Moving Stories

An intimate history of four women across two countries

By Alistair Thomson

Moving Stories

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-7646-6
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £18.95
  • Published Date: June 2011
  • BIC Category: Humanities / Social & cultural history, History, Social & cultural history, History


I'm not a good mother - not what Dr. Spock calls a "slow mother" who leaves her chores to make sure junior gets the right treatment. (Dorothy Wright, 1961) I must admit that I am no longer the same person who was tied to the kitchen sink at home. (Phyllis Cave, 1973) This book represents a unique collaboration between a historian and four ordinary women who were extraordinary letters-writers, family photographers and memoirists. As British migrants to Australia these women recorded in intimate detail aspects of everyday life and women's experience that are often lost to history: childcare and housework, housing and domestic appliances, friendship, family and married life. Taken together, their stories enrich and complicate our understanding of key themes in twentieth century women's history. This book will appeal to students and academics interested in British and Australian social history, oral history, women's studies and the lived experience of migration.


'Thomson leaves no stone unturned in his determination to avoid methodological criticism that sometimes besets oral historians. This is a valued addition to women's history, and an exemplary study in unpacking personal testimonies.'
Barbara Kearns, Family and Community History, vol. 15/1, 01/04/2012

'Here is a collaboration that opens up, in human and approachable ways, a world of experience conspicuously absent from dominant Australian history.'
Deb Anderson, Oral History Review, USA, 39, 2, 2012

'... these are stories from my mother's generation... which I have not yet learned to regard as history. What I would not give for a record so intricate, and so intimate, of women's migration in the nineteenth century.... The brilliance of this book is that it catches these stories just at the moment when they are ceasing to be familiar, representing them for a posterity for whom they will illuminate an unknown past.'
Penny Russell, Australian Book Review, September 2011

'Moving Stories... with its forensic and nuanced analysis of the way four women lived their lives, and its senstitive, skilful and multi-faceted analysis of the meaning behind memory and of the oral historian's craft, is an iconoclastic example of recent developments in both oral history and life writing.'
Jan Gothard, Australian Review of Public Affairs, September 2011

'Here the work of intricate oral history intriguingly intersects not only with some of the current predilections of novelists but with some of the most exciting findings of modern scientists of the human brain.'
Eric Richards, Biography, 35.2 (Spring 2012)


Alistair Thomson is Professor of History at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.



The Oral History Association Book Award

The Community Relations Commission for a multicultural New South Wales Award ($20,000)


List of figures Acknowledgements A note on punctuation of interviews and letters Introduction: Writing women's lives PART I Women's lives 1. Gwen Good: 'migration reminds me of a marriage' 2. Dorothy Wright: 'I'm not a good mother' 3. Joan Pickett's adventures in the south seas 4. Phyllis Cave: 'no longer tied to the kitchen sink' 5. Reflections: women's lives, women's history PART II Moving Stories 6. Letter Stories 7. Photo Stories 8. Memory Stories Bibliography Index

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