Women's rights and the healthy personality in mid-century Australia

Emma Sarian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article considers the women’s rights movement in mid-twentieth century Australia and introduces the discourse of the personality as a key component of women’s rights-claiming in this period. A formerly liberal theological discourse, the personality was increasingly deployed by activists during this period in psychological terms, as the development of the personality came to be articulated as a basic psychological need. Through this discourse, activists were able to articulate new visions of marriage, domestic life and motherhood that called for an expansion of women’s social role in the name of healthy individuals and thus a stable, democratic society. Ultimately, this article argues that the political claims made by later women’s rights activists, with their emphasis on individual identity, should be understood in terms of the discourses of selfhood and society that emerged in this earlier period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-631
Number of pages19
JournalWomen's History Review
Issue number4
Early online date16 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • activism
  • Australian history
  • feminist movement
  • individual
  • personality
  • psychology
  • science
  • self
  • women’s liberation
  • women’s rights


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