A biography of Ethel May Punshon, known as Monte Punshon – A Secretive Century: Monte Punshon’s Australia 1882-1989 – by Tessa Morris-Suzuki has been published by Melbourne University Press.

Born in 1882 and living until she was 106, Monte was a known as a trailblazer and an iconoclast.

She visited Japan and had a love of Japanese language and culture. During WWII, she worked as a warden at Tatura internment camp in Victoria, where many Japanese families were interned. Moshi Inagaki, who had taught Monte Japanese, was one of the internees at Tatura.

In 1988, she was appointed to the Japanese Order of the Sacred Treasure.

Monte grew up in a secretive century. She lived in a society where appearances mattered, and keeping them up often involved creating silence around ancestral origins, painful memories and personal desires.
Monte Punshon refused to be labelled. She was, at various times, Ethel May Punshon, Miss Montague, Monte, Mickey and Erica Morley Punshon, moving effortlessly from the Methodist respectability of bourgeois Ballarat to the bohemian world of children’s travelling theatre, from patriotic amateur acting to pioneering radio work, from a dear old lady with perfect nineteenth-century diction to the bad girl who frequented edgy Melbourne bars, playing a lively part in the secret drag parties of 1930s queer Melbourne. There were social as well as personal reasons for her concealment. In a life that spanned more than a century – 1882 to 1989 – Monte Punshon witnessed crucial events in Australia’s history, and her story shines a light on the hidden corners and complexities of late nineteenth- and twentieth-century society. In this imaginative biography, Tessa Morris-Suzuki brings to life a woman who was unafraid to be, and who accepted, willingly, the price of her liberation.

Melbourne University Press website

Tessa Morris-Suzuki is Professor Emerita of History at the Australian National University, where she held the positions of Distinguished Professor and Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow. In 2013 she was awarded the Fukuoka Prize (Academic) for contributions to Asian studies. Morris-Suzuki is the author of 25 non-fiction books, including The Past Within Us: Media, Memory, History; Exodus to North Korea: Shadows from Japan’s Cold War; Japan’s Living Politics: Grassroots Action and the Crises of Democracy; and On the Frontiers of History: Rethinking East Asian Borders. She has also published two historical novels, The Searcher and The Lantern Boats.

Melbourne University Press website
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