Cham­pion of the for­got­ten au­thors


New Zealand women writ­ers were ac­cepted and suc­cess­ful be­fore World War II and again af­ter 1970, but for al­most three decades misog­yny ruled in lit­er­ary cir­cles.

Paekakariki writer, pub­lisher and former sec­ond- hand book dealer Michael O’Leary noted the lack of strong women writ­ers in that era and made it the sub­ject of his doc­toral the­sis, now pub­lished in book form, Wed­nes­day’s Women.

‘‘I have al­ways been in­ter­ested in peo­ple who are marginalised or left out,’’ he said. ‘‘I have al­ways tried, as a pub­lisher and a writer to in­clude women in any­thing I had been do­ing.

‘‘The par­tic­u­lar time had a real kind of misog­y­nist at­ti­tude,’’ O’Leary said. ‘‘Peo­ple like [poet Allen] Curnow really put down women.’’

Curnow edited a po­etry an­thol­ogy in 1945, but only two of its 16 po­ets were women.

‘‘Women who were suc­cess­ful in the pe­riod . . . mainly had their success overseas. They weren’t con­sid­ered to be of any merit here.’’

O’Leary said he drew his ti­tle from the nurs­ery rhyme Wed­nes­day’s Child, who was ‘‘full of woe’’.

‘‘It seemed to fit in quite well. It’s a bit of tip of the hat to Robin Hyde who wrote Wed­nes­day’s Chil­dren, and Re­nee wrote a play called Wed­nes­day’s Child, he said.

‘‘I wouldn’t say I am a fem­i­nist, per se,’’ he said. ‘‘I prob­a­bly picked up on things to do with fem­i­nism from [my sis­ter], but I had al­ways seen women as equal to men.’’

At the Paekakariki launch the co-su­per­vi­sor of O’Leary’s the­sis work, Ali­son Lau­rie, said that if a woman had writ­ten Wed­nes­day’s Women it would have been dis­missed as ‘‘ just a fem­i­nist on her high horse again’’.

‘‘That’s why it was im­por­tant that a man did it,’’ O’Leary said.



Wed­nes­day’s au­thor: ‘‘I wouldn’t say I ama fem­i­nist, per se.’’

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