Late in 2022 the National Library issued bleak news. It’s online archival resource, TROVE would close down in mid 2023 if it did not get substantial funding. The politics are complex, but briefly, it has taken a change of national government for the value of this resource to be properly acknowledged. For just this morning the announcement has come through. TROVE would be re-funded to the tune of 33 Million dollars over four years.. enough to go on with.
TROVE has been instrumental in the development of this blog. I began with a question. What did ordinary Australian folk know and think about psychoanalysis during the twentieth century? The perception abroad was ‘not much’. And why would they? the argument went. These were the legendary Jack and Jills of all trades, the egalitarian bushman was assumed to be anti intellectual.
Nothing could be further from reality. TROVE threw up some answers. How the ‘Kalgoorlie Miner’ published a piece on Freud’s dreams in 1903, or republished it from the magazine Household Words; how the Workers Education Association ) WEA found its most popular choice of subject was psychology. During the 1920s and 1930s people living places as far away from the metropoles as the mining centres of Rockhampton and Charters Towers in Queensland, Broken Hill in far west New South Wales. These were the towns of the workers, and a particular political force in Britain well as Australia. People in the cities Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth read about Freud and his ideas in their local newspapers. Even the Catholic Advocate, speaking against psychoanalysis, based its argument on a knowledgeable reading of Freud. Interest in psychoanalysis was not limited to the medical profession in Australia. Nor was Australia too far away from developments in Europe. The overseas cabled news networks and Australia’s overland telegraph saw to that!!
Then there was the discovery and recovery of Ivy Bennett, Australia’s first trained lay analyst, a participant in Anna Freud’s first training program commenced in 1947. Bennett, an Associate of the British Psychoanalytical Society, practised in Perth from 1952 until 1958 when she returned to England to gain her full qualification with the British Psychoanalytical Society thus making her eligible for membership of the International Psychoanalytical Society.
Freud’s rescue from Vienna in 1938 was widely reported across the Australian nation as was his arrival in Paris on 6 June 1938. The famous photographs of him with Anna Freud, smiling from their train carriage window, were published in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ in Sydney, and Brisbane. Editors in those days did not spend so much money on images unless they were sure of recovering their costs.
TROVE’s rescue enables deeper study, interrogation of detail, and investigation of important historical questions in Australian psychoanalytic history, and certainly in other cultural arenas. We need accurate histories to understand where we come from, and how cultural institutions were formed.
James Dunk, (2019) Bedlam at Botany Bay, Sydney, Newsouth Publishing.
I have been pondering isolation. Not the personal state of mind as such, but the complaint often made by Australia’s early psychoanalysts about their isolation from the British and European Centres. In the process of forming psychoanalysis in Australia (Salo 2011) the question was about how to meet the necessary standards of practice and thought about psychoanalysis when it is believed these are not known – and it is all too far away to find out, let alone be in touch with the latest developments. Then there is isolation and distance within Australia and New Zealand… how does each separate state develop its practice as a member of the various bodies that constitute psychoanalysis in this country? For psychoanalysis, theory of mind begun by Freud, and in the century since, embodies a far reaching theory of experiencing and developmental formation. For the Australians in particular, psychoanalysis has not had an easy relationship with the medical profession – certainly not in its early decades of the twentieth century when the Australian based medicals spurned it in favour of organic approaches to mental distress. At base, I tentatively suggest, is not just the foundational story of convict settlement and the development of the land of the unwanted, ( Hook 2012), but also the very response of the Transportees and their overseers to the fact of forced rupture from a homeland, possibly never to return. Such a settlement on Mars would evoke phantasies of unassailable space, methinks. Perhaps this was so when Botany Bay was begun? This leads me to the University of Sydney’s James Dunk’s 2019 book, Bedlam at Botany Bay. This is a study not just of madness and insanity, but its causes and the way it expressed and reflected the structures of the Transportee plight, and the developing governance of the colony. Madness is another, hidden, dimension of settler invasion. It reaches for the fact that the year 1788 for the Australian First Nations people AND for the colonial invaders, that the trauma of personal internal rupture was experienced by members of both groups.
