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


Happy Little Vegemites hit 60

by Maren Rawlings

Sibylesque vegemite quote

When I was young, I loved Vegemite. It was applied so liberally to my sandwiches or sangers that I was excluded from the lunch swaps. “Eerk, she’s got too much”. My father had several tropical diseases from his war service in the Pacific Islands and New Guinea and my mother appeared to be influenced by the pre-war “health” messages in its early advertising. As with all good campaigns, this began with appeals to the women who controlled the petty (literally) cash on which households ran in the meagre days of the depression.

Sibylesque Happy Little Vegemite Video link 2

See video link to ‘A rose in every cheek’ here.

The era of emotional brainwashing began subtly. Pictures of plates of sangers surrounded by green leaves did not cut it for the exuberant post war years. A joyous jingle ran through our heads as we munched away in the allotted playground eating areas. We’re Happy Little Vegemites was our Marseilles, so that Men at Work’s “man from Brussels” could be expected to hand us a Vegemite sandwich, presumably in acknowledgement of our accent. It did not work for me incidentally and I had to remark in bad schoolgirl French, that I was not British but Australian and we grew vineyards thank you, to source some decent wine in the main square. I must have lost my down under “glow”.

It is really an addiction you know. When the spouse’s activities exiled us to the United Kingdom, I had to buy it in a 4 litre paint tin (beautifully sealed down against the six week sea voyage – where’s a chisel?). By the time we had worked our way to the bottom, the salt had absorbed the humidity and diluted it sufficiently to act like Agar agar. I rang the distributor in London. “Waddya mean it goes off?” We could grow our own antibiotics. My children with their sangers, were envied by those still convicted to school dinners (“You over there with packed lunches, put your rubbish in the bin”). You cannot food fight with a stew, easily anyway.

Sibylesque Happy Little Vegemites

Now when I look at my old love, I find I can friend it on Facebook! I have imagined many personal permutations through a long life and this was a surprise that put a whole new slant on the word “spread”. The third wave of advertising is “relationships”, apparently (after “facts” and “emotions”). Is your personal space occupied by the wholesome and worthwhile? Do you love your Vegemite? Are you personally fulfilled as it caresses your gullet? Or have you had an affair with Nutella? I was a wine snob in Belgium but I can be a yeast purist anywhere in the world, sent from my iPhone.


Maren RawlingsMaren Rawlings is a fabulously diverse educator and music devotee. She has taught at city and country schools including a 22-year stint at MLC, Melbourne. She has lectured in psychology at RMIT University and Melbourne Uni, written Psychology textbooks and, in 2011, graduated PhD in “Humour at Work” at Swinburne University where she currently tutors.

Maren is President of the Star Chorale, a community choir and this year they sing Verdi’s Requiem with the Zelman Orchestra.


Photo Source: TV pinterest, Tangalooma volunteers dressed as vegemite, Weekendnotes blog.


Getting On: Some thoughts on women and ageing

Sibylesque How old quote

Sibyls' Books Red Mural

REVIEW by Lorna Ebringer

Picture 3Getting on: Some thoughts of women and aging

Liz Byrski

Pub Momentum Books 2012

The baby boomers are ageing! Expect to hear a lot about this topic as we all struggle to come to terms with this fact. Some of us are so put out by the accumulation of ailments that one friend has limited discussion about our failing bodies to 10 minutes before we are required to move to other topics.

Liz Bryski’s book “Getting on, Some thoughts on Women and Ageing” was first published as an ebook in 2012 and is now available in paperback. (Pub Momentum Books) Part memoir and part a reflection, she discusses the problems that women face as they grow old. Despite the fact that older women are central to society, working, writing, volunteering, caring for disabled children and for their parents and living busy and productive lives she finds that society renders them invisible, we are not seen in the media, in advertising, in shopping centres. We are ignored. Whole industries have grown up to help women avoid being erased by trying to make us look younger than we are. If we believe the spin we can dye our hair, have a facelift, diet those extra kilo’s away, in short, have a make over. A lot of energy and money can be spent and, of course, it does not halt time.

Author: Liz Bryski

Author: Liz Byrski

When we are noticed, it is as a problem. The “problem of our ageing population” is mentioned all the time in the media. We are regarded as a financial burden by the wealthiest generation in history. This is truly astonishing given the contribution we have made to society in our working lives over the past 40 or 50 years and the contribution we are still making in providing the volunteer work force in our charities and community support groups, in the care we are giving to our parents and grandchildren and often to our adult disabled children.

Sibylesque Boogie Woogie Man

Liz Bryski raises and addresses all the negative issues that old age brings with it but she is undeterred. Remembering the feisty older women in her life when she was a child and how much she admired them she is determined to enjoy the journey and reading her book encourages us all to do the same. So what are the positives? Now that we are free from full time work and caring for young children we have time to “make the most of every moment and every day, love more and better, learn more and read more” We can enjoy our friendships more and allow them to enhance our lives. As a result our lives become packed with interest and adventure. We are healthier than ever thanks to good medical care and the consciousness that we have to address fitness issues to live well, she swims, we dance, our friends walk, ride bikes, go to the gym and Tai Chi, we meet other people doing these things and we are luckier than our parents in this respect.

