Anne Summers

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Anne Summers PhD AO (born 12 March 1945) is a writer and columnist, is best known as a leading feminist, editor and publisher. She was formerly Australia's First Assistant Secretary of the Office of the Status of Women in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Early life[edit]

Born Ann Fairhurst Cooper in Deniliquin, New South Wales in 1945, the oldest of six children to AHF and EF Cooper.[1] Summers grew up in a strict Catholic household in Adelaide, South Australia and was educated at Cabra Convent, a Catholic school in Adelaide. In her autobiography, she writes that her father (an aviation instructor) was an alcoholic and that she had a difficult relationship with her mother.

Leaving school at 17, Summers left home to take up a position in a bank in Melbourne then worked as a bookshop assistant until 1964, when she returned to Adelaide, enrolling in 1965 in an Arts degree in politics and history at the University of Adelaide. After becoming pregnant following a brief relationship in 1965, and refused a referral for a termination by her Adelaide doctor, she arranged an expensive abortion in Melbourne which was incomplete. She returned to her GP in Adelaide and was referred to an Adelaide gynaecologist to complete the abortion safely. She credits this experience as a key influence on her later work on behalf of women.[2]


While at university, Summers became a member of the Labor Club, later becoming aligned with the radical student movement and in marching against the Vietnam War. On 24 April 1967 she married a fellow student, John Summers, and the couple moved to a remote Aboriginal reserve where he worked as a teacher. Following an incident at her wedding Summers became estranged from her father, and never returned to her maiden name despite the short life of her marriage.

In December 1969, Summers left her marriage and became one of a group of five women to form the Women's Liberation Movement (WLM) in Australia. The group held their first national conference in May 1970, at the University of Melbourne, with 70 feminists attending.

Moving to Sydney in 1970, Summers and other WLM members squatted in two derelict houses owned by the Church of England, turning them into the Elsie Women's Refuge to provide shelter to women and children who were victims of domestic violence.

Summers received a postgraduate scholarship to do a PhD, which she used to write the book, Damned Whores and God's Police which looked at the history of women in Australia. She was offered a position to work as a journalist on the National Times, where she wrote an investigation into NSW prisons which led to a royal commission, and to Summers' being awarded a Walkley Award.

From 1986 to 1992, Summers lived in New York, becoming editor-in-chief of Ms. magazine, and, following a management buyout, co-owned the magazine, which eventually succumbed to a Moral Majority campaign and went bankrupt.

Summers was appointed a political adviser to Labor Prime Minister, Paul Keating, until 1993, heading the Office of the Status of Women in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet during this time. She was then appointed editor of the "Good Weekend" magazine, in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Summers joined the board of Greenpeace Australia in 1999 and in late September 2000 was appointed to take over the chair of Greenpeace International.


Personal life[edit]

Her long-term partner is Chip Rolley, the 2010 Creative Director of the Sydney Writers' Festival and editor of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's opinion program, The Drum.[3][4]


  • Summers, Anne (1975, 2nd ed 1985, 3rd ed 2002). Damned whores and God's police : the colonization of women in Australia. Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin Books.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  • Bettison, Margaret; Summers, Anne (1980). Her Story, Australian Women in Print 1788-1975. Sydney: Hale & Iremonger. 
  • Summers, Anne Gamble (1983). Gamble for power : how Bob Hawke beat Malcolm Fraser : the 1983 federal election. Melbourne: T Nelson Australia. 
  • Summers, Anne (1999). Ducks on the pond : an autobiography 1945-1976. Ringwood, Victoria: Viking. 
  • Summers, Anne (2003). The end of equality : work, babies and women's choices in 21st century Australia. Sydney: Random House. 
  • Summers, Anne (2009). The lost mother : a story of art and love. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. 


  1. ^ Who's Who
  2. ^ Anne Summers (1999). Ducks on the pond : an autobiography 1945-1976. Viking. p. 436. ISBN 978-0-670-88262-5. 
  3. ^ Schmidt, Lucinda (10 Jun 2009), "Profile: Anne Summers", The Age, retrieved 23 Apr 2012 
  4. ^ "Chip Rolley". ABC News. Retrieved 2016-03-21. 

External links[edit]