Unsurprisingly, some of the early settlers who arrived from 1788, in the prison colony at Port Jackson up the coast from the first landing point, Botany Bay, at what is now Sydney Harbour, Australia, lost their minds. Transported from Britain to an alien land at the far end of the earth, the al called ‘Antipodes’ on the other side of the globe, they were almost as far as one could go before beginning the return journey, Home. Picture their first sightings of a kangaroo, a wombat or a possum. Trees and foliage so different from anything at home, and the seasons back to front. During those first days a thunder storm cracked the skies open, pouring rain, as if God’s wrath found its expression upon these alienated people ‘perched at the edge of the Pacific’. Anyone who has experienced such a Sydney summer thunderstorm knows what that is like. Think how terrifying it would have been.
We have learned that the Eora people who lived around the landing space when the invading settlers arrived were pushed aside. That the initial ‘dancing with strangers’ described by the historian Inga Clendinnen, (2003) soon gave way to suspicion and hostility. The invaders felled trees, killed prey, and decimated the lands the Eora had cared for for centuries. There was violence, and retaliation alongside curiosity and some attempts at reconciliation. But in the end the invaders and First Nations people retreated to their different worlds as the invaders erected houses, made roads, mapping country according to their own traditions.
Historian James Dunk has added another dimension to the Botany Bay story. He draws out attention to peoples’ emotional reactions and how some were driven mad.
‘ If we slow down, however, and listen closely, we find that doubt, anxiety, grief and despair intrude into these familiar stories’,he writes. ‘ Some became irrational and could no longer govern themselves, or be governed by others. They erupted into mania, or lost themselves in memories and delusions. They cried in fury and tore at the walls of their cells, or stared slack eyed into the distance. Some were consumed by the pressures weighing upon them, and killed themselves. Others simply wandered away. These were all signal problems in such a setting, where discipline, security and industry were fundamental to the business of fragile government’ (pp.2-3).
Images of the gibbets hung with so called miscreants, the whipping posts, and, eventually another form of brutality transportation to outlying islands – Norfolk, Pitcairn, or Van Diemans Land, testify to another battle – between the administrators with their official forms and procedures and the convict groups. Among them were those deeply mentally distressed people who, as hope faded, tried to fight – or whose loss of mind was expressed by ‘anti social behaviours’. The punishment was severe for them. They didn’t have the luck to be overtly insane.
’Studying madness’, Dunk writes, ‘shows the fault lines of societies. It is a subject which never loses its relevance because these fault lines still run around us like scars, the outward signs of an endemic disorder which reaches not only down into the belly of who we are but back into the paths we followed to get there’ ( 8).
Dunk’s study of colonial insanity, the development of the Asylum, the use of former convicts as attendants also raises questions about the evolution of psychiatry in this land. Is the stress on organic factors in the aetiology of mental distress, and the sidelining of Freud, and the psychotherapies that we see in the Australian medical men during the 1920s, when Freud’s ideas were gaining currency, somehow an evolution of anxieties about the management of mental distress? So far from home, patient and doctor share an experience of profound loss and personal rupture. At the Australasian Medical Congress of 1924 the prominent Melbourne doctor, John Springthorpe was eager to place Freud’s ideas, so far away in Europe, as losing currency.
An asylum was built early on after settlement, hoping to restrain and contain the more observable effects of transportation: the depression, anxiety and sheer loss of minds the result of families and minds ruptured by the trauma of indefinite separation. Perhaps, for some, an underlying mental illness emerged into the open. Or the plain sheer irrationality of transportation and the experience of being at the mercy of despotic officials, was the cause. The question is about what it was like to be in such a place, and space as colonial settler Australia? But the agency and subjectivity of the Transportees, was rarely incorporated into a lexicon of understanding. Instead there was brutality and abuse by managers who thought little of the beatings they meted out to those they considered far lower, less than human than them. For here, at this classical stage of history, convicts may have been subjects of theories of being, rendering them lower on scales of humanity such as the Great Chain of Being. During the nineteenth century as Social Darwinist theory found its expression in theories of mind articulated by Henry Maudsley, asserting some inherent, inherited biological fault. It limited recognition of Transportee agency and experience, alongside the minds of free settlers. Such ideas have been inscribed into a history building rendering Australia as Antipodean, always peripheral and opposite a British Centre.
