Monday, August 8, 2011

She got away with blue murder and loved every minute of it: vale Nancy Wake

I'd say RIP, but she doesn't look to me at all like the kind of person who'd have any interest in resting in peace, not even at 98.

Here's a question*: why is it that Australian history devotes thousands of words to that pair of expensive, incompetent show-ponies Burke and Wills, not to mention the criminal and obviously a bit disturbed Ned Kelly, but that there are few books, and I was never taught anything at school or university and I bet nobody else reading this was either, about this heroic ratbag and tearaway of a woman?

*Rhetorical. You know the answer, and I know the answer.

18 comments:

firstkitten said...

i learnt about her from a movie with noni hazlehurst in the lead role.

i think we know why we don't learn about female heroes.

elsewhere said...

I learned about the 'white mouse' from my mother, who borrowed the Russell Braddon book from the library for me when I was about 12. That's one thing I have my mother to thank for.

elsewhere said...

P.S. She always looked pretty good, even at 98.

Jen at Semantically driven said...

Good question. I wish I'd heard about her before she died.

The Elephant's Child said...

And she was so much more interesting than the people who were shoved down our throats. Sigh. Not to mention more heroic.

via collins said...

98?

98 AND having achieved a fulfilling life??

Where does one get a life like that?

Superb.

WV: whand

Susan said...

Honestly, Kerryn. She was an awful woman. Anyone who met her can tell you that. I could say more but this is a private space..

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Susan, are you a Susan I know? Not that it matters, just curious.

She may well have been an awful woman for all I know. I didn't say she was nice, I said she was crazy-brave and heroic and it seemed odd that we didn't know more about her. Ned Kelly and Burke and Wills were all pains in the arse, too. Unless you think a woman should only be allowed to be famous if she's nice.

Liam said...

She was an awful woman

Heroes, and saints, and interesting people, often are.

Bradman was a rolled-gold shit and an unashamed sectarian, but we never hear enough of him.

Penelope said...

Just as a side comment, it gives all the tipplers amongst us hope. She seems to have stuck to the gin and tonic right to the end. Such a refreshing change from all the boring old teetotallers.

And on the more serious issue, she should have been given a special VC, as her bravery was equal to that of the soldiers who have received one for their exploits in the 'legitimate' army.

Interestingly, she ran for Parliament at least twice for the Liberal Party, but was never given a safe seat by the Party organisers.

paul walter said...

wot liam sez.

zcat_abroad said...

The world needs more female heroes! (As opposed to heroines, who tend to drape themselves on furniture and sigh, waiting for the knight on a white charger.)

P.S. I, um, followed you (always sounds stalker-ish) from some comments on Stephanie Trigg's blog, because we share the same first name - correctly spelt! As I now have two students with this spelling, it gradually seems to be spreading.

- Kerryn Olsen

Saoirse said...

Her war time exploits are sullied for me by the fact that politically she was an extreme right winger, even by forties standards, who stood for election twice for Menzies' Liberal Party.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

An extreme right-winger who hated the Nazis and fought them heroically? If you say so. And if you think Menzies' Liberal Party was 'extremely right wing' then forgive me but you don't actually know very much about Menzies' Liberal party.

lilacsigil said...

I learned about Nancy Wake in high school in the 1980s, but from a feminist history teacher (who would have been Wake's contemporary) rather than as part of the curriculum. So lucky me, but there's no reason why she shouldn't be known by everyone.

R.H. said...

Not talking about Menzies entire government but there are always extreme right wingers in conservative parties. Extreme lefties are attracted to the opposition.
Menzies was an ardent monarchist and I'm guessing N Wake was too, which wouldn't currently endear her to what are merrily known as 'progressives'.

Frances said...

Rest in the Light seems to me to be a happier vale.

David Irving (no relation) said...

I'm pretty sure there was a movie made not long after the war (I saw it when I was a kid) that was (loosely) based on her wartime exploits. It may have had George Sanders in it. I certainly remember having been aware of her for most of my life.