Victoria Haskins – Stories my Great-Grandmother Didn’t Tell Me, Or, Family Histories and the Memories of Nations

Event Date: 2 November 2017

Dreyfus Room
28 Russell Square
Birkbeck, University of London
London WC1B 5DT

The Raphael Samuel History Centre (RSHC) in collaboration with The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities presents:

Family History Workshop – Stories my Great-Grandmother Didn’t Tell Me, Or, Family Histories and the Memories of Nations

Speaker: Professor Victoria Haskins (Professor of History and Director of Purai Global Indigenous and Diaspora Research Studies Centre, The University of Newcastle, Australia, and Visiting Fellow, Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities)

In the 1990s I discovered an extraordinary story that had been forgotten in my family. My great-grandmother, Joan Kingsley-Strack (better known as “Ming”), had been an activist for Australian Aboriginal citizenship rights in the 1930s. Even more extraordinarily, she had arrived at this political position as the result of her experiences employing a succession of young Aboriginal women as servants. Piecing together my great-grandmother’s story led me to trace the descendants of the women who worked for her, where I learnt that they, too, had chosen not to speak of this history to their families.

Their stories, however, spoke directly to a history that was (and remains) of profound significance to Australians – the history of the Stolen Generations and the removal of Indigenous children from their families, and the history of an ongoing denial of basic human rights to Aboriginal people, and their struggle to survive and assert their rights as Indigenous Australians.

In this talk, I discuss how in recovering my own family connection to this history, my understanding, as a historian, of the nature of our relationship to the past was transformed and invigorated. I reflect on how and why histories get forgotten in families, and how family histories intersect with broader narratives of communities and nations.

The Family History Workshop aims to bring genealogists and family historians together with academic historians working on the history of their own families, or who are using family history methodologies in their work. These events are not intended as training sessions for how to do family history; instead they are intended to be discussion forums where family historians can explore the wider historical contexts of their own families, and where academic historians can learn more about the work being done by genealogists. We are planning more workshops and seminars over the coming year, and encourage anyone with an interest in family history to attend. Join either the RSHC or BIH’s mailing list to be the first to hear about these seminars.

Victoria Haskins, is a Visiting Fellow at the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities (November, 2017). Professor of History at the University of Newcastle, and Director of the Purai Global Indigenous and Diaspora Research Studies Centre, she has published widely on the history of Indigenous domestic service, in Australia and the US. Her book publications include One Bright Spot (2005), Uncommon Ground: White women in Aboriginal history (2005), Matrons and Maids (2012), and Colonization and Domestic Service: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (2015). Most recently, she has co-authored a book with her husband, Aboriginal historian Professor John Maynard, on the experiences of Europeans who lived with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the early colonial period, Living with the Locals (2016).

Introduction by Dr Juila Laite (Birkbeck):

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