Dale Spender

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Dale Spender
Born (1943-09-22) 22 September 1943 (age 77)
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
PartnerTed Brown
RelativesSir Percy Spender (uncle)

Dale Spender (born 22 September 1943)[1] is an Australian feminist scholar, teacher, writer and consultant.

Early life[edit]

Spender was born in Newcastle, New South Wales, a niece of the politician Sir Percy Spender and crime writer Jean Spender. The eldest of three children, she has a younger sister Lynne, and a much younger brother Graeme. She attended the Burwood Girls High School, in Sydney and she was a Miss Kodak girl. In the early 1960s, as an MA graduate, she taught English at Meadowbank Boys High School, in Sydney's north-western suburbs. In the latter half of the 1960s she later taught English literature at Dapto High School. She started lecturing at James Cook University in 1974, before going to live 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 Pepys, the wife of Samuel Pepys, the book is a feminist critique of women's lives in 17th Century London.

Spender is a co-originator of the database WIKED (Women's International Knowledge Encyclopedia and Data) [2] 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.

Personal life[edit]

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.[3] She resides in Brisbane, Australia.



  1. ^ The Bibliography of Australian Literature: P–Z edited by John Arnold, John Hay (page 409).
  2. ^ Caryn Meller: Spending Cybertime, "Frauen und Internet", 1995.
  3. ^ Thompson, Peter: Dale Spender Archived 6 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Talking Heads (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), 15 April 2005.

External links[edit]