A peg on the tongue silencing women
: an oral history case study about growing up Catholic in Darwin during the 1960s

  • Jane Clancy

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    This is a case study utilising feminist oral history methods. The informants are a group of ten culturally diverse local women, now in their forties, who grew up Catholic in Darwin during the decade of the sixties. A class reunion in 1995 gave rise to reminiscing on the joys and traumas of growing up Catholic and the impact this has had on their lives. Inspired by the enthusiasm and vitality of the group, and by the fear that these stories might be lost, I was keen to document this history.

    The oral histories were audio taped, transcribed and then analyzed thematically to illuminate people's perceptions on how their schooling influenced them, and to what extent and in what ways this has shaped their current lives. This is a story about power, and the socialisation of young Catholic women. It encompasses many themes arising from both individual interviews and informal gatherings with the informants. It is by no means the final nor the only story but rather an interpretation.

    The strategies employed in socialising the informants into becoming good Catholic girls, impacted on their lives in ways that were not expected. It was anticipated that stories related to discipline, punishment, sexuality and Catholic schoolgirl myths would emerge. However, stories about the picture theatres unexpectedly exposed not only the racism and class consciousness prevalent in the society of the time but also the rituals of adolescents and the community expectations placed upon them.

    Stories in the form of oral histories are multi-layered, and can provide a valuable and alternative model for gaining new insights into people's lives but the dynamics of the interview process need further investigation. It was in the process of having my own remembered version of Darwin history challenged, that this story about the lives of the Catholic girls growing up in the sixties has been told.
    Date of AwardAug 1999
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDarol Cavanagh (Supervisor), Julie Therese Wells (Supervisor) & Merridy Malin (Supervisor)

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