Margaret “Marge” Tucker was a 20th-century Australian Aboriginal activist, organizer, and writer.
Born on the Moonahculla Reservein 1904, Tucker (at the age of 13) and her sister (who was 11) were forcibly separated from their mother and sent to Cootamundra Girls’ Home, where they were trained to be domestic workers for two years. She then went to work for little pay for white families, some of whom were abusive. These relocations came courtesy of the Aboriginal Protection Board, where “protection” in this case meant protecting Aboriginal people from themselves—separating families and dictating employment, residence, and education for Aboriginal people.
Once she was free from the regulations of the APB, Tucker moved to Melbourne where she met with indigenous rights activists like William Cooper, Bill Onus, and Douglas Nicholls. With them she co-founded the Australian Aborigines’ League (which would later become the Aborigines Advancement League) in 1932. She was also a great singer and directed the Aboriginal Women’s Choir!
Tucker was present at the first-ever Day of Mourning, which was held in 1938 on the same day as Australia Day to bring attention to 150 years of colonization, genocide, and racism experienced by Aboriginal people at the hands of the British. Aboriginal protesters and allies marched through the streets of Sydney and held a Congress where they presented a manifesto stating that, “This festival of 150 years’ so-called ‘progress’ in Australia commemorates also 150 years of misery and degradation imposed on the original native inhabitants by white invaders of this country.”
Image from the Koori History Website
Tucker’s 1977 autobiography If Everyone Cared was one of the first mainstream accounts of Australia’s “Stolen Generations,” Aboriginal children who were taken from their families in order to “assimilate” to white society, however there have been critiques about the editorial process of the book de-centering the Aboriginal experience.
One gateway of activism for Tucker was the Australian Communist Party. In the movie Lousy Little Sixpence, Tucker recalls that the Communist Party was “very interested in the down-trodden people. Well, I felt that my people were very down-trodden and I wasn’t backward in coming forward and saying what I felt.” Later Tucker would distance herself from her more radical past when she joined the somewhat spiritual and conservative group the Moral Re-Armament Society.
Besides being an influential writer who helped open the doors for other Aboriginal writers, Tucker also founded United Council of Aboriginal and Islander Women in 1964 and was the first indigenous appointee to the Victorian Aborigines Welfare Board.
Tucker died in 1996, but her legacy of activism and creativity lives on, in Australia and around the world.
Previously: Justine Merritt, Peace Maker and Piece Maker
History repeats itself: This post originally appeared on the Bitch blogs on September 20, 2010.