Identifying with the frontier: federation new woman, nation and empire
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As the colonial period advanced, negative aspects of the Australian bush were often figured as feminine, represented as harsh, un-nurturing, and barren; as a land hostile to man’s desires to conquer or even to just survive. But, by the late nineteenth century, the bush was rarely imagined as a place for women (Schaffer, Women and the Bush 52-76). Likewise, the emerging new Australian nation was increasingly symbolised as female — as Britannia’s daughter or younger cousin, for example. At the turn of the twentieth century, however, the role of women in the construction of that new nation was rarely acknowledged. Late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Australia then provided little place for women in imaginings of either the bush or the nation, despite the paradoxical reality of women’s active involvement in both as, for instance, pastoral workers or as voters. More than ever in white Australian history, women were imaginatively consigned to the domestic hearth, to British middle-class notions of domestic ideology.
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