Here at Dodgy Perth we’re a little over hearing so much praise for St Edith of Cowan. After all, how seriously can you take someone who named herself after a local university?
Should we save her house? Probably. Should ECU have spent $715,000 on a tent to name after her? Probably not. Because she was Australia’s first female politician should we assume she was Gandhi and Mother Theresa rolled into one? Absolutely not.
What really gets us is the way everyone keeps going on about how much she loved all of the little children? Did she? Let’s take a look.
In 1929 the Government proposed a new law which would sterilise any girl who they decided was ‘mentally defective’. This was needed, it was said, because the ever growing number of mental deficients were “poisoning with their hereditary taints the lifeblood of the State”.
Edith Cowan, who loved children you’ll remember, was outraged and demanded the bill be changed. She didn’t think, of course, the bill was offensive, but that it did not go far enough. The proposed law said parental consent was necessary before sterilisation, and Edith thought this was wrong. Parents were being cruel by letting their idiot children breed, and “the moron girl should be so treated that she would not become a menace by reproducing her type”.
Fortunately, the bill was shelved and before the Government could reconsider it the Nazis had given that kind of thing a bad name.
Edith Cowan did many great things in her life, but she also held some extremely offensive views. Let’s not create a saint from her life story but remember her as an all-too-real complex human being.