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Permalink to original version of “Barry Williams talks of her hunger strike for women’s issues in 1970’s” Barry Williams talks of her hunger strike for women’s issues in 1970’s

In the light of Dan Perrins’ hunger strike we think it timely to republish this classic interview between Dean Esmay and Australian Barry Williams who also went on a hunger strike for women’s issues back in the 1970s, which met with success in having those issues heard and acted upon.

Why should you find Barry Williams interesting? Well listen to this interview and you’ll see. We talk about her history of being a victim of domestic violence; being a single mother raising multiple children without any support from the government or her violent alcoholic husband; and supporting her kids by herself even after sustaining a crippling injury.

We also talk about her improved relationships later on in life with her children’s father, her history of doing a hunger strike in front of Parliament House in Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory, plus her interactions with multiple Australian Prime Ministers and other government ministers and opposition leaders over the last 40 years.

Barry Williams and daughter Michael start a Lone Mother rally at Parliament house, Canberra 1977

Barry Williams and daughter Michael start a Lone Mother rally at Parliament house, Canberra 1977

 She describes the organization she built called the Lone Mothers Association; her lifelong efforts to help battered women; her being the only registered Federal lobbyist in Australia who speaks to women’s issues; how the Australian government treats women and girls today versus decades ago; her work with various government ministers and opposition party leaders; her work with various court magistrates and officials, and more. Her Lone Mothers Association may just be the largest and most successful women’s aid society in the world, even though they continue to struggle to find any recognition or support, and it is possibly the oldest still-running organization for mothers in the world.

But here, listen to our interview and see for yourself:

The funny thing about Barry is just how disarming she is. When you talk to her, she sort of comes off as a genial, slightly rambly, moderately incoherent gal who’s just a little out of her depth.

I said she comes off that way.

In reality, once you actually start listening to the woman, she’s as smart as anyone you’ll ever come across who works on women’s and girls’ issues, and she has accomplished more in this area than anyone I have ever met. When you start listening to her story, and what she’s accomplished over the last four decades, and what she’s still doing, you’ll be completely humbled: it is entirely possible that no one in the world has done more to help women and girls than this one woman. And no, I’m not exaggerating in the slightest.

Barry is so disarming and so offhand in her manner of speaking, I did not even notice just how much she was saying while I was talking to her. It was only in going back and editing the interview for clarity and reviewing it a second time that I noticed her amazing habit of making seemingly offhand comments, when she was actually rattling off four or five absolutely fascinating bits of history and factual information at once, in a virtual blizzard of information and insights. You could write a book about everything she says in this interview. Indeed, I recommend listening to this interview once, then, thinking about it a bit, and going back to listen to it again. You may even want to take notes. This is a woman who’s known multiple Australian Prime Ministers, has received awards and recognition from the President of the United States and the heads of other governments, and she talks to you like she’s just some gal having a beer and discussing the latest football match on television.

It is arguable that today’s women’s movement stands on the shoulders of giants like Barry Williams, and it is important that we recognize, honor, and yes, even revere them. We hope that Barry’s story brings inspiration to activists and to Dan Perrins as they continue to fight for the human rights of women.