Showing posts with label Australia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australia. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Hatpin Panic

The turn of the century saw a great increase in mobility for women. Women were no longer relegated to the parlor and kitchen--they could leave the home unaccompanied. They began riding public transport and taking jobs outside of the home. However, with this new mobility and freedom came the new threat of street harassment and aggression.

Image result for hatpin panicThe harassment of women on the street continues to  be a problem to this day. Today it's called cat-calling, around the turn of the century it was called 'mashing'. It's more or less universally detested by every woman, and nearly every woman has a story about being harassed on the street. The fight against street harassment continues in government halls and online forums, but in the late 1800s/early 1900s women took matters into their own hands. Instead of trying to solve things with words these ladies stabbed the offenders with their sword like hatpins.

The hatpin was a common accessory at the time.  Large hats, festooned with ribbons, fake flowers, and wax fruit were the fashion, and to keep the millinery concoction on their heads, women secured them to their heads with steel pins known as hatpins. The average hatpin was around 9 inches in length, had a sharp point on the piercing end, and jewels, feathers, or filigree on the other. Hatpins had to be sharp in order to get through the fabric of the hat, and, due to the size of the hats, were often quite lengthy.

Women were, essentially, wearing knives in their hair. However, there are no recorded instances of women having used them as such until 1903 when Leoti Blaker, a young Kansan visiting New York City was accosted on public transportation. When an elderly man attempted to take liberties with her person, Leoti stabbed him 'in the meat of his arm', driving the man away. Leoti later stated to newspapers that “If New York women will tolerate mashing, Kansas girls will not.”

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The typical headgear of an early 20th century
Leoti's move against her harasser was only the first recorded of such instances. Stories about women defending themselves and others from attackers with their hatpins began to crop up around the country with increasing frequency. One woman in Chicago stopped a train robbery, one in New York stopped a man from stealing the payroll of an entire company.

With the popularity of the hatpin as a weapon of self defense, and the publication of self defense manuals for women, women were protecting their rights to exist in public spaces, and this was making the men of the time uncomfortable. Editorials in newspapers started cropping up about how women were 'attacking defenseless men', and that to avoid street harassment women should perhaps dress more modestly, or, better yet, not leave the house. Legislation to regulate hatpin length was introduced in several cities, and motions to ban them outright were discussed.

Admittedly, there had been some hatpin accidents. More than once another man or woman had suffered injury from being jostled against a lady's hatpin, and women had been known to stab policemen and police horses while resisting arrest. However, the rate of accidents was much lower than stated in newspapers of the day. Newspapers, especially the Chicago Tribune, stirred the public into a frenzy that would later become known as 'The Hatpin Panic' or 'The Hatpin Peril'.

This trend of using a hatpin for self defense spread to the United Kingdom and Australia, who all had a 'hatpin panic' too. While some legislative measures were passed, the hatpin panic ultimately died with the onset of World War One. Because of metal shortages, women no longer wore large hatpins, and after the war large hats went out of fashion. Bobs and cloche hats became the norm, and the biggest female threat to society became the flapper, not the hatpin.

The Hatpin Peril Terrorized Men Who Couldn't Handle the 20th Century Woman
With Daggers in Her Bonnet: The Australian Hatpin Panic of 1912
Early 1900s Women Had an Ingenious Method for Fending Off Gropers
When Men Feared 'A Resolute Woman, With a Hatpin in Her Hand'

Friday, June 9, 2017

Damn, Girl-Tarenorerer, the Amazon of Van Diemen's Land

Tarenorerer, also known as Walyer, was an aboriginal freedom fighter who refused to take shit from anyone. She fought everyone who crossed her, but she mostly fought the white settlers, whalers, and sealers that were enslaving and murdering her people. She so thoroughly terrorized Tasmanians of the 1830s that she was the subject of a huge manhunt (or womanhunt), and George Arthur, Lieutenant governor of the area, remarked that she and her band of warriors were one of the biggest dangers in Tasmania.

Image result for tarenorerer1800s Tasmania (Van Diemen's land) was not a safe place for anyone, but especially not for aboriginal people. Whalers in the Bass Strait were known for kidnapping women and children, and tribes fought with white settlers over land. As might be imagined, things weren't going well for the aborigines. It was into this environment that Tarenorerer was born.

Tarenorerer was only a teenager when whalers stole her from her tribe, the Tomeginee. She was held as a slave by them for several years. Conditions were already harsh for aboriginal captives, but for Tarenorerer conditions were much worse. The men who enslaved her would beat, rape, and torture their women to force them into submission, but Tarenorerer refused to submit. her defiance made her captors angrier, which in turn caused them to be crueler to her.

