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.’’