Monte Punshon

From Ruth Ford’s ‘Speculating on Scrapbooks, Sex and Desire: Issues in Lesbian History’, in Australian Historical Studies (#106, 1996);

Monte (Ethel May) Punshon was born in 1882 in Ballarat and died at 106 years of age in 1989. She worked as a teacher but aspired to be in the theatre and, later, completed a degree in drama and was involved in an amateur theatrical group. Monte also worked for a wireless manufacturing company, a photographic studio and did radio talks on fashion for the Melbourne retailer, Buckley and Nunn, during the 1920s. She joined the Australian Women’s Army Service during World War II, and worked as a warden in the Tatura alien internment camp. After the war, she taught English at Bonegilla migrant camp. Monte learnt Mandarin and Japanese in the 1930s and helped maintain Australian links with Japan for sixty years. She ‘came out’ publicly as a lesbian in the gay press in 1985, at 103 years of age, recalling her emotional and physical relationships with women in the early part of the twentieth century.

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