Leading feminist Anne Summers’ radical ideas shaped by restrictions on '60s Adelaide women

Anne Summers’ feminism and work formed out of experiences in Adelaide of the 1960s.

Anne Summers, a leading feminist, editor and publisher, had her formative experiences in Adelaide.

Growing in a strict Catholic household in Adelaide, Summers was educated at Cabra College. She had a difficult relationship with her parents.

After leaving school at 17, Summers worked in Melbourne until 1964, when she returned to do a politics and history degree at Adelaide University.

Becoming pregnant after a brief relationship in 1965, Summers was refused a referral for termination by her Adelaide doctor. After an expensive, but incomplete, abortion in Melbourne, she returned to her Adelaide GP and was referred to an Adelaide gynaecologist to do the abortion safely. Summers says this experience was key to her later work for women.

At university, Summers joined the Labor Club, later aligning with the radical movement and marching against the Vietnam war. In 1967, she married John Summers and they moved to a remote Aboriginal reserve where he worked as a teacher. In 1969, Summers left her marriage and helped found the Women's Liberation Movement in Australia. Summers used a postgraduate scholarship to write Damned Whores and God's Police, a history of Australian women. Working on the National Times, she investigated NSW prisons, leading to a royal commission and a Walkley Award.

From 1986-1992, Summers lived in New York, becoming editor-in-chief of Ms magazine. She was then appointed political adviser to prime minister Paul Keating. (South Australian abortion law reform, allowing terminations under certain circumstances, was introduced by LCL premier Steele Hall in 1969. The Family Planning Association was formed in South Australia a year later.)

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