I hope that we will see further thoughtful discussions like this that allow us to look forward with optimism and courage.

You will find Liz Byrski’s article Why it is good to be old here.

Sibyl Approved

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Lorna Ebringer’s passions include trekking  in remote areas of Georgia, China and Japan, opera appreciation and rock ‘n roll dancing. Her previous posts were Notable Women: Christine de Pizan and When god had a wife.


Photo Source: Liz Bruyski’s website, Youcanbefunny blog………………………………….


Can you die from a broken heart? Yes! It could happen to you.

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Heart Foundation Quote

More women in Australia die from Heart Disease than cancer. This is also true in the UK and the US. This fact often surprises women. We are so attuned to raising money for breast cancer research, we assume it is the number one killer. This misperception makes a heart attack for us dangerous. We don’t recognise the symptoms. We put symptoms like nausea and chest pain down to something we ate or anxiety.

A recent article by Martha Weinman Lear in The New York Times (The woman’s Heart Attack, 26 Sept 2014) highlighted the difference between male and female heart attacks. Martha, who had a heart attack herself, explains that more men have the classic dramatic chest-clutching ‘Hollywood’ heart attack.

Sibylesque Heart Attack

Most women do not have drama on their side prompting those around them to call an ambulance. The symptoms of a heart disease could simply be fatigue and insomnia. Something that we often assume is NORMAL.

It’s back to the same old message for women’s health. Keep in tune with your own body. Take action when things don’t feel quite right. The life you save may be your own.


Fifty Years Ago Today, The Beatles Came Here to Play

by Kerry Cue

Roman border 2

purple quote 1Those who do not move,

purple quote 2

………………do not notice their chains.

     ………………………..Rosa Luxemburg, Polish Jewish Philosopher, 1871 – 1919.

Sibylesque Signature purple

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Fifty Years ago and Far, Far Away!

On 12 JUNE 1964 the Beatles landed in Adelaide to begin their month long Australian tour.

Beatles Melbourne

The Australia of the time was rigidly conservative. In his book, The Lucky Country, published in 1964 author Donald Horne wrote ‘Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck.’  

Although The Beatles were mobbed on their Aussie tour, more Australians turned out a few years earlier, in 1959, to hear American evangelist, Billy Graham preach the word of the Lord. In fact, 3 million Australians (Aus Pop: 12 million) attended Graham’s sermons.

Billy Graham MCG 1959

Billy Graham Rally MCG 1959

The Beatles music, including the 1964 tour, was simply the pop music fanfare announcing the massive social and political change sweeping through Australia in the 1960s. Australians were, at last, in Rosa Luxomberg’s view (quote above) beginning to move. The changes included the Sexual Revolution (The pill hit the market here in 1961, ironically, that was the year Marriage rates peaked at 62% of Aussie adults.), Civil Rights (All Indigenous Australian adults got the vote in 1962), anti-war protests (Starting around 1962), feminism (Starting with The Female Mystique, Betty Freidman, 1963), environmental protection (Silent Spring, Rachel Carson, 1962), Gay Rights (Groups formed at the end of the 1960s but laws took much longer to change.) and more.

Some changes were slow. In 1963 pubs still closed at 6pm perpetuating the 6 o’clock swill in Qld, Vic and SA. City centres were dead on Sundays. The shops closed at 12pm Saturday. Then again, there were no credit cards. No credit. You paid cash.(That’s in £sd. $ arrived in 1966) But you could smoke anywhere!

student protest Sydney Uni 1962

Look at these uni students of ’62. They are conservatively dressed. Some are even wearing ties! In the early ‘60s young people dressed like their parents. Boys wore ties. Girls wore suits. The fans that mobbed The Beatles in 1964 dressed like their parents. Even The Beatles wore ties! The Youth Culture, however, was about to begin. ( See 1964: The year fashion promoted a revolution, not just a brand! )

In 1964, conservative Australia was crumbling, but it took time. In June 1964, I watched The Beatles arrive in Melbourne on a Black and White TV set with my friend Lynette screaming ‘Ringo’ and sobbing into a hankerchief. I was in year 8 at the Sacred Heart Convent Kyneton. The nuns didn’t teach maths to girls just arithmetic and needle work! (See Bimbos 4Eva)

My parents let me leave the convent to attend the local high school where they DID teach maths to girls and I went on to study maths at University. But I was fortunate. Girls’ choices were still limited in 1960s. We were guided into ‘family friendly’ occupations such as hairdressing, nursing, teaching and secretarial work. These were perfectly fine occupations, but often poorly paid. Meanwhile, married women could not work in the Public Service (until 1966). Equal pay was not ratified until 1974. (Many female occupations were exempt until that date.)

Perhaps, we should have listened more closely when in 1968 The Beatles sang Lady Madonna:

The Beatles Lady Madonna
Who finds the money when you pay the rent

Did you think that money was heaven sent

Despite being taught arithmetic and needlework, finding the money is something we’ve had to deal with ever since the ‘60s.


Photo source: 1. Britishbeatlemania blog, 2. Wheaton College Archive, 3. Wheaaton College Archive, 4. Sydney Uni Archive. 5. Unsourved