into law along with the introduction of the first accouchement leave or (unpaid) Maternity leave.

We, the Sibyls, salute Merle Thornton and Ro Bogner for their strategic brilliance, gutsy determination and political nous. We also thank them for kick-starting the 2nd Wave Feminist Agenda 50 years ago to the benefit of all Australian women.

*Merle is the mother of well-known actress Sigrid Thornton. In 2014, the Regatta Hotel named a bar after Merle Thornton.

More details:

TV interview Merle Thornton and Ro Bogner, ABC, aired 10 April, 1965.

The National Library of Australia

Photo Source: DYIDESPAIR Website


I am old … hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore!

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Mary Beard Quote 2

Mary Beard, The Spectator

Mary Beard, The Spectator

In the Telegraph, UK, today Prof Mary Beard explains in an article by Hannah Furness (05 Oct 2014), that she aims to reclaim the word ‘old’. Baird, who is recognised by The Sibyls, for her feisty contribution to the feminist debate, has called for a revolution to break down the stereotypes of ‘hunched old lady’ and ‘Darby and Joan’ and claims that “old” should now become something that “fills people with pride”.

Beard was attacked by TV Critic AA Gill in the Sunday Times in his review of her history documentary Meet the Romans for being ‘too ugly’ to be on camera. He also implied that she should appear on ‘The Undateables’, a BBC reality TV show involving mentally disabled and facially disfigured participants.

Has anyone attacked the BBC’s David Attenborough for being ‘too old’, ‘too ugly’ or ‘too mentally disabled’ to appear on TV?

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This is not just about being old. It is, explains Beard, about being old and female.

Bring on the revolution.

Go get ‘em, Mary!!!

Photo source: The Spectator, unsourced.


The Sibyls Salute: Jennette Williams

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Navy quote 1I think the lushness of the platinum printing and the timelessness of the platinum prints, .

the exotic setting and the nude women with their classical poses work together to fool us into believing

that women of this size and age and shape were always a subject in the arts and not just crones in the background.

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ff………….Jennette Williams, The Bathers, Duke university Press, 2009.

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Sibylesque Jennette WilliamsMany women do not live comfortably in their own skin. They are highly critical of their shape, wobbly bits, orange peel, fullness, skinniness, generous hips, flat chests and so on and on. Self-criticism, sometimes loathing, becomes over the years an ingrained habit. The thought of being photographed naked would, for many women, send them running screaming out the door. In this context, aging simply ramps up the self-disgust.

Then New York based photographer Jennette Williams began to take photograph nude women and her work made us all rethink our relationship with our own bodies. In her 2009 book, The Bathers, Williams uses the texture and grey tones of platinum prints to illuminate the beauty in all women’s naked bodies regardless of shape, age or imperfections. Each photograph is based on poses found in iconic paintings of nude women by Paul Cézanne, Auguste Renoir, Sibylesque Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres and more.

Photograph from  The Bathers by Jennette Williams

Photograph from The Bathers by Jennette Williams

Sibylesque Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres


Over an 8 year period, Williams photographed women bathers in Budapest and Istanbul to create these sublime images without ‘sentimentality or objectification’.

Here is Williams in her own words:

Williams was the fourth winner of the biennial CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography. More significantly, Williams has shown us how much our vision of beauty is seen through a window defined by the beauty product industry. We should view her images often to remind ourselves that there is a fragile beauty in honesty, which is diminished daily by grotesque images of advertising fakery.


The Sibyls Salute Jennette Williams


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Photo source: Duke University Press Website


The Sibyls Salute: Mary Beard

By Kerry Cue

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maroon quote-1I want to start very near the beginning of the tradition of Western literature, and its first recorded example of a man telling a woman to ‘shut up’; telling her that her voice was not to be heard in public.

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         Mary Beard, The Public Voice of Women, LRB, 20 MAR 2014, p11.

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Mary BeardMary Beard is the Professor of Classics at Newnham College, Cambridge, the Classics Editor of the Times Literary Supplement and contributor to the London Review of Books. Beard recently spoke out about the silencing of women’s voices in public in lectures at the British Museum and in the LRB article (above).

Beard quotes the ‘wet-behind the ears’ Telemachus in Homer’s Odyssey silencing his mother, the savvy middle-aged Penelope: ‘Mother,’ he says, ‘go back up into your quarters, and take up your own work, the loom and the distaff … speech will be the business of men, all men, and of me most of all; for mine is the power in this household.’

confronting-the-classics  2014We talk of online trolls viciously attacking any women with an opinion today on Twitter, say, but Beard points out that ‘silencing women’ has been ingrained in Western Culture since it’s conception. Following an appearance on television, Beard became the target of such trolls, who compared her genitalia to rotting vegetables. When she Tweeted that she found these comments ‘gob-smacking’, one commentator in a leading British magazine reported Beard’s Tweet with the following words: ‘The misogyny is truly “gob-smacking”, she whined.’

