The Colonization of Women in Australia
(Penguin Books, 1975, 1994, 2002)

Anne Summers’ classic work on the role of women in Australian society was, and remains, a landmark publication. Revised twice with new material in 1994 and 2002 and sales of more than 100,000 copies, Damned Whores and God’s Police was in November 2003 voted one of the top ten books of the past 40 years by The Australian Sociological Association.


Damned Whores and God's Police book cover“No one who reads this book will ever be able to see Australian history quite the same way they did before. There is genuinely new vision in the book”.
Professor Richard Spann, Department of Government and Public Administration, University of Sydney

“The book is to be welcomed as an important contribution in a field in which others have tried to plough but were not able to finish. Anne Summers, happily, had the gift of the survivor.”
Manning Clark, The Australian, November 8, 1975

“She has contributed a compelling and often startling book in which she re-examines the entire history of white settlement in Australia.”
Michael Cannon, The Age, November 8, 1975


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“This collection answers the challenge issued to young feminists in 1995 by Anne Summers in a now-famous question: ‘Where are the books or the articles by young Australian women setting out their thoughts, seizing control of the debates, tweaking the noses of the old guard?’.
Introduction to Rosamund Else-Mitchell and Naomi Flutter (eds), Talking Up. Young Women’s Take on Feminism (Spinifex 1998)

See also Kathy Bail (ed), DIY feminism (Allen & Unwin 1996) and Virginia Trioli, Generation f: sex, power and the young feminist (Minerva 1996)

“When I reviewed the first edition of Anne Summers’s book in 1975, I admired the force of her argument and the impressive sweep of her historical chapters, but I thought that at times she was teetering on the edge of extremism. I now think I was wrong…”
John Douglas Pringle, Sydney Morning Herald, January 1, 1994

“Congratulations to Anne for putting her mind again to this important work which has traced over time the evolution from 1788 to the present the threads of exclusion and oppression, the threads of misunderstanding and misrepresentation, the threads of prejudice, of victimization, the threads of violence. It’s there, written tightly for all to read, recording the changes as we’ve made them.”
Prime Minister Paul Keating, launching the 1994 revised edition, January 24, 1994


Damned Whores and God's Police book cover

“The social and economic conditions of the first fifty years of white settlement in Australia fostered whores rather than wives. The traditional Judeo-Christian notion that all women could be categorised as being exclusively either good or evil – with the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene being the prototypes of each kind – was brought to Australia with the First Fleet. But its application to the women in this country was totally lop-sided. From 1788 until the 1840s almost all women were categorised as whores – or ‘damned whores’ as Lieutenant Ralph Clark called them. This categorisation was initially based on the fact that virtually all of the white women to come here in the first two decades of colonisation were transported convicts, but it was constantly reinforced by the social structure which evolved in the penal colony. Thus even female convicts who had served their sentences had little chance of having their status redefined and the stereotype came to be applied to many other women in the colony who had not been transported.”

“Successive generations of women, it will be argued later, have collaborated in perpetuating this existential straitjacket but these women have been victims of circumstances which provided them with a fixed choice. Denied economic independence, unable to control their fertility adequately, and always aware of the reprobation which awaits the rebel, none but a handful of Australian women has had the opportunity to do any more than submit to living out their lives as dutiful wives and bountiful mothers; and having no alternatives and wanting some share of human happiness, they have accepted and enjoyed this as best they could.”


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This edition included the memorable Letter to the next generation that riled so many young Australian women but which spurred a number of books by young women.

“I don’t want to wait until I am ninety-eight to try and explain to a 25-year-old what moved me and so many of my generation to activism and revolt. I want, while there is still some chance of communicating, to tell you the story of the modern women’s movement. I want you to know how it started, what we did, and what it did to us. In hearing our story, I hope you will also learn something about yourselves, about where you stand in this great movement of change, and that it might just move some of you to reach out for the torch. It is time for it to be passed.”


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The complete edition that includes all the material from the 1975 and 1994 editions plus the first-ever Time Line of Achievements by and for Australian women 1788-2001.

1987 Mary Gaudron sworn in as a Justice of the High Court.
Di Yerbury is appointed Vice-Chancellor of Macquarie University, the first woman to hold such a position.
1988 The first women pilots in the Royal Australian Air Force graduate.
Federal Child Support legislation established Child Support Agency to collect maintenance payments from non-custodial parents.
1989 Rosemary Follett, Labor Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory, becomes the first woman to head an Australian government.
Elizabeth Reid appointed Program Director, Division for Women in Development, UN.