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NewSouth acquires world rights to a bold new history by acclaimed historian and author Yves Rees

NewSouth Publishing has acquired world rights, via Jacinta di Mase Management, to a bold new history from acclaimed historian and author Yves Rees that uncovers the lives of pioneering women who sought their fortune in the United States and brought Australia into the American orbit.

The new book from Rees illuminates the hidden history of ten extraordinary women, who a century ago did something remarkable. Throwing convention to the wind, they packed up a suitcase, boarded a steamship, and farewelled Australia for a new life in the United States of America.

These were modern women frustrated with their limited opportunities in Australia and determined to run headlong into a progressive future. For those who sought a life beyond the family home, the United States – home of Hollywood, skyscrapers, and automobiles – seemed a portal into a world in which women could reach their full potential.

Rees adopts a braided narrative, arranged chronologically, to weave together the individual stories of these incredible women into a larger history that rewrites the story of Australian-US relations.

I am delighted to be working with NewSouth, who have an unparalleled track-record of publishing books that bring big ideas and important stories to a general audience. Australians are hungry for fresh narratives about our past, especially narratives that rewrite women into our male-dominated national story. It is thrilling that NewSouth will enable me to share my research on the extraordinary modern women who thumbed their nose at British tradition and male authority to pursue their ambitions in the United States."

Yves Rees

In the decades before the ANZUS Treaty, thousands of women from all over Australia went to the US to study, to work, to make art, to find fame and fortune, or just to escape home. In doing so, they reoriented Australia towards the United States years before politicians began to lumber down the same path. These women brought home with them new ideas about life and work.

For the artist Mary Cecil Allen, this meant spreading the word about American abstract expressionism. For the naturopath Alice Caporn, it meant evangelising fruit juices and salads. For the swimmer Isabel Letham, it was teaching synchronised swimming. Others investigated in this forthcoming book imported the latest thinking in dentistry, fashion, music, medicine and more.

‘I’ve long been a fan of Yves Rees and am thrilled to be publishing their book on the indomitable Australian women who blazed a trail to the US in the early twentieth century,’ says NewSouth Executive Publisher Elspeth Menzies.

Based on a bedrock of original research, conducted in archives across three countries over a decade, this new book from Rees is a rollicking ride that challenges the idea that men and war made the transpacific alliance. It illuminates the global reach of US culture and the role of women in our national story.

The book will publish in August 2024.

About the author

DR YVES REES (they/them) is a writer, historian and podcaster based on unceded Wurundjeri land. Yves is a Lecturer in History at La Trobe University, the co-host of Archive Fever history podcast (with Clare Wright), and author of the memoir All About Yves: Notes from a Transition (Allen & Unwin, 2021). They are also co-editor of Nothing to Hide: Voices of Trans and Gender Diverse Australia (Allen & Unwin, 2022). Rees was awarded the 2020 ABR Calibre Essay Prize, a 2021 Varuna Residential Fellowship and the 2018 Serle Award. Their writing has featured in the Guardian, The Age, Sydney Review of Books, Australian Book Review, Meanjin, Griffith Review and Overland, among other publications.

Yves Rees Head Shot