‘It’s not what you say that prompts it’ explains Beard, ‘it’s the fact you’re saying it.’ Women, apparently, whine, bleat, whinnie and yap. This is the language used to described women’s voices over two millennia.

The viciousness of the online attacks cannot be overstated. ‘Shut up you bitch’ is a fairly common refrain’ said Beard. ‘I’m going to cut off your head and rape it’ was one tweet I got.’

Beard wants us to look at our culture and the tradition of silencing women in public. If women are not allowed a voice of authority in public, we have no voice at all..

And ‘We need to work that out before we figure out how we modern Penelopes might answer back to our own Telemachuses …’

We the Sibyls salute Mary Beard.

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Photos: Mary Beard Website



The Sibyls Salute: Judy Chicago

By Kerry Cue

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maroon quote-1Because men have a history, it is difficult for them to imagine what it is like to grow up without one,

or the sense of personal expansion that comes from discovering that we women have a worthy heritage.

          Along with pride often comes rage – rage that one has been deprived of such a significant knowledge.

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                                                                               Judy Chicago, Good Reads

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Artists never grow old because …
there’s no use-by date for passion.


Judy Chicago    Think Big Blog

Judy Chicago

Judy Chicago is a celebrated artist – There are 7 retrospective shows celebrating her work across America this year alone – who, at 74, shows no sign of slowing down.

Not only is Chicago a Sibyl, her life’s work has been dedicated to showing how women’s voices have been silenced throughout history and, this of course, includes the Sibyls.

Chicago’s best-known and most loved work is The Dinner Party. It consists of 39 place settings each representing a woman neglected by history. The vulvar and butterfly shaped ceramic place settings celebrate forgotten (female) goddesses, philosophers, priests, writers, doctors, painters, explorers and rulers. The triangular table sits on a Heritage Floor, which contains the names of a further 999 women throughout history, who have made a significant contribution to bettering women’s’ lives.

The Dinner Party  Judy Chicago 1974 - 79

The Dinner Party
Judy Chicago 1974 – 79

A new book by Chicago , The Dinner Party: Restoring Women to History (with a foreword by Arnold L. Lehman and contributions by Jane F. Gerhard) was also published this year.

The book not only looks an iconic feminist artwork, it highlights the fight feminists faced in the 1970s. The Dinner Party, for instance, once inspired aN 87-minute debate in the U.S. House of Representatives over whether it was art or pornography. You will find more information about Chicago’s fascinating art in the article Why Judy Chicago Still Fights for Feminist Art at 75 by Bob Duggan at Big Think.

We the Sibyls salute Judy Chicago.

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Judy Chicago from Big Think Blog

The Dinner Party Seeprint2 Blog


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We cannot let others define aging for us.

….We must, as we have done before,

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…………….redefine this stage for ourselves.

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What the media doesn’t tell you!

Frankly, my dear, they’re over you!

the-tibertine-sibylIf you have found little of interest in the lifestyle pages across all media platforms, there is a reason. After 54-years of age we are of no interest to Marketing. Apparently, we are ‘too set in our ways’. So, apart from some tragic and cheap ads spruiking pre-paid funerals and incontinence pads, we do not attract the advertising dollar. Therefore editors of magazines, newspapers, websites and blogs aimed at women couldn’t care less about our issues.

There are lots of ads for dubious anti-aging and slimming products, much like the 1950s ads (below) but with their own Facebook Page. But the anti-wrinkle creams and slimming products do not target us. They are aimed at 40, 30 and even 20 year olds. They have more to fear from aging and being overweight than us.50s chin strap We’ve already had to face certain realities. Besides, we’ve been applying goops for 40+ years and we must have tried scores of diets with little success!!! We’ll look at the real science ( and not the ‘radiessence’ or ‘luminosity’) of face creams and rubbish diets later.

But there are many issues such as health, sex and self-perception that change after 54 years of age and that we want to discuss. If you are looking at retirement and your daughter wants the BIG wedding, do you have to pay for it? What if you are divorced? What if it’s her 2nd wedding?

How do you deal with a neurotic daughter-in-law? Or a control-freak son-in-law? Or vice-versa?

Cole Swimsuit Ad 1953 And we wanted those curves!

Cole Swimsuit Ad 1953
And we wanted those curves!

Are you prepared to look after grandchildren one day a week? Two days? How would you react if your daughter handed you a spread sheet scheduling every minute of that one day?

If you didn’t have children, are you now being swamped by the 2nd wave of child-centric conversations as your friends become grandparents?

Moreover, how did any of us even produce children with the hilariously vague ‘sex education‘ we received in the 60s or 70s?

We, The Sibyls, are smart, vibrant and interesting women. It is the intention of this blog to reinvent aging. We’re doing this for ourselves. Welcome.

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