I was thrilled recently to meet with the amazing (Snaggletooth Productions) duo Erin McBean and Holly Zwalf (also, among other things, coordinator of Rainbow Families Queensland). They were interviewing me for the State Library of Queensland's Dangerous Women podcast project, which will highlight six women's stories. I am honoured to be one of these, recognising that for some I am 'dangerous', though I have never sought any such epithet, and I hope that something in my journey may help others in shining creatively. This is certainly the aim of the State Library. As has been shared with me:
'All of our Dangerous Women are compelling, bold, determined and dynamic and we hope that in sharing their stories they will empower listeners to share a deeper understanding of themselves and Queensland. We have selected stories of three women from our heritage collections, and two women with contemporary aspects, yourself included. We have employed the expertise of Snaggletooth Productions, an all female production company to produce and host the podcast'.
I hope to share more about the project as a whole as it unfolds. There are three key features however which have emerged for me which have strengthened my views (born of my life experience and my studies of women's history) of how 'dangerous women' who deliberately create positive change, or unwittingly represent positive change, come to flourish...
genealogies of dissent
Firstly, dangerous women always arise from their contexts and in relation to others. Most women recognise this and typically do not make such foolish statements as men who claim to be 'self-made' (I always want to ask their mothers about that!). This is not to underplay the extraordinary individual gifts of many dangerous women and how so many have had to stand out from their immediate crowd. However they are usually both products of, as well as contributors to, life-giving relationships and connections. In my own Ph.D research on first wave Christian feminism, I saw this strongly in what historians have called 'genealogies of dissent', in the networks of historical legacy and/or family and/or friendship and/or other affinity groups which have been nurtured women who have changed things for the better. One of the interesting aspects of this in the State Library's project has been the way in which the six central women's stories are unique but also overlap in sometimes fascinating ways. In my case, together with my life partner Penny, there are some striking associations with the story of Lilian Cooper, so closely related to her life partner Josephine Bedford.
we weave together
Secondly, the achievements of dangerous women are essentially woven together with others, out of their materials and inter-relationships. In the case of Lilian Cooper we see this strikingly in her collaborations with other women, most obviously and most deeply with Josephine Bedford, but also with others, including in often lively sparring with religious sisters. In my case, I would never have achieved anything positive I have without other women who nurtured, inspired, and collaborated with me. It was very right therefore, as well as a delight, to be interviewed with both my wonderful wife and astonishing creative first generation female priest Penny Jones, and also my friend and neighbour and brilliant feminist theologian the phosphorescent Dr Janice McRandal. In both their cases, they could also be lead subjects of a Dangerous Women project, together with many other women I am so grateful to know, or to have known. Together we weave new life and, like Lilian Cooper and others before us, create new threads for those who follow us to take up.
Thirdly, dangerous women are typically called forth by life-giving power to which they are prepared to be open, come what may. For on some level, perhaps many levels, they have to be adventurers. Few, after all, set out to be, or do, exactly that for what they are remembered. They certainly face times of challenge which cut deep. There is, whether or not it is related to identifiable spiritual traditions or not, a profound 'soul-struggle' in being a dangerous woman. This may be exhibited in different ways, but it is inevitably an initimate part of any truly creative life. For it is out of our depths that we are born to seize our possibilities, hand in hand with other brave and loving souls with whom we live and move.
Below is a brief tribute from myself and Penny (behind the iPhone) to our great foresisters Lilian Cooper and Josephine Bedford - with more information about them in the You Tube description section below...
Much has been written about these two great Brisbane pioneering women (in particular about Lilian as the first female doctor in Queensland) who contributed so richly to others in their lives. There has also been some recognition, on the one hand (through members of the LGBTIQA+ community) of their mutually sustaining intimate same-gender relationship, and, on the other hand (by Anglicans at their church of St Mary's Kangaroo Point) of their faith community involvements. However, though their shared grave and its inscriptions speak clearly of this, their 'queer' and faith aspects have not always been well recognised together (though see Michael Carden's helpful reflections below). As a 'queer' Anglican faith couple ourselves, my wife and I draw great inspiration from them and it is good to honour them personally for that, and for other connections of healing and life-giving change in which we share. (with thanks to Holly Zwalf and Erin McBean of Snaggletooth Productions, and the State Library of Queensland, for pointing us this way as we explored standing in Josephine & Lilian's 'dangerous women' genealogy and the links we have :-) )
for more info from recent work, see:
DestinyRogers' QNews article - https://qnews.com.au/the-story-of-two...
John Erawaker's Anglican Focus article - https://anglicanfocus.org.au/2019/11/...
Michael Carden's 'Hidden History of Biblical Interpretation
The Qwerty Girls and their forthcoming musical
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.