Liberating children: The Australian women's liberation movement and children's rights in the 1970s

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During the 1970s, Australian women's liberationists embraced a new approach to children's rights activism. In the name of 'children's liberation', they campaigned against a wide range of practices deemed to be oppressive - from sexist children's books, toys and clothing to authoritarian disciplinary practices, such as corporal punishment in schools. This article traces the origins of the new discourse of children's liberation, revisiting the work of North American radical feminist Shulamith Firestone and examining its reception in Australia in the early 1970s. Focusing on activism related to feminist spaces, education and sexuality, it examines women's liberationists' efforts to incorporate children's liberation into their political and cultural activities across the decade. Where children's liberation was initially understood to be a straightforward component of women's liberation, in practice significant tensions between the two agendas emerged. One lasting result of these tensions is that children's liberation came to be interpreted differently with respect to girls and boys, teenagers and younger children.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-74
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Children
  • Feminism
  • Shulamith Firestone
  • Education
  • Sexuality
  • 1970s
  • Australia


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