22 September 1943 |
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
|Relative(s)||Sir Percy Spender (uncle)|
Spender was born in Newcastle, New South Wales, a niece of the crime writer Jean Spender (1901–70). The eldest of three, she has a younger sister Lynne, and a much younger brother Graeme. She attended the Burwood Girls High School, in Sydney. In her youthful days she was a Miss Kodak girl. In the early 1960s, as a recent MA graduate, she taught English at Meadowbank Boys High School, in Sydney's north-western suburbs. In the latter half of the 1960s she also taught English Literature at Dapto High School. She started lecturing at James Cook University in 1974, before going to live for a while in London and publishing the book Man Made Language in 1980.
The book Man Made Language (1980) is based on Spender’s PhD research. Her argument is that in patriarchal societies men control language and it works in their favour. “Language helps form the limits of our reality. It is our means of ordering, classifying and manipulating the world” (1980:3). Where men perceive themselves as the dominant gender, disobedient women who fail to conform to their given inferior role are labelled as abnormal, promiscuous, neurotic or frigid. Spender draws parallels with how derogatory terms are used to maintain racism (1980:6). Man Made Language illustrates how linguistic determinism interconnects with economic determinism to oppress women in society and provides a wide breadth of analysis to do this. The book explores the assumed deficiencies of women, silencing, intimidation and the politics of naming.
In 1991, Spender published a literary spoof, The Diary of Elizabeth Pepys (1991 Grafton Books, London). Purportedly written by Elisabeth, the wife of Samuel Pepys, the book is a feminist critique of women's lives in 17th Century London.
Spender is co-originator of the database WIKED (Women's International Knowledge Encyclopedia and Data) and founding editor of the Athene Series and Pandora Press, commissioning editor of the Penguin Australian Women's Library, and associate editor of the Great Women Series (United Kingdom).
Today Spender is particularly concerned with intellectual property and the effects of new technologies: in her terms, the prospects for "new wealth" and "new learning". For nine years she was a director of Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) in Australia and for two years (2002–2004) she was the chair. She is also involved with the Second Chance Programme, which tackles homelessness among women in Australia.
She has been in a relationship with Ted Brown for over three decades. They have no children. She consistently dresses in purple clothes, a choice she initially made for its symbolic reference to the suffragettes. She currently resides in Brisbane, Australia.
- ''Man Made Language'' (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980)
- Invisible Women: The Schooling Scandal (1982)
- Feminist Theorists: Three Centuries of Womens Intellectual Traditions (Women's Press 1983) Editor. From Aphra Benn (1640-1689) to Simone De Beauvoir (1908 -1986)
- There's Always Been a Women's Movement in the Twentieth Century (1983)
- Time and Tide Wait for No Man (ed., 1984)
- For the Record: The Making and Meaning of Feminist Knowledge (Women’s Press, 1985)
- Mothers of the Novel: 100 good women writers before Jane Austen (1986).
- Series editor for Pandora Press "Mothers of the Novel" series (1986–1989)
- Scribbling Sisters (1987)
- Treats pioneers of the novel like Lady Mary Wroath, Anne Weamys, Katherine Philips, Anne Clifford, Lucy Hutchinson, Anne Fanshawe, Margaret Cavendish, Aphra Behn, Delarivière Manley, Eliza Haywood, as well as the achievements of Sarah Fielding, Charlotte Lennox, Elizabeth Inchbald, Charlotte Turner Smith, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Hays, Frances Burney, Maria Edgeworth, Lady Morgan, Amelia Opie, and Mary Brunton. She also provides a list of no fewer than 106 women novelists before Jane Austen.
- Writing a New World: Two Centuries of Australian Women Writers (Penguin Books, 1988)
- The Writing or the Sex?, Or, Why You Don't Have to Read Women's Writing to Know It's No Good (1989)
- Nattering on the Net: Women, Power and Cyberspace (Spinifex, 1995)
- Women of ideas and what men have done to them: From Aphra Behn to Adrienne Rich (1992)
- Living by the Pen: Early British Women Writers
- The Bibliography of Australian Literature: P–Z edited by John Arnold, John Hay (page 409).
- Thompson, Peter: Dale Spender, Talking Heads (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), 15 April 2005.
- Website of Dale Spender
- ABC Queensland profile of Dale Spender
- ABC 'Talking Heads' interview with Dale Spender