Ducks on the Pond

An Autobiography 1945-76

(Viking, 1999)

An unflinching personal story of a woman who challenged the world she was given.

‘Ducks on the pond!’ a shearer called out if he saw a woman approach or enter that exclusively male domain, the shearing shed.

The call was a signal to all the shearers to stop work or at least refrain from swearing until the woman had gone.


Product Description

We were impatient for change. Why couldn’t we just make it happen?

It was no accident, I believe, that it was in Sydney that Australian feminists founded the first services for women: a health clinic, refuges and a rape crisis centre.

Many in the movement, especially in other States, believed we were wrong to get into service provision. We were doing the work of the state, it was argued. We were papering over the cracks.

Once I would have agreed. Now, however, having seen that grassroots politics could actually help people and at the same time achieve discernible social and political change, it seemed irrefutable that if a need existed and we could do something about it we should. And we did.

It was an interesting coming together of all of those strands of Sydney politics that I found so attractive: the anti-authoritarianism, the direct action to achieve practical ends, the flouting of the law if needs be. Abandoning theoretical purity to activism.

Above all, appropriating the mostly male, individualistic outlaw tradition for a female, indeed a feminist, purpose.

It probably would not have been possible anywhere else, but in Sydney it just seemed the natural thing to do.


“I found Ducks on the Pond intriguing, exciting, touching. How brave you were.”

Dorothy Hewett (1923-2003) playwright, poet and novelist Books include Wildcard. An Autobiography (McPhee Gribble 1990) A Baker’s Dozen (Penguin 2001)

“The [last chapter] had me in tears.”

Kate Grenville, novelist, author of the Idea of Perfection

“The book is a feast – of so many memories and of history unfolding – it’s a great record written in your marvellous way of being penetrating but always interesting.”

Anne Deveson, journalist, author and novelist. Most recent book is Resilience

“A rich social history filtered through a mature and very personal gaze… a gripping read.”

Julie McCrossin, ABC broadcaster, co-host of Life Matters

“A fascinating insight into the awkward, insecure convent girl who made herself a star.”

Cassandra Pybus, Sydney Morning Herald, December 24, 1999

“Much of this first volume of Summers’ autobiography is like a paradigm of an intelligent young woman’s journey through the 60s and 70s.

Susan Varga, The Bulletin, November 9, 1999

“I warmed to the woman I had thought of as the Snow Queen – a frosty, hypercritical powerbroker – when Summers described her rage at the official bullying of the Aboriginal community she lived in for a year.”

Moira Rayner, Australian Book Review, March 2000


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