Woman Holmes, Katie (1962 - )

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Written by Patricia Grimshaw, The University of Melbourne

Katie Holmes is a leader in Australian history, contributing in innovative ways to women's history, gardening and environmental history. She was born in Sydney in 1962 but spent most of her childhood in Melbourne where she attended East Ivanhoe Primary School and then Presbyterian Ladies College. She proceeded to the University of Melbourne and graduated with a BA Honours degree in History in 1984. Holmes worked on a number of community history projects before undertaking postgraduate study. In 1993 she was awarded a PhD from the University of Melbourne for her thesis Spaces in Her Day: Diaries of Australian women, 1920-1945.

In 1993 Holmes was appointed to a lectureship in Australian History at the Australian National University. She moved from the ANU to take up a lectureship in women's studies at La Trobe University in 1994. She taught both women's studies and history for many years before focusing particularly on teaching history during a period of part-time employment. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 2006 and Professor in 2013.

A hallmark of Holmes' work has been her examination of the relationship and interaction between individuals and their culture and society. As a young researcher Holmes explored an early interest in women's personal writings. Her early work on the letters and diaries of Australian World War I nurses made a pioneering contribution to the study of women in war. Holmes continued her study of women's intimate writings in her PhD. Later published as Spaces in Her Day: Australian Diaries of the 1920s & 1930s (1995), this work used women's diaries to elucidate the ways in which women made sense of their lives, and the influences which shaped both their lives and their inscribing of them. Spaces in Her Day was short listed for three awards: the 1996 NSW Premiers award for non-fiction in two categories (non-fiction and literary or cultural criticism); the Age non-fiction book of the year; the 1996 'Talking Book' award. In 2008 Holmes published, with Susan K Martin and Kylie Mirmohamadi, Reading the Garden: the settlement of Australia, a cultural history of gardens and gardening. Her interest in gardens and women's personal writings came together in her 2011 book Between the Leaves: Stories of Australian women, writing and gardens (University of Western Australia Press), shortlisted for the Magarey Medal for biography and the Sid Harta Fellowship of Australian writers.

Holmes has also published edited works: Freedom Bound II: documents on women in modern Australia (with Marilyn Lake, 1995); Women's Rights, Human Rights; international historical perspectives (with Patricia Grimshaw and Marilyn Lake, 2001), Green Pens (with Kylie Mirmohamadi and Susan K Martin, 2004); Exhuming Passions (with Stuart Ward, 2011). In 2011 Holmes co-edited the Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes with James Beattie. Holmes has served as a member of the Editorial Board of Australian Feminist Studies, and Oecology: International Review of Environmental History, and as review editor of Australian Historical Studies. She has served on the Boards of the Australian Garden History Society and Deaf Children Australia

In 2010 Holmes held the Keith Cameron Chair in Australian History at University College Dublin. She is currently working on an environmental history of the mallee lands of southern Australia, and on a national oral history project, Australian Generations: life histories, generational change and Australian memory. Throughout her career Holmes has maintained a strong commitment to, and passion for, undergraduate teaching and postgraduate supervision. She considers this work as important as her contribution to historical scholarship.

Holmes lives in Melbourne with her husband and two daughters.

Published Resources

Book Sections

  • Lake, Marilyn, 'From Self-Determination via Protection to Equality via Non-Discrimination: Defining Women's Rights at the League of Nations and the United Nations', in Grimshaw, Patricia; Holmes, Katie and Lake, Marilyn (eds), Women’s Rights and Human Rights: International Historical Perspectives, Palgrave, London, England, 2001. Details

Edited Books

  • Grimshaw, Patricia; Holmes, Katie and Lake, Marilyn (eds), Women's Rights and Human Rights: International Historical Perspectives, Palgrave, London, England, 2001. Details
  • Lake, Marilyn and Holmes, Katie (eds), Freedom Bound 2: Documents on Women in Modern Australia, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, New South Wales, 1995. Details

Online Resources

See also