The Topp Twins

Growing up in Huntly, Dame Julie (Jools) Topp and Dame Lynda Topp always knew they were different, but it wasn’t until they left home for Christchurch that they found like-minded people. At 17 years old the twins performed their songs at The Victorian Coffee Lounge and it was here that they first connected with a group of radical lesbian feminists.

After moving to Dunedin, the Topps mixed with university students who were actively part of the women’s liberation movement. Together with their newfound friends they went to the 1979 United Women’s Convention in Hamilton – an important rally for women’s rights activists.

The Topp Twins were intensely excited and proud to be part of a movement of women who were instigating change, but Jools remembers feeling disappointed that the convention was so dominated by heterosexual women. They thought that their point of view wasn’t represented and issues important to lesbians were not addressed – a reoccurring dispute within women’s liberation in the late 1970s.

Music was the way Jools and Lynda Topp expressed themselves and it was their main method of protest and raising awareness of women’s rights. The duet, who initially named themselves Homemade Jam, often sang about experiences important to lesbian feminists. Songs like ‘Paradise’, performed at the 1979 United Women’s Convention’s Saturday night concert, poignantly highlighted and celebrated lesbian love, and in part corrected the lack of focus on lesbian issues at the Convention.

Listen to the song 'Paradise'

By standing up and proudly singing songs like ‘Paradise’ the Topp Twins were able to show that being lesbian was something to be proud of. As Jools Topp explained ‘many lesbian women felt trapped in heterosexual relationships’. During the 1970s lesbians gained visibility and solidarity for the first time, but many still felt isolated, disempowered and under pressured to conform to heterosexual norms.

In speaking out, Jools and Lynda confronted the invisibility of lesbians but also opened themselves up to criticism and prejudice. Jools recalls negative newspaper headlines such as ‘Men Hating Mickey Taking Lesbians’, and later, when they applied for a visa to visit America, their application came back with ‘check for deviance’ stamped on it. Even so, they were undeterred.

Another song, ‘Freedom’, written in honour of International Women’s Day and performed at the 1979 United Women’s Convention, is a call to stand up for what you believe in no matter what. It’s a song the Topp Twins regard as their first feminist song, [1] and it represents their ability to fight on despite prejudice.  ‘Freedom’ was only ever sung when Jools and Lynda felt the time was right – it has never been recorded. The rousing lyrics are:

We’ll fight for our freedom,

We’ll never be wrong,

We’ll just keep on fighting,

No matter how long.

 ‘Freedom’ was also sung at other protests including the Bastion Point land protest in 1978, Nuclear Free New Zealand protests, Anti-Springbok tour marches, and homosexual law reform demonstrations in the 1980s.  The women’s liberation movement became intermingled with a range of human rights issues, and the Topp Twins, like many others, were politically active on several fronts. As well as attending protest demonstrations and performing at concerts, they were part of The Web Women collective who made New Zealand’s first feminist record, written, performed and produced by women. The Topps were interviewed by feminist magazine Broadsheet on several occasions, and Jools regularly published poetry in it too.

In a 2018 interview Jools Topp said that in speaking out and standing strong, she believes others will see the ‘truth’ in what you’re saying and will come along with you. ‘Untouchable Girls’ is a song that reflects this idea, it challenges people to ‘stand up and have guts’ to change the world. It’s one of the Topp Twins most well-known songs, with lyrics that celebrate their individuality, their sexuality, and their activism – a song that succinctly represents their life work.

Further reading

Jools and Lynda Topp, The Topp Twins book. Penguin Books (NZ), Auckland, 2003.

Sandra Coney, ‘Lynda & Jools Topp alias Homemade Jam’, in Broadsheet, issue 76, 1980, pp 24 – 26

Explore more stories about women's activism in New Zealand



[1] Sandra Coney, ‘Lynda & Jools Topp alias Homemade Jam’, in Broadsheet, issue 76, 1980, pp 24 - 26

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