Home' LOTL : July 2004 Contents One such lesbian feminist activist's life was celebrated in
June. Pam Ledden died on 24 April after an 18-month
battle with lymphoma. For those new to the older lesbian
feminist community or Sydney, Pam's name may be unknown,
however the legacy of her ideas and work is not.
Pam and another of Australia's feminist leaders Biff Ward
had been friends since the 1970s. Although living in different
cities they had met at conferences and through mutual friends.
In 1980 when Biff made a trip to Alice Springs she and other
women stayed in Pam's bus. Pam was at this time working with
Aboriginal women trying to establish an Aboriginal women's
refuge. Their friendship continued and when on holiday with
each other in Adelaide in 1986 they shared their concerns about
the changes they were noticing now they were in their 40s.
In the 1980s the women's movement was more inclusive of
lesbians, non-English speaking background women and
Aboriginal women, but was still somewhat ageist. Pam and Biff
decided to organise a national conference for feminists over 40.
In rural Australia between Sydney and Adelaide during Easter
1987, forty-five feminists between forty and seventy, mostly
from Sydney and Adelaide, with participants from Canberra and
Melbourne, met at the first "Feminists 10 years in the Women's
Movement and over 40 years old" (hence10/40) conference.
Although most participants and the organisers were lesbian
this was not a specifically lesbian gathering. Many Australian
feminist, activist leaders participated in these early gatherings.
Deborah McCulloch, the first women's adviser in South
Australia, who supported and initiated many significant
women's programs, recalls the importance of these first
gatherings in terms of women's aging. She said menopause was
talked about for the first time in a comprehensive way. Deborah
would like "to honour Pam for her energy, and commitment as
an indomitable excellent organiser."
The conference was a significant contribution to the lesbian
and women's movement, as from this small beginning the
vibrant older lesbian 10/40 Matrix group in Sydney was
formed. Also, there have been regular gatherings of older
lesbians over the last 17 years in Adelaide, Sydney, Perth,
Tasmania, Melbourne and other country locations. Reunions
are held regularly -- keep your antennae out for information
about next year's gathering.
Pam's early involvement in the Women's Movement was as
a collective member of Leichhardt Women's Community
Health Centre. Set up in 1973, this centre was a model for
many Women's Health Centres established around Australia.
Being a collective member in those days meant doing a
considerable amount of hands on work, and giving a lot of time
to discussion and debate, fundraising, and practical action.
In the mid-eighties, with other like-minded feminists Pam
formed a group called MediaSwitch to address sexism in the
media. This group was successful in having some seriously sexist
advertisements removed and educating the community about
sexism in the media. When Pam retired from the paid
workforce in 1999 she became actively involved in the Older
Women's Network. As long time friend and co-activist Dorothy
Cora describes her, "There were no half measures for Pam -- she
was full on with her motivations and her achievements."
Lesbian activists like Pam have to deal with conflict as well
as success. Pam was able to do both. Dorothy continues, "Pam
listened, challenged and clashed, but she didn"t bear grudges
... She was an extremely kind, generous and passionate
woman." It was always Pam's wish to maintain control over her
life and death. Despite her wishes she was not able to exercise
self-administered euthanasia. She leaves us with a challenge for
the future. As older lesbians, who have struggled for
independence and power throughout our life, we need to
explore our rights over our death. Last words from Dorothy:
"Pam was a great role model for many women who admired
her boldness, bravery, passion and politics."
Vale Pam Ledden, 1940---2004.
A FEMINIST PROTEST OF THE 1970s
OUR LEADERS ARE WOMEN WHO OBTAIN
FUNDS AND DO PRACTICAL WORK TO
MAKE THEORY A REALITY. BY SYLVIA KINDER.
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