I have always deeply admired Jill Ker Conway, not as well know as Germain Greer, but a true icon of Australian feminism. She lived her life always a true equal, never questioning a woman’s rights.
This is a wonderful Obit in the New York Times
Growing up on a giant sheep ranch in the remote grasslands of Australia can shape a young girl’s whole life.
“In a labor-scarce society with a shortage of human energy, there is no room for social conventions about women’s work,” Jill Ker Conway, who grew up in just such a place, once noted. “The work had to be done. It never crossed anyone’s mind that you didn’t work up to your competence.”
By the time she made that observation, in 1975 and thousands of miles from her birthplace, Dr. Conway had proved the point. She had just become the first woman to be named president of Smith College, the prestigious women’s institution in Northampton, Mass.
And she was still early in a career filled with accomplishments. After a decade leading Smith, she wrote three acclaimed memoirs, among other books, and championed feminist causes and ideas. In 2013 she was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama.
Dr. Conway died on Friday at her home in Boston, Smith College announced. She was 83. No cause was given.
Kathleen McCartney, Smith’s current president, said in a telephone interview that she was struck not only by what Dr. Conway did for the college, but also by her multiple roles as feminist, author, scholar and woman of influence on the boards of companies like Nike and nonprofits like the Kellogg Foundation.
“One of the things I really like about Jill’s life as a model,” Dr. McCartney said, “is that she had different chapters in it.”
Jill Kathryn Ker was born on Oct. 9, 1934, in Hillston, New South Wales, in southeastern Australia, and grew up in nearby Coorain, where her parents, William and Evelyn A’Dames Ker, had a 32,000-acre sheep ranch. Her father died when she was 10, and at 12 Jill was sent to boarding school.
She later enrolled at the University of Sydney and received a history degree in 1958. In 1960 she made the crucial decision to leave Australia for graduate school in the United States.
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