By Jeannine Baker
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Extra resources for Australian Women War Reporters: Boer War to Vietnam
The reason for censorship, he wrote, was so that ‘their awful blunders, their farcical mistakes, and their criminal negligence may not reach the British public’. 47 Dickenson appears to have been the only Australian journalist to give a first-hand account of the conditions inside the concentration camps. For some months following their establishment, little was known in Britain about the camps. 48 English activist Emily Hobhouse visited the camps from January to June 1901, and subsequently publicly charged the British with acts of cruelty and barbarism in a series of letters.
I looked up and down the great paralysed quays. I stared through the yellow avenue of trees. I heard my own footsteps echoing, echoing. 63 Back at the hotel, Mack disguised herself as a mute hotel maid, thereby escaping detection by the Germans and enabling her to witness the German invasion at close quarters. After her appearance began to arouse suspicion, she hid for five days before being smuggled out of the city on a false passport, again disguised as a peasant, and made her way through Holland to England, arriving in January 1915.
65 Mack’s gender was emphasised by reviewers and promoters alike. The question of how a vulnerable woman had witnessed such violent scenes, and travelled unmolested through the ‘battlefield’ was fascinating and disquieting for audiences. ‘A story of war, especially of the cruelties and distractions of war, told by a woman in a woman’s way’, was what distinguished Mack’s lectures, said one reviewer. The ‘little Australian lady [had] vast advantages as against a mere man … A very quiet-looking woman wandering through this war of the worlds would have been the last person to excite German suspicion, so she had opportunities and advantages which were exceptional’.