Woman Grimshaw, Patricia Ann


Written by Susan Foley and Charles Sowerwine, The University of Melbourne

Patricia Sinclair was born 16 December 1938 in Auckland, into a working-class family (her father worked on the wharves). She studied at the University of Auckland, receiving her BA in 1960 (Senior Scholar in History and English) and her MA in 1963 (First Class Honours). From her youth, she led in the construction of the history of women, both of the coloniser and of the indigenous. Her MA thesis, published in a revised version under the title Women's Suffrage in New Zealand (1972, republished 1975, 1987), first established her as a pioneer in women's history. She married and followed her husband to Melbourne in 1965, raising four children while undertaking a PhD at the University of Melbourne under the supervision of Greg Dening, a leader, with Inga Clendinnen of the Melbourne Group of ethnographic history. Awarded the degree in 1987, she published her thesis under the title, Paths of duty: American missionary wives in nineteenth-century Hawaii (1989); this work opened new perspectives on the study of white women in the colonial context. Once thought of only in condescending terms, missionary wives were increasingly the subject of critiques of colonialism. Grimshaw was the first to restore agency to them while recognising their active role in the colonial project.

In 1977 she was appointed to a lectureship in women's history at the University of Melbourne, probably an Australian first. In 1993 she was named Max Crawford Professor of History, a chair she held through 2006, when she became a Professorial Fellow in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies. Her distinguished academic career was marked by her continuing leadership in women's history. In 1979, she established a pioneering course on women's history, 'Changing Concepts of Women', an initiative which opened into a centre for the history of women the following year (becoming 'history of gender' in 1991). During her tenure at Melbourne, she supervised a hundred higher degree theses in women's history, covering both Australia and the world. Her students would create courses and centres of women's history across Australia and beyond. She actively supported the networks thus created, initiating numerous collective projects: on women's history (Australian women: feminist perspectives, 1981, with N. Grieve); on the colonial family (Families in colonial Australia, 1985, with C. McConville et E. McEwen); on the first women at the University of Melbourne (The Half-open door: sixteen modern Australian women look at professional life and achievement, 1982, with L. Strahan; this work attained widespread readership).

Grimshaw led the mainstreaming of women's history through a feminist reading of Australian history in Creating a nation, 1994 (republished 1996, 2006, with M. Lake, A. McGrath et M. Quartly). She was co-founder of the International Federation for Research in Women's History/Fédération Internationale pour la Recherche en Histoire des Femmes, of which she was president from 1995 to 2000. In the last decade, she was the author or co-author of a number of works on cultural contact, on missionaries, on human rights and on indigenous peoples: Equal Subjects, Unequal Rights: Indigenous Peoples in British Settler Societies, 2003, with J. Evans, D. Philips and S. Swain, and Women's rights and human rights: international historical perspectives, 2001, with M. Lake, and K. Holmes. She also participated in a number of major projects, including 'The Australian Women's Register' (http://www.womenaustralia.info/) and 'Women and Leadership in a Century of Australian Democracy' (http://www.womenaustralia.info/awal/). From 2006 to 2010, she was a member of the Committee of the National Foundation for Australian Women.

Additional sources: Information from Professor Grimshaw.

Archival Resources

National Library of Australia Oral History Collection

  • Patricia Grimshaw interviewed by Rosemary Francis in the Women and leadership in a century of Australian democracy oral history project [sound recording], 16 November 2012, ORAL TRC 6290/35; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details

Published Resources

Book Sections

  • Grimshaw, Patricia, 'Bessie Harrison Lee and the Fight for Birth Control', in Marilyn Lake and Kelly Farley (eds), Double Time: Women in Victoria, 150 Years, Penguin Books, Melbourne, Victoria, 1985, pp. 139 - 147. Details
  • Harper, Jan, 'Three Tongues, One Voice: Towards Equal Opportunity for Women at the University of Melbourne', in Grimshaw, Patricia; Fincher, Ruth; and Campbell, Ruth (eds), Studies in Gender; Essays in Honour of Norma Grieve, The University of Melbourne: Committee for Gender Studies, Melbourne, Victoria, 1992, pp. 78 - 95. Details
  • 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

Journal Articles

  • Grimshaw, Patricia, 'Falling into Women's History', Feminist Histories, History Institute of Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, 1991, pp. 20-33. Details
  • Swain, Shurlee, 'Essays in Honour of Patricia Grimshaw', Australian Feminist Studies, vol. 22, no. 52, March 2007. Details

Online Resources