Woman Grieve, Norma Retta (1925 - 2006)

Brunswick, Victoria, Australia
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Alternative Names
  • Winter, Norma Retta (Maiden)

Written by Patricia Grimshaw, The University of Melbourne

Norma Grieve was a leader in the development of gender and women's studies based on her academic teaching and research at the University of Melbourne in the 1970s, where she proved a strong supporter of feminist issues on the campus for more than 40 years.

Grieve was born Norma Retta Winter in Brunswick in 1925, part of a large working-class family network. With her parents and three siblings she moved to Mildura where her father eventually became a builder. She attended Irymple State School and Mildura High School and left school after matriculating at the age of fifteen for a job in a bank and subsequent service in the Second World War in the WRANS. After the war, a period in which she was very active in left-wing politics, Norma took up an opportunity to train as a speech therapist and study part time at the University of Melbourne for an honours degree in psychology. Her outstanding results in her BA (Hons) and Master of Arts (1964) led to a PhD in 1974 and academic employment in the university's Psychology Department. Unusually for the 1950s and 1960s, she continued work after her marriage and the birth of two children, and throughout subsequent years as a single mother. Until her retirement in 1990 Norma remained at the University of Melbourne, where she was promoted to the level of Reader and Associate Professor.

Throughout the 1970s Norma Grieve was active in feminist campaigns on campus on a range of affirmative action issues to do with women staff, including numbers employed, the question of promotion, teaching and curricula. When an informal study group of Psychology women staff and mature-age students turned into an honours subject offered for credit, Norma's specific involvement in women's studies commenced. Convinced that issues of gender were best examined from an interdisciplinary perspective, she used her influence as an established senior academic to persuade the Arts Faculty to introduce a women's studies major in 1980. This led in time to a vigorous honours and postgraduate school, and to the appointment of dedicated staff. Meanwhile, Norma co-edited for Oxford University Press three interdisciplinary collections on women and gender that influenced a generation of students and scholars: Australian Women: Feminist Perspectives (1981); Australian Women: New Feminist Perspectives (1986); and Australian Women: Contemporary Feminist Thought (1994). Norma Grieve died in Melbourne in 2006.

Published Resources

Book Sections

  • Grieve, Norma, 'A Relatively Simple Affair', in Patricia Grimshaw and Lynne Strahan (eds), The Half-Open Door: Sixteen Modern Australian Women Look at Professional Life and Achievement, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, New South Wales, 1982, pp. 2444 - 259. Details
  • Grimshaw, Patricia, 'Norma Grieve: Psychologist, Feminist, Activist', in P. Grimshaw, R. Fincher, M. Campbell (ed.), Studies in Gender: Essays in Honour of Norma Grieve, Committee for Gender Studies, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, 1992, pp. 1 - 9. Details

Edited Books

  • Grieve, Norma and Burns, Alisa (eds), Australian Women: New Feminist Perspectives, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Victoria, 1986. Details

Journal Articles

  • Grimshaw, Patricia, 'Norma Retta Grieve (1925-2006): Psychologist, Feminist and Activist', Australian Feminist Studies, vol. 22, no. 54, November 2007, pp. 367 - 368. Details

See also