‘ In a society built around discipline, magistrates, officers, judges, and governors charged with establishing order saw madness not as an illness, but as a perilous chaos. If they were sometimes moved to deal gently with the insane, at other times they were not, and the shifting structures of law and government ( typical of a penal society) left room for their discretion. There were many who suffered doubly, from the discipline and from the internal damage it wrought in them. Compounded suffering appeared to be the price of the colonial order’ (238).
Dunk’s lens, exploring the experiences of those men, women, and children, sent abroad from their homeland, serves to challenge such phantasies. But also, he suggests that the iron rule of governance set firm boundaries around them, defining them yet again as outsiders whose experiencing was scarcely recognised. Australia, a land girt by sea, has mapped itself into a space with iron borders. The oceans unmapped, as Suvendrini Perera (2009) shows, are unmapped are hindrances to connection rather than a relational space with connections to Asian spaces. Phantasies of Australia’s and isolation and insularity prevail. Australia’s isolation is not much more than an a settler creation, and state of mind.
Inga Clendinnen, (2003) Dancing with strangers, Melbourne, Text Publishing.
Suvendrini Perera (2009), Australia and the insular imagination: beaches, borders, boats and bodies, Palgrave McMillan.
Frances Thomson Salo, (2011), Australia: the evolving relationship with the IPA, in Peter Loewenberg and Nellie L Thompson. 100 years of the IPA: The centenary history of the International Psychoanalytical Association 1910-1920, London, Karnac.
John Springthorpe, in the Proceedings of the Australasian Medical Congress, 1924.
And so Clara Geroe’s personal library landed in my storage unit. Her son’s family home is being cleared for sale in due course. He kept everything and now all is on its way to a new home. Some of it was distributed to her patients by Clara’s husband, Willi, after her death. He invited each to choose a book as a memento.
Libraries are personal collections of a life: books are connected with moments, an outcome of a small story that resulted in the decision to purchase, or borrow, a book. They are clues to a conversation, or a private moment. It is amazing to learn that Clara seems to have liked detective fiction. Or that she had an eye for political cartoons – at least she did when she visited Britain in 1961. There is a collection of books focussing on events during the holocaust – including an English edition of George Faludi, a Hungarian poet and essayist’s account of his experiences during the war years. In Australia, a thoughtful purchase made during her holiday in Queensland, was Arthur Groom’s 1949 One mountain after another – a travel book, perhaps, but also a commentary on settler’s role in indigenous dispossession, and the environment.
Clara’s professional books date from the early 1920s when she was doing her medical training. And so we find a handbook on medicines and mixes in Hungarian. She was interested in psychosomatics, was a student of Pal Ranschberg and contributed a paper to the neurology section of Ranschberg’s Fetschrift: Psychologische Beobachtungen bei Hyperventilationsversuchen an Epileptiken : Psychological observations on hyperventilation experiments on epileptics ( Google translate). Leopold Szondi was also a contributor to this section with a paper: Uber die klinische und pathogenetische Zweiteilung der Neurasthenie – in English, About the clinical and pathogenic division of of neurasthenia. It is worth noting that by 1928 when the Fetschrift was held, Clara was undertaking her psychoanalytic training. That three of the four sections of the Fetschrift focussed on Modern experimental psychology, Child psychology and pedagogy, and child psychotherapy, show that this arena of psychology was well developed when she decided to focus on child analysis and pedagogy during the 1930s. She brought her collection of Hungarian journals in this field with her to Australia in 1940, anticipating that she would develop this area of practice.
Scattered through the collection along with articles in Hungarian – including papers gifted to Szondi and to herself – how did she come by Szondi’s copy? – are various psychoanalytic journals from the 1940s. Possibly they landed on her book case and stayed for ever: The British Journal of Medical Psychology and The International Review of Psychoanalysis, among them. Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham’s publication: on Children and War – in German. And of course Sandler’s final publication of the child psychology indexing committee. Some publications by Freud: Moses and Monotheism, and another of his selected essays, gifted by Kata Lev,y are also there. Towards the end of her life, she seems to have become interested in feminist literature although these books are not signed as being hers. Then there is Bowlby, Melanie Klein, Klein and Riviere, Bettelheim, and even Russian text – in English – on Pavlovian Psychology published in 1950. This is an important book for our understanding of the Stalinization of psychology in Hungary as well as the USSR. And more… Clara was interested in socialist thought. She was also intrigued by anthropology.
