Vale Dale Spender

November 29, 2023

We are saddened to hear of the passing of Dr Dale Spender AM, pioneering feminist, activist, educator, author and founding member of Copyright Agency. Spender also served on the Copyright Agency’s Board for nine years and was the first female Chair since the organisation formed in 1974. She was also the founding editor of the Athene Series and Pandora Press, the commissioning editor of the Penguin Australian Women’s Library, the associate editor of the Great Women Series (UK), among many other designations.

Spender was appointed to the Copyright Agency Board as the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) nominee, and authors’ rights were at the forefront of her contributions and decisions. Whilst she was Chair, Copyright Agency celebrated a successful Tribunal decision on the rates payable by schools in 2002, came to a new agreement with universities after years of prolonged litigation in 2003, managed the first collection of electronic copying and communication in universities (from 2003), among many other achievements for the company and for our members.

Warmly referred to as ‘the feminist’s feminist’, Spender published 30 books in her lifetime. Many titles were co-authored or co-edited with other female writers, from established to new and emerging writers, giving effect to her commitment to champion and lift up female peers.

Some of her most notable works include the widely acclaimed Man Made Language (1980), a book on the English language, its androcentric construction and usage in social, familial, and professional settings, and Women of Ideas: And What Men Have Done to Them (1991), an analytical account of women throughout history whose literary, political and historical contributions have been reduced, overlooked or eradicated by male counterparts and historians.

Spender had a particular interest in what she dubbed ‘the new technologies’, and how to mitigate the impact of the digital age on artists’ rights and on society in general. She often spoke of how digital literacy and accessibility has a catalytic effect for turning ideas into commercial opportunities.

She took this interest and expertise into her role as Director and Chair at Copyright Agency and noted, in her Chair’s Report in 2003, that Copyright Agency ‘must be part of this new [digital] scene, it must blend a vision of the future with the highest standards of accountability’. She also rightly predicted that the digital age would become more image-based, something that was widely disputed at the time.

Her service to women’s equity and equality, technological foresight, and astute contributions to the fields of language and writing will be recognised for generations to come.

Our thoughts are with Dale’s loved ones, and all those who admired her, at this time.