Pat Giles, Perth and the Politics of Dress
University of Western Australia
Place of Publication
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Psychology and Social Science
By 1975 Pat Giles was no doubt a complex and somewhat enigmatic figure in Western Australian public life: she was a relatively conservative middle-aged, middle-class, competent, efficient, community-spirited mother-of-five who, in the company of her elder daughters, had become immersed in radical student politics as a mature-aged student in the heady days of the early 1970s; she was a nurse who later studied politics and industrial relations; she was a doctor's wife in a blue-collar suburb who readily assumed the mantle of leadership in community organizations; she was an articulate, well-groomed, dignified, outspoken agitator for women's rights in a sea of counter-cultural younger women who were indeed frequently dressed in overalls; she was a composed, steady, energetic and dependable figure who derived enormous satisfaction from her family but whose personal life had additionally been marked by tragedy, loss, sporadic violence and grief. Drawing on their own long experiences of being activist women working from the margins to influence political and social thinking and practices, these Communist Party women also argued strongly for a harmonious recognition of sisterhood based in shared activist agendas, so creating a less conflicted interaction between the different groups comprising the women's movement in Perth than existed in eastern states cities.