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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: October 2017

7 - Women and technological change

from Part I - Women's Liberation


Invited lecture in a series of Foundation Lectures at the University of Adelaide in 1984 and published in Australian Feminist Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, Summer 1985. Everything that I wrote that was published in Australian Feminist Studies — of which I was the founding editor 1985-2005 — was peer-reviewed. Taylor & Francis, publishers of Australian Feminist Studies since 1996, have granted permission for some of that material to appear here.

I would like to begin with two quotations. The speaker in each is the same: a young man who had gained esteem at his university by making improvements to some chemical instruments. In the first quotation he is speaking about his discoveries in a subsequent piece of research; in the second quotation he is speaking about the object that he made as a result of those discoveries. Here is the first.

From the midst of this darkness a sudden light broke in upon me — a light so brilliant and wondrous, yet so simple, that while I became dizzy with the immensity of the prospect which it illustrated, I was surprised that among so many men of genius who had directed their enquiries towards that same science, that I alone should be reserved to discover so astonishing a secret … Some miracle may have produced it, yet the stages of the discovery were distinct and probable. After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.

The astonishment which I had first experienced on this discovery soon gave place to delight and rapture … What had been the study and desire of the wisest men since the creation of the world was now within my grasp.

Here is the second quotation, from two years later in the narrative.