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Joyce Stevens, 1928 - 2014

 

Reading anything about Sydney's Women's Liberation Movement in the 1970s and the name Joyce Stevens soon appears. A tireless worker who devoted herself to feminism, writing, unionism, socialism  and social activism, Joyce's life and work has inspired generations of women and girls.

 

While perhaps best known for her internationally famous poem, "Because we're women" (see image at right), Joyce Stevens also wrote (among other works) "A History of International Women's Day in words and images" (1985), "Lightening the Load - Women and Work - A History of WEAC 1982-1989" (1991) and "Healing Women - A History of Leichhardt Women's Health Centre" (1995).

 

She also contributed chapters to the works of other writers, especially about the history of social change and activism, and wrote aticles for magazines and periodicals.

 

Joyce was born at Cullen Bullen, NSW, in 1928, the daughter of Lucie Barnes. Her mother was a member of the Australian Labor Party and the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), and a great unionist and activist for the rights of women, especially widows.

 

In 1942, Joyce joined the Eureka League and in 1945 the CPA.

 

She was among those who produced the first Women’s Liberation newspaper in Australia, MeJane, and Australia’s first socialist-feminist magazine, Scarlet Woman.

 

Joyce was also instrumental in setting up the Control Abortion Referral Service, which led to the establishment of the first two women’s health centres in Sydney, at Leichhardt and Liverpool.

 

Joyce worked for the Women’s Employment Action Centre (WEAC) and was the CPA’s National Women’s Organiser and a journalist for the CPA’s newspaper, Tribune.

 

From 1988 she became an active advocate for tenants of public housing in NSW.

 

Together with Sue Wills, Joyce Stevens compiled the documentary archive, "The First Ten Years of Sydney Women’s Liberation", which was acquired by the State Library of NSW in 1999.

Joyce Stevens, 1975

In 1996 Joyce Stevens received an Order of Australia (AM) for service to social justice for women.

 

Joyce Stevens died on 6th May, 2014 at the age of 86 years.

 

Her book, "A History of International Women's Day in words and images" was transcribed by the Isis Creations with a new foreward by Joyce Stevens and is available online.

 

You can find out more about Joyce Stevens' life and work at: