The stone of anthropology

  • Victoria K. Haskins


From the outset Ming and Pearl were brought together not as servant and mistress, not even as victim and defender, but as two concerned activists. Ming’s telling of ‘the story of wronged aboriginal woman to women’ at public meetings was considered to be appropriate women’s work by her white male colleagues; the Aboriginal men at the head of the movement similarly considered Pearl to be a more appropriate person than they to speak on women’s issues.1 As a two-woman team it was difficult for Ming to sustain the maternalistic approach she had customarily adopted to Aboriginal women, not least because Pearl was somewhat older. Pearl was intensely proud of her own mother, and as a token of her regard for Ming she gave her a studio postcard portrait of her, further deflating any presumption by Ming of a maternal role. The fact that Pearl herself was also a mother, with a son involved in the war that had so recently broken out, encouraged Ming’s identification with her as an equal — Ming’s son Peter was now an air force pilot. The two became close, personally and well as politically, as evidenced perhaps most profoundly by Pearl confiding in Ming about sensitive personal relationship matters.2


Aboriginal People Bright Spot Aboriginal Woman Police Commissioner Board Representation 
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  1. 1.
    Burdeu to J. K. S., 18 April 1941: JKS. Heather Goodall, ‘Pearl Gibbs: Some Memories’, Aboriginal History, vol. 7, no. 1 (1983), pp. 20–2, 21.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    J. T. Patten and W. Ferguson, Aborigines Claim Citizen Rights! (Sydney: The Publicist, 1938), 6. Ferguson to Premier (Stevens), 1 February 1939: PDCF.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Pearl Gibbs, letter to Woman Today, April 1938, 3; quoted in Megan McMurchy Margot Oliver and Jeni Thornley For Love or Money: A Pictorial History of Women and Work in Australia (Ringwood: Penguin, 1985), 106.Google Scholar
  4. 28.
    Jack Horner, Bill Ferguson: Fighter for Aboriginal Freedom (Canberra: J. Horner, 1994), 85.Google Scholar

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© Victoria K. Haskins 2005

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  • Victoria K. Haskins

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