A most interesting item among all of this is the 1935 copy of the International Psychoanalytic Association Membership list. There are no representatives from Australia in the British section although Mary Barkas, from New Zealand, who became an Associate in 1923, is listed. Roy Coupland Winn from Sydney was either about to become an Associate, or was too late for the listing. In the Hungarian section Clara Lazar ( she did not use her married name) is listed as a full member of the Hungarian Psychoanalytical Society alongside 20 other full members – among them the Balints, the Levys, Vilma Kovacs, Hermann, Hollos, Almasy, Geza Roheim. Two Associates, Edit Gyomeroi and Maria Kircz-Takasz are listed. Endre Peto who emigrated to Australia in 1949, and Erszebet Kardos are absent… perhaps they were still in training.
These books are the relicts of a life, indicative of the complexity for a biographer – neither to rehabilitate nor damn, but to understand how a person represented herself to herself and others, within the realm of her particular social unconscious.
Archives are relicts of a life. Bits of paper, shopping lists, advertising fliers for stoves, oil heaters and cars, personal messages and notes, are clues to the day in day out matters that people think about. Clara Geroe’s archive has many such things, all tossed into a suitcase and left for posterity. One smiles to discover a note in Geroe’s handwriting scrawled upon the back of some learned paper: ‘Would you like to dine with us tonight?’ To whom was it addressed? Probably the person was sitting next to her, both of them lulled into boredom by some psychoanalytic conference speaker or other. Was it the end of the day? Or just after lunch with another three lectures to go? Did she disagree with the speaker? Or had it occurred to her that she had forgotten to extend that particular invitation?
These are the little things found woven into correspondence from colleagues, poems, a paper for her interest, books, pamphlets and even a recipe collection. Archives are treasure troves of oddments. Some discoveries are totally astonishing and unexpected. Archive work is a risky business.
In her early years in Australia Geroe’s English teacher, the author and literary critic Nettie Palmer, introduced Geroe to her family: Vance, her husband and a leading Australian author, and her daughters, Aileen and Helen. It is a side story in Sylvia Martin’s excellent biography of Aileen Palmer, Ink in her Veins. Geroe, a cultured woman, and deeply interested and knowledgeable in literature and the arts, may have appreciated the Palmer’s friendship. Aileen Palmer’s work during the Spanish War, and her driving ambulances in England during the blitz, would have been known to Geroe. Aileen Palmer also studied French literature at the University of Melbourne and wrote a thesis on Proust. At the time of publishing her book, Martin said, no copy of the thesis was to be found. When Aileen broke down after her return to Australia from London, it is possible the Palmers sought advice from Geroe. Martin discusses Aileen’s hospitalization and psychiatric treatment at length. For a time she was a patient of Geroe’s – something Martin also discusses in her book. Perhaps Aileen liked Geroe enough to give her a copy of her thesis. Maybe it was a forgotten loan only to turn up almost thirty two years after Palmer’s death in Geroe’s archive…
Here is the link to Aileen’s story retold in Martin’s piece, The Lost Thesis, ‘published last week in the online journal, ‘Inside Story’.
I have been working on Clara Geroe’s archive for the last twelve months. It is a scholar’s joy to touch the papers, to read her writings, the crossings out and rewording, as she struggled to find her way in the English language. Vitally, the State Library of Victoria has granted me a Regional Fellowship – with funds donated by the late Marion Orme Page, to do this. I have been given a gift, an opportunity with time attached to work in a raw archive, discovering stories hidden in the darkest corners ofa suitcase of letters, boxes of reports and a shelf full of books. The library’s resources will complement this collection with others in its keeping. Geroe was not alone in her migration from deep European culture to another perched on a land with a depth of history they did not understand. Up until the early 1970s Australia’s colonial settlers called themselves ‘British’ even though many were born on Australian lands and had never seen Britain. A sort of turning away from the place they or their forbears had landed.
