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Jessie Street - A Revised Autobiography
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Jessie Street - A Revised Autobiography

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Published 2004
Jessie Street was a key figure in Australian political life for over 50 years. She was the only Australian woman delegate at the founding of the United Nations in 1945; the initiator of the 1967 “Aboriginal” amendment of the Australian Constitution; the colleague of Pablo Picasso on the World Peace Council Executive; and a controversial promoter of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, known as “Red Jessie” to a generation of Australians. She led an extraordinary, vivid life. Her autobiography, written with candour and humour, is a guidebook to the 20th century. From Jessie’s early life in the Australian bush, readers join suffragette marches in London; hear civil rights singers in the jazz clubs of New York; visit occupied Egypt, imperial India, outback Australia, Stalin’s Moscow; witness the Anschluss and Sudetenland crises in Europe in 1938; and see the destroyed cities of London, Berlin, Leningrad, and Hiroshima after the Second World War. Her life was one dedicated to peace and justice. The daughter-in-law, wife and mother of three Chief Justices, she met and worked with extraordinary figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Nancy Astor, Margaret Sanger, Jawaharal Nehru and many others. Her autobiography, first published in 1966, is now reissued, corrected and edited, a sparkling, powerful, bright book that truly reflects Jessie Street’s energy, charm and practical humanitarianism. CONTENTS The Bushranger Darjeeling A year abroad Yulgilbar Wycombe Abbey Oh, My Daughter! A Yugilbar year Newtown tarts Adventures abroad Keeping a dairy Work for Women International women Votes for women At Waverley House A wedding Home Service Mrs Jessie Street The House Service Company 1925 Home Training Institute United Associations League of Nations Union Around the world Seeing the World Voyaging Depression At home At work Nurses Farmers Teachers Families Nations A Soviet Summer Italy London Prague Berlin Vienna Budapest Moscow Kiev Yalta Foxtrot in Moscow Geneva Paris London The New Deal Friends and Enemies Reporting back Resuming work Last days of the League 'Our great ally' A Pacific war A bid for Parliament Women at war War & Peace Occupied Australia Occupied women A Woman's Charter Aliens Control Committee A United Nations Waltzing Matilda Seeing the States London lights Berlin bereaved Moscow mission Living in Leningrad The new resistance The spirit of India Home again Epilogue (Selected letters 1940s-1960s) List of Illustrations/ Index REVIEWS Street’s voice comes through strongly and more coherently than before, both as story-teller and as commentator. Australian Journal of Politics and History, Vol 51(1), 2005 Everything about this book makes it more appealing and accessible than its predecessor, from its attractive cover to its reasonably comprehensive index. Labor History, No 87, November 2004 Jessie Street deserves to be remembered as one of the greater Australians of the twentieth century. Reviews in Australian Studies, No 1, March 2006 Extremely welcome … Purists may cavil at Coltheart’s interference with the original but her labours have ensured that it is a far more reader-friendly version that will bring ‘Red Jessie’ to the notice of a new generation of readers and activists. Australian Historical Studies, Vol 36 Issue 125 (April 2005) Jessie Street emerges as a forthright, funny and incredibly determined achiever. The Weekly Times, 23 June 2004 Jessie Street was not 40 years ahead of her time, as a friend suggested, but closer to a century. The Queensland Lawyer, Vol 25(3), December 2004 Jessie Street courageously went where no woman had gone before … Her inspirational life is brought to vivid life by the meticulous work of the editor. There is a good selection of photographs to accompany this rejuvenated text. Ballarat Courier, 20 August 2004 Jessie Street’s autobiography should be compulsory reading for anyone who seeks potential change. … To describe this autobiography as inspiring is an understatement. It is an extraordinary record of a remarkable life. Indeed, it is difficult to know how to explain Street’s immense contribution to women’s rights, welfare economics, social justice and peace studies. … documents Street’s relentless social work meticulously, clearly and, at times, quite humourously. … Jessie Street’s autobiography offers a history of the 20th century from the point of view of an Australian woman of vision, commitment and rare political talent. Australian Book Review, June-July 2004 This the story of a great Australian. …Over-optimistic she may have been, but where today is the equal of Jessie Street, depicted so refreshingly in this book? Civil Liberty, Issue 197, June 2004 Among all great Australian women, Jessie Street has got to be very close to the top of the pile. What a remarkable life … This is a new edition of her autobiography, carefully revised for inaccuracies and repetitions by Lenore Coltheart, who has added illuminating letters and photographs. The result is an engrossing first-person account of a truly remarkable life. Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 May 2004 Jessie Street was an extraordinary figure in Australian and international political life for more than 50 years. … This is the story of an original thinker dedicated to bettering the lives of others. … It is clear from this book that she had a sharp intellect and the courage and energy to put many of the goals springing from her muscular, pragmatic idealism into effect. … One wonders what Street, with her profound belief in social justice, would think of Australian society today. Penelope Hanley, Canberra Times, 20 March 2004 From her childhood in India and NSW at the turn of the century to English private school and Sydney University, marriage to a Supreme Court Chief Justice and international travel (especially Europe on the crest of war and in the chill of the Cold War), the life of pioneering feminist / socialist / activist Jessie Street was a crowded and dramatic one. Her writing is fairly matter-of-fact but what shines through is her preparedness to rock convention, her passion for ideas and her resolution in adversity, as when, for example, her passport was taken from her when the Cold War was hot. First published in 1966, this streamlined edition should introduce an important figure to a new generation of Australians. Steve Carroll, The Age - Review, Saturday 20 March 2004 Jessie Street was a key public figure for 50 years – a pioneering Australian feminist, instrumental in setting up the UN, and the initiator of the 1967 amendment to the constitution that gave Aborigines basic rights. This autobiography was first published in 1967, and has been re-edited to eliminate inconsistencies and restore chronology. It covers Jessie Street’s life up to the end of World War II, and is a fascinating first-hand account of a world at war and a brain at work. Jessie Street was fired by a single idea – all people are equal. This idea emerges from the book as a simple, practical notion, and she writes of it simply and practically whether touring the USSR, India or the US. Stories about the difficulties of getting changed in a railway cabin shared with two Russian men, or a complex analysis of the economics of capitalism, are dealt with one after the other with equal humour and sensibility. One does what one has to do – undresses in the toilet or overthrows capitalism – and then moves on to the next problem without making a fuss. This is an important reissue, written in an engaging style, and is recommended. Australian Bookseller & Publisher, March 2004
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