Around 1828 Tarenorerer escaped. With rage in her heart, and a spear in hand, she gathered local men and women around her, and started attacking white settlers. She taught her warriors how to use firearms, and how to use guerrilla warfare to effectively defend against the settlers' tactics. She instructed her people to kill livestock and, in battle, would taunt the white men, telling them to come be speared by her. She was the biggest menace in the neighborhood.

Enter George Arthur. Arthur was a local official, and religious devotee determined to Christianize and make peace with the locals. He was searching for an effective way to make peace with the aborigines, but part of his duties as lieutenant governor of the area meant keeping the peace and protecting white settlers first, so when Tarenorerer and her warriors came on the scene, he went after her.
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Arthur chased Tarenorerer for two years, and it was he that gave her the epitaph 'Amazon of Van Diemen's Land'. With a price on her head, Tarenorerer fled, but was again captured, this time by sealers, who took her and two of her sisters to Bird Island to catch seals and (you'll never guess it) birds.

As you might imagine, Tarenorerer was none too pleased with this arrangement. She killed a man trying to escape, but in the process her identity was discovered, and she was arrested. She was carried off to prison, and died of influenza not long after.

Today she is remembered as a brave fighter who embodied the cause of the aboriginal fight for freedom. There are no official memorials to her, but she is still held up as an example for young aboriginal people, who are still fighting the injustices perpetrated by the Australian government.

Updated May 14, 2021. Thanks to Russell Jeffrey for pointing out errors!

Australian Women's Register

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Great Australian Emu War

In 1932, Australia decided to solve it's Emu problem for good.

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Who would want to solve this cute guy?
After WWI, Australia was left with a bunch of veterans with nowhere to go. The Australian government decided that farming would be a great profession for all these fine young men; and since the interior of Australia was pretty much just a barren wasteland, where better to go farm? So, the government sent a bunch of dudes who had no idea how to farm out to inhospitable land, and told them to grow wheat, because the Great Depression was happening, and grain prices were plummeting (the Australian tactics to combat the Great Depression still baffle me.).

So the intrepid ex-soldiers go out into the middle of Australia, contending with harsh weather, feral camels, and other Australian bullshit to grow grain. Things are going...well, not exactly okay, but they're certainly going, until the emu's attack.

The emu is a large, ugly, flightless bird that have no sense of personal space. These birds migrate inland every year after mating in coastal regions, and boy were they happy when they got back inland to find that their homes had been improved. The emus were drawn to the nice, cultivated land, and the grain that grew thereon. Emus went pretty hard on the crops, and farmers were able to hold them off for a while, but eventually Emu numbers grew too great, and the cavalry was called in.

It wasn't literally a cavalry, it was more like a sizable chunk of the army armed with machine guns. The machine guns were the important bit, that's what the farmers really wanted. The farmers had seen machine guns at work in WWI, and figured that they would be just the tool for getting rid of their feathery nemesis'. The Australian government wasn't so keen on giving a bunch of civilians machine guns though, so they sent the army with them. And so the seemingly unequal fight began.

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This is why they needed solving. Holy shit.
The soldiers were pretty confident they could take the birds. George Pearce, the Australian Minister of Defense, even described the war as 'target practice'. However, upon first contact with the birds, they discovered that the mighty emu does not take extinction lying down. The soldiers started shooting, and the birds went nuts, running away in a disorganized chaos that makes the end of the chandelier scene from Phantom of the Opera look tame.

There were two major conflicts in this war, the first and the second. I guess when you're fighting birds you don't really need to name your battles. The first conflict went well for the Australians. They managed to kill a few emus without any loss of dignity (besides the inherent loss of dignity when you wage war on avians), it was the second conflict that was noteworthy.

Minutes into the conflict, the prized machine guns jammed, and the birds scattered, then went back to eating crops. The army tried mounting their guns on trucks, but, quite frankly, they shot like Stormtroopers, and couldn't hit a single emu. Except with their car. One emu did get tangled into the wheels of a truck, and, in a moment of final defiance, the bird corpse sufficiently messed up the truck enough that it veered off the road, taking down an innocent by-standing fence. The first collateral damage in what was turning out to be a bloody conflict.

By now the Army has killed maybe 200 emus, tops, and used up a quarter of their ammunition. When they started there was a grand total of 20,000 emus, so, as you might imagine, they're not looking so good, especially not to the government back home. What's better, is that they took a camera crew along with them, so everyone could see in stunning black and white how they were thoroughly humiliated by a group of birds. Unsurprisingly, the Australian government recalled the army, and admitted defeat. Emus: 1, Australia: 0.


