The Function of Age and the History of Women's Work: The Career of an Australian Teacher, 1907-1947
In this paper, we consider what it might mean to hold age as an analytic lens in historical research on women workers, in particular women teachers. Our study serves as a springboard for further discussion about what these new narratives might look like, and what they might reveal, or, moreover, what work they might do. In constructing an account of a woman physical educationist whose work traversed the first half of the twentieth century, we show how age could be seen to be functioning in the institutional spaces of South Australian education. While we do not suggest that specific details of this account are representative of women's work in education, let alone women's work more broadly, we do argue that it draws together and brings to the surface a range of general discourses that serve as a context for how we understand the ways women inhabited and shaped their work. Our account serves as an illustration of what happens to narratives when age is on the agenda, suggesting a more sustained interrogation of how a historical sense of women's positioning in work is deepened by a serious sensitivity to the 'age function'. This is a necessary and, we feel, timely gesture, because of the way that the category of age in women's historical studies-where the interaction among discourses such as professionalism, education, feminism, citizenship and sexuality is considered-is little more than an absent presence, at best lying in the background, obscured from view and yet always demanding its own appearance.
Gender and History
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