I remember that in those days, as a kid, people (grown-ups) were referred to as ‘sheilas and blokes’. I don’t recall when or from who I first heard the reference of ‘guys and gals’, but I do remember it was considered very ‘American’. I do have a faint memory that at times the term sheila would be used as an insulting or derogatory term, by the tone used or the context in which the reference was made.
In 1976 a book was released called “Sheilas: A tribute to Australian women”, by John Larkins and Bruce Howard.
On a popular UK book seller site, the description states, “Profiles 70 women including Pat Lovell/ Judy Cassab/ Jeannie 'Liz' Bailey/ Sister Vivien Bullwinkel and many more: people with business, hitchhikers, craftmakers and artists, professionals, land owners, farmers, towns-people and more across Australia. (I like the one about the librarian in Armidale! She shares amusing stories about borrowers and books.)”
I purchased the book when it was released and in my quirky thought processes, I always thought of it as a great book. I know that in my twenties, I used it as a source of inspiration on many occasions, particularly when I experienced yet another ‘it’s a man’s world’ moment.
Over the years thoughts of the book have fleeted in and out of my mind and for some time I have felt great affection for those sheilas represented in the book. Contemplating why the term sheilas had become unfashionable over the decades, only increased my affection for it. So, a while back I decided to reclaim the term and often now use “sheilas” to refer to other women with affection, respect and empathy.
Recently, while rummaging through the bookcase looking for another title, I found it. Believing it was long gone in a garage sale, I was delighted to discover I still own my original copy and written proudly inside the cover is my name, printed in my early twenties hand script.
What a comfort it is, to reconnect with those sheilas and indulge myself in their inspiration once again.