Atlas Obscura
Scientific America
Emu War

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Capitol of Australia

Quick, without referencing a map or looking it up, tell me what the capitol of Australia is. Is it Sydney? Melbourne? Perth?

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Canberra. Not too bad, eh?
Nope, it's Canberra. Which is somewhat surprising given that those cities are much larger and popular cities. Additionally, in 1820, when Canberra was picked for the Australian capitol, the area was already occupied by sheep farmer John Moore, who was basically squatting on the ancestral lands of the Ngunnawal people. Of course, the latter didn't matter, because, as anyone who has every studied history knows, white people just don't give a shit about native people and their rights. It's a terrible tradition that continues all around the world today.

Why was Canberra chosen then? Was it for it's spectacular views and room to grow? In a way, yes, but one of the main motivators in the selection of Canberra was that Canberra was equally far from both Melbourne and Sydney--the two largest Australian cities who just couldn't get along.

Sydney and Melbourne had been contending for the rights to be the young nation's capitol for quite some time. These cities were 443 miles (878 kilometers) apart, and both were booming metropolises, or at least as booming as it got in 1800s Australia. There was quite a distance between the two, which fostered a healthy rivalry, but not a lot of interaction. The two cities were in heavy competition, and it was giving the Australian government a headache.

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Eventually, like a mother with two squabbling children, the government told both cities that neither of them could have the capitol, and sent them off to their rooms to sulk. However, to appease Sydney and Melbourne they added another criteria for the capitol-it had to be equidistant from the two cities.

So, instead of using a city with already existing infrastructure and population, the Australian government built an entirely new city. They went to the massive expense and inconvenience, all because Sydney and Melbourne couldn't get along.

Local Histories
Canberra National Website
Australia, A Very Short Introduction by Kenneth Morgan

Australia Has More Camels Than You

Australia is known for having an impressive array of deadly and improbable beasts, but my favorite (other than the cappaberra, who can resist those cute guys?) isn't a native to Australia, but an immigrant from the Middle East, the camel.

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Real life Australian road sign.
Back at the time of first colonization Australia was no less large and terrifying then it is today, the difference being that Australians of yore didn't know exactly how much they had to be afraid of. There was this enormous interior part of the country that was inhospitable, and traveling there often resulted in death. However, camels are oft cited as the 'ships of the desert', and since the middle of Australia certainly isn't a temperate zone, in 1822 it was suggested that these marvelous beasts be brought to the continent.

It wasn't until about 1840 that this suggestion was acted upon, and Harry, the first camel in Australia, arrived from the Canary Islands. Harry was a fine, and weird looking fellow that charmed those he met, until he killed his handler. Then people weren't so keen on Harry.

With the first Australian camel being a bit of a disaster, Australians decided that in addition to the camels, they also needed to import people who knew how to handle them, so along with the next batch of camels came Arab Cameleers.

This is when camels started to really take off. Arab Cameleers made forays into the Outback to set up infrastructure, and trade with the Aboriginal people. They set up camel trains to cart product from one end of the continent to another, setting up lucrative businesses for themselves and the Aboriginal people they paid as guards and guides. For a while, a camel was the only way into the Australian Outback.

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Camel mob
But then cars, planes, and trains came on the scene and ruined everything. Because who wants to ride an uncomfortable, pungent camel for three weeks when you can take a comfortable train, and arrive at your destination within a week?

Consequentially, the camel business took a downward turn. Many Cameleers simply let their camels go, and settled down in a different trade. This lead to a large unsupervised camel population in the center of Australia. This wouldn't be a problem, except that camels are hell for the Australian environment. Camels will eat pretty much any plant, and go to any lengths to get water. They destroy fences, farm buildings, air conditioners in their search for water. They can drink up an entire water hole, leaving Aboriginal people with no water. One or two might be manageable, but there was a million of these beasts, and it was having a serious negative impact on both the environment and the inhabitants of the Australian Outback.

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Behold the terrifying beast
The solution? Kill them. A culling initiative was put into action in 2013, cutting the population back to 600 thousand. This, unsurprisingly, outraged animal rights activists worldwide, and while it has certainly cut down on Australia's camel population, marauding bands of camels still roam the countryside robbing simple farmers of their water.

Given the camel population, is it surprising that Australia has a camel industry? The Aussies have made the best of their camel problems. Camels are exported to other countries, and used for food. Camel hair is used in Aboriginal art, and Australia even has a camel dairy. Despite their best efforts, however, Australia has far too many camels, and the population is projected to double every 8 to 10 years.

Outback Travel Secrets
No Easy Solutions
Pest Smart