Geroe’s address books – there are multiple versions – help track her path. European addresses give way to British and Australian, modified again and again. Who she talked to, wrote to and remembered, are significant markers. These are clues to the woman: how she felt about her work and her very lonely task as the only fully trained psychoanalyst in Australia from the moment of her arrival in Melbourne on 12 March 1940. The way she shaped her thoughts and words, her guiding lights, and the people she loved, are part of her story. It follows the trajectory of many women whose emigration was forced upon them. Their arrival in a strange land was an abrupt culture shock. Some disembarked from the ship that brought them, took one look, and returned to Europe. Others made new careers, while others – such as the Melbourne philosopher, Raymond Gaita’s mother, and so movingly recorded in his book, ‘Romulus my Father’, were unable to manage the mental distress of migration. Clara Geroe, as she came to be known, was a highly educated, cultured woman, a product of the avant gard world of Budapest. As a result of Hitler’s rise to power in Europe she became one of a new generation of migrants – a Hungarian refugee in this colonial settler Australian place in the antipodes
Dr G. Lazar Klara trained in Budapest with the Hungarian Psychoanalytical Society. She did not have the funds to undertake the training independently, the psychoanalyst Michael Balint explained in an interview in 1966. Instead she was taken on as a patient of the Hungarian Society’s Clinic and became one of Balint’s training patients. The Bulletin of the International Psychoanalytical Association(IPA) shows that her paper, on her treatment of a young girl, presented to the Hungarian Society in 1930, was followed by ratification of her membership in 1931. Geroe’s speciality was ‘pedagogic psychoanalysis’, following the idea that children should be brought up on psychoanalytic principles. Her focus on the treatment of children led to her involvement with the children’s clinic at the Hungarian Psychoanalytical Society and later, her work with the Friends of the Children of Hungarian Labourers. In 1938 she was ratified as a ‘Trainer of Pedagogues’ by the IPA.
In her younger years Geroe was one of a number of women analysts working in Hungary during the 1920s and 1930s. Anna Borgos, a Hungarian based scholar of women in psychoanalysis, shows that Geroe along with Kata Levy, Emmy Pikler, Alice Balint Eva Rosenberg and Edit Gyomeroi and Charlotte Balkanyi and others were in frequent contact with Anna Freud. After their own emigration to Britain, many found positions in Anna Freud’s Hampstead Clinic. Geroe maintained her connection with Anna Freud for many years – seeking and finding support from Anna Freud and, in return, during the bitter years of the war, sending food parcels and gifts for the Home children. During the late 1940s she encouraged several young Australian women psychologists to further their careers in London: Ivy Bennett, Cecily de Monchaux and Maria Kawenowka. Australia’s loss was England’s gain, or in Bennett’s case, the United States. All went on to significant contributions to the psychoanalytic world, choosing to not return to Australia.
“I am up against a hard task’, Geroe wrote in 1940. Her work in Australia was to train analysts alongside her clinical work with adults and children She was, early on, an employee of the Melbourne Institute of Psychoanalysis before joining its board in 1945 and moving full-time into her own practice. For the remainder of her life until her death in 1980 she held seminars for students and interested people, gave lectures, and became involved in the New Education Fellowship. In the early years she kept up her work as a pedagogic analyst all the while meeting her commitment to the training of analysts. And slowly, brick by brick, and with the help of others and often enough, opposition, she set up the frame an institute. What kind of institute it was, and what it became, and why, will be my focus for the next little while. A book for Routledge is at the end of it, all going well. That is another gift… and the beginning of this journey. The posts that follow, along with others, will peg out the process.
Bulletin of the International Psychoanalytical Association, 1930, 1931, 1932.
Anna Borgos, (2018) Girls of Tomorrow – Women in the Budapest School of Psychoanalysis, Norman Libra, Budapest, 2018.
Raymond Gaita, ‘Romulus my Father’, 2008.
Bluma Swerdloff, The reminiscences of Michael Balint. Tanscripts of interviews ( 6.8.1965 and 7.8 1956) Oral History research office, Columbia University, copy in University of Essex Library.