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  • (2017) Barrett Meyering, Isobelle
    This thesis offers a new history of children’s liberation as part of Australian feminism between the pivotal years of 1969 and 1979. It explores how women activists conceived of feminism as a means of advancing children’s interests and documents the presence of children within the movement. Taking as its focus the women’s liberation movement, the revolutionary strand of the ‘second wave’, this thesis identifies children’s liberation as a new mode of feminist child politics in which adults’ power over children was characterised as a source of structural inequality to be contested alongside sexual inequality. The new paradigm was most closely associated with North American radical feminist Shulamith Firestone’s bestseller, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution (1970), which received an enthusiastic reception when it arrived in Australia. However, this thesis shows that the concept of children’s liberation also reverberated through other influential feminist works of the period and developed in new directions in activists’ own writings. Moreover, an emphasis not only on theory but praxis produced wide-ranging interventions that redefined the lives of women and children. The children’s liberation agenda was an ambitious one and flowed through to feminist activism across the arenas of the family, education, culture, sexuality and violence. The impact of the new feminist child politics is revealed in this study through close examination of archival collections created by activists, as well as a vast array of movement publications, including key theoretical works, self-help literature, fiction, and local journals and newsletters. It augments these sources with later feminist accounts of the period, including autobiographical writings and oral history. Although these sources reveal tensions in the process of translating the theory of children’s liberation into praxis, they also demonstrate that children’s liberation was far from a marginal aspect of women’s liberation. In retrieving this hitherto neglected history, this thesis serves as an important counterpoint to prevailing views of 1970s feminists as uninterested in children or even anti-child. Most importantly, it provides evidence of women’s liberation’s utopian politics and links with other radical groups, joining other recent histories in highlighting the wide vision of social change that animated the movement throughout the decade.