Anne Else

Anne Else was at the forefront of the New Zealand women’s liberation movement. In 1972 she co-founded Broadsheet, New Zealand’s most prominent and long-lived feminist magazine, which published monthly on a wide range of topics until 1997.

Interviewed in 2000, Anne reflected on why the group of women she belonged to had chosen to establish Broadsheet as their central form of activism at that time:

Hear excerpt from this interview.

We thought, what can we do.... the thing we are all good at is writing stuff, so we can start a magazine, a news sheet. And so we decided to do this. We tossed around [ideas about] the name and we thought Broadsheet was nicely ambiguous and interesting.

In the beginning, of course, we thought that it was all quite simple, you’d just point out to people what was wrong and then it would change. It was just that they didn’t know. So you would educate them and everything would be all right. And of course it wasn’t like that at all. It was like an endless, endless ball of wool, you would pull a little end out and then all this stuff came out. It just got more and more interesting in many ways because you realised it was so complicated, the whole business of gender and discrimination.

Anne Else, interview by Jill Abigail, 23 March 2000, Women's Studies Association feminist oral history project, Alexander Turnbull Library, OHInt-0556-03

From the outset Broadsheet covered most of the key issues of women’s liberation – political participation, sex education, women’s health including pregnancy, contraception and abortion, childcare, equal rights in paid work, gender equality in the home, an end to violence against women, sexuality and gay liberation. It tackled class divides and racism in Aotearoa. News of upcoming events and activities was an important feature too, as was feminist humour.

Broadsheet cover

Read the first issue of Broadsheet

In the first issue Anne interviewed a secretary who worked in her office building for ‘Good Morning Miss Robot’. This woman explained sexist treatment very clearly, saying her ‘biggest bugbear’ was ‘the subservient role the female office worker is expected to play’.

Anne has continued to be a feminist thinker, writer and editor, publishing locally and internationally. She was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in 2004, and in 2006 was awarded a PhD by Victoria University of Wellington for a thesis focusing on feminist theory and writing. Reflecting on the women’s movement and feminism in 2000, Anne said: 

Hear excerpt from this interview.

Question: Anne what to you feel about the state of the women’s movement right now? Is there one?

It’s a very complicated question. I think it’s very closely tied up with how I feel about myself and my work, because I do feel that it was feminism that carried me through a lot of stuff. It educated me, it gave me something to get my teeth into, it gave me a cause. I think that every cause is something to do with you. Very few people pick up causes that are nothing to do with them, or their life, and feminism was so important for us coming out of the ’50s and ’60s. But now I feel that it’s not there any more. But it’s not that it’s not there, it’s still there, I mean there are still so many things wrong with the way that women live in the West, let alone how they live anywhere else, that you couldn’t possibly say that that whole issue has gone away. It hasn’t, but it’s blurred and the reason it’s blurred is that it’s not done through simple rules anymore. You don’t have these rules that say you can’t be a cub reporter because you are female, it’s a lot more complicated and subtle than that. But it’s like I said before, you realise it isn’t just feminism and women, it’s actually the way the world is that is the problem and if you can solve that, you will solve a lot of what is wrong. So it’s all tied up. And in a way it’s just too big. You come to realise that it’s enormous. And yet there are more and more people coming to realise that there is something wrong. I mean, there are great floods of things coming from all over the place … basically the theme is – we can’t go on like this.

Whether it’s ecology or whether it’s globalism, or waste or the whole industrial system. We can’t go on like this, it’s endless. And as far as women and men go, I’m not sure that we can go on like this either, although that is less prominent because there is definitely this idea around that that’s not an issue any more at all. And so it’s difficult to keep pointing out that it is, and that it is interlaced with all these things. In terms of sustainable human ecology it’s so important and one of the absolutely major issues. Not so much because of who women and men are, but the way the world is arranged around women and men, that’s the problem, the organising principle that gender has become. It’s kind of code for lots of other things like unpaid work not counting… and it doesn’t matter who does it, if it doesn’t count it still doesn’t count; but the fact that it doesn’t count is tied up with the fact that it’s women who do it, and it’s very hard to work out how those separate out. I mean, if men really did do half the unpaid work then I don’t think it would be the problem it is. It would have somehow shifted in a way that would have changed everything.

Anne Else, Women’s Studies Association feminist oral history project, Alexander Turnbull Library, OHColl-0556, 2000

In 2018 she thinks the whole picture has shifted, with women once again forcefully protesting against widespread harassment, assault, intolerance of diversity and unequal workplace treatment at every level.

Further reading

http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/writer/else-anne

Barbara Brookes, A history of New Zealand women, Bridget Williams Books, Wellington, 2016

Sandra Coney (ed.), Standing in the sunshine: A history of New Zealand women since they won the vote, Penguin Books (NZ), Auckland, 1993

Pat Rosier (ed.), Been around for quite a while: Twenty years of Broadsheet magazine, New Women’s Press,Auckland, 1992

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