A Secretive Century: Monte Punshon’s Australia

A$35 (members A$29.50)
A Secretive Century : Monte Punshon's Australia / Tessa Morris-Suzuki (Carlton: Melbourne University Publishing, 2024)
A Secretive Century : Monte Punshon’s Australia / Tessa Morris-Suzuki (Carlton: Melbourne University Publishing, 2024)

By Tessa Morris-Suzuki

Australia’s modern transformation as revealed through the life of an extraordinary woman.

Monte grew up in a secretive century. She lived in a society where appearances mattered, and keeping them up often involved creating silence around ancestral origins, painful memories and personal desires.

Monte Punshon refused to be labelled. She was, at various times, Ethel May Punshon, Miss Montague, Monte, Mickey and Erica Morley Punshon, moving effortlessly from the Methodist respectability of bourgeois Ballarat to the bohemian world of children’s travelling theatre, from patriotic amateur acting to pioneering radio work, from a dear old lady with perfect nineteenth-century diction to the bad girl who frequented edgy Melbourne bars, playing a lively part in the secret drag parties of 1930s queer Melbourne. There were social as well as personal reasons for her concealment. In a life that spanned more than a century – 1882 to 1989 – Monte Punshon witnessed crucial events in Australia’s history, and her story shines a light on the hidden corners and complexities of late nineteenth- and twentieth-century society. In this imaginative biography, Tessa Morris-Suzuki brings to life a woman who was unafraid to be, and who accepted, willingly, the price of her liberation.

About the author

Tessa Morris-Suzuki is Professor Emerita of History at the Australian National University, where she held the positions of Distinguished Professor and Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow. In 2013 she was awarded the Fukuoka Prize (Academic) for contributions to Asian studies. Morris-Suzuki is the author of 25 non-fiction books, including The Past Within Us: Media, Memory, History; Exodus to North Korea: Shadows from Japan’s Cold War; Japan’s Living Politics: Grassroots Action and the Crises of Democracy; and On the Frontiers of History: Rethinking East Asian Borders. She has also published two historical novels, The Searcher and The Lantern Boats.

Published by Melbourne University Publishing, 2024. 272 pages. ISBN 9780522879940.

A$35 (AQuA members A$29.50), plus A$12 within Australia. Price includes GST.

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