The #BettyInBronze campaign

We’re at the Yarra Park. No cars in the garden this day.

 

– Dad, I’m going to run down to that statue. Do you think I can?

– Go.

 

 She’s fast. It’s a statue is of Betty Cuthbert.

 

– Is that where we buy icy-poles?    

 

It’s 12 degrees. Walking around to Gate 4.

 

– Is this where we buy icy-poles?

 

– No. No icy-poles today.”    

 

-David Wilson, The Footy Almanac 2013: Round 18 – Collingwood v GWS: Bullfighting

 

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I wrote that passage as part of a story in 2013. It appears in the 2013 Footy Almanac. The story is called “Bullfighting,” after the Roddy Doyle story of the same name. Only instead of relating a trip taken by a group of middle-aged Irishmen to Spain, my story related a trip to the MCG I undertook with my (then) 7- and 6-year-old daughters.

 

Betty Cuthbert appears in statue form at the MCG. Not many women do. And role models are important.

 

==

 

There is movement at the station.

 

Angela Pippos – writer, journalist –  had contacted me. We’d met a few times via The Footy Almanac. The Footy Almanac is one of the great institutions of sport and community in this country.

 

“David, Quick question – I’m writing about Betty Wilson in my book.  I’m wondering if there is a statue of her somewhere? I suspect not but wanted to check. This chapter is all about our hidden sporting heroines.”

 

That was back in 2016.

 

==

 

So who was Betty Wilson?

 

Well she was my Dad’s Aunt. Auntie Betty; A.B. The younger sister of my Dad’s Dad; George. To me she was my Great Aunt. Great Auntie Betty; G.A.B.

 

To English women cricketers, she was a terror. To Australian women cricketers, she was a loved teammate.   A grand interview with GAB at age 86 appears on the Cricinfo site. This article details many of her cricketing exploits.

 

Betty is often referred to as the “female Bradman.” But in her family at least, her bowling exploits are considered even superior to her batting. A “female Sobers” would perhaps be more fitting. But really, no point of male comparison is required at all. It never is. In this case, Betty stands apart.

 

==

 

[Betty Wilson:] “England put us in to bat and we were all out for 38 and I was the top scorer with 12. England were killing themselves laughing. But they were all out for 35. I took 7 for 7, which included the first hat-trick in women’s Test cricket.” She followed that up with a century in the second innings and another four wickets to achieve the record [of first person to make a century and take 10 wicket in a Test match]. -Nagraj Gollapudi, The lady Don.

 

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G.A.B. died in 2010. Up until that time she attended women’s cricket fixtures and felt able to freely give advice to all who played. And always sharp with a line, a story, a wisecrack.

 

Betty was chuffed to be inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985 [linked].

 

Within cricket circles, however, Betty’s achievements were only formally recognised after her death. In 2015 the International Cricket Committee inducted Betty into their Hall of Fame [linked] with a presentation made during the World Cup group match India v South Africa at the MCG [linked].   And then in 2017 Betty was inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame [linked]. In speeches to mark her induction, Mel Jones and my Dad Ken Wilson spoke of the playing and family lives of Betty [linked].

 

==

 

So Ange had contacted me in 2016. A couple of weeks ago, Ange picked up again.

 

“Hi David, hope all’s well. Our second White Line Diva podcast [linked] is about statues and recognition of women athletes. We’re going to start a campaign for a Betty Wilson statue outside the MCG. I wanted you and your family to know first. I have no idea if the campaign will take off but we’re going to give it a go.”

 

That is some kind of extreme-level brilliance. After I’d digested that, tweeted that, Ange was in touch again.

 

“Hi Dave. The Project (channel 10) is interested in the Betty statue story…”

 

And sure enough, last Friday… watch the 4 minute segment here- https://tendaily.com.au/shows/theproject/a180817nke/its-time-to-put-betty-wilson-in-bronze-20180817   ==

 

A woman’s only human

You should understand

She’s not just a plaything

She’s flesh and blood just like her man

-Aretha Franklin, Do right woman – do right man

 

==

 

I asked A Pippos what had prompted this unexpected campaign.

 

“Here’s how I got to the point of calling for a statue. I met Betty in 2007 during the Boxing Day Test. I had the pleasure of interviewing her on stage. I was struck by her wicked sense of humour and her love of cricket. I left that day wanting to know more about her. In 2014 when I started writing my book Breaking The Mould I knew I had to include her story. It was while I was writing the chapter “Invisibility” that I posed the question where is the statue of Betty Wilson? And in episode 2 of my new podcast @WhiteLineDiva [a podcast featuring Angela Pippos and Bobby Macumber] we went a step further and turned it into a campaign.

 

The Project heard about it and jumped onboard. So #BettyInBronze has been in my head for a few years!”

 

==

 

Yesterday, Hugh Jackman threw his support behind the campaign for #BettyInBronze at the MCG.

 

While this #BettyInBronze campaign comes as a complete surprise, to echo the words of my Dad at the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame presentation:

 

“If Betty had been here I’m sure she would have been incredibly humbled and certainly greatly honoured…”   Well done Ange. Well done agitators for equality, for women and for women’s sport everywhere.

 

 

About David Wilson

Hit for a towering 6 by Mike Gatting at the Banyule Cricket Club, December 2002, theatrically attempting to reproduce the SK Warne delivery. The ball is yet to land. @e_regnans

Comments

  1. Richly deserved go for it David and Angela !

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Make this happen. Some very persuasive arguments put forward in the podcast (and listen to the very end).

    The Project segment is worth catching up with too (and see if you can spot the mistaken identity therein)

  3. Dave Brown says:

    Not only a cricketer without peer, ER, but I get the very strong feeling your GAB would’ve been the best cricket watching companion in the history of the game, too. Two statues, perhaps. The Karen Rolton Oval in Adelaide (where I spent my sporting youth when it was Railways Oval) is a highly impressive facility named after a great South Australian cricketer. Perhaps there could be more for Betty in addition to a statue.

  4. E.regnans says:

    G’day Rulebook, Swish, Dave.

    Thanks for your comments.
    The podcast and the Project segment (with Lehmo) are both excellent.
    (Swish-Are you referring to a photograph purporting to show GS Chappell?)

    Dave – the commentary was rich and full and frank. Even concerning the Banyule Cricket Club second XI.

    I understand that two awards carry Betty’s name:
    The Betty Wilson Young Player of the Year Award – from Cricket Australia.
    The Betty Wilson Medal is awarded to the Player of the Final in the Victorian Premier Firsts competition. The medal was introduced in 2009/10. Betty was a life member of VWCA.

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Correct E.r

  6. Great stuff ER. The Project segment was great. Well played Ange and Lehmo.
    I think of Betty as the “Australian Babe” not the “female Bradman”.

  7. E.regnans says:

    Good one PB.

    I should add here that:

    The U19 Womens National Cricket Championship is named the Betty Wilson Shield (was the U21 Championship 1985-86 to 1995-96; age group changed from 1996-97).

  8. Cath McLeod says:

    Yes it would be wonderful to recognize Betty (Wilson)in Bronze and thanks to all for showing your support. Long time overdue to recognize a champion of our game. Let’s get ‘BETTY in BRoONZE”.

  9. Luke Reynolds says:

    This is a very worthy cause. Would love to contribute to this any way possible.
    What a star B.Wilson was. I see E.Perry, the B.Wilson of now, is moving to Victoria.
    Look forward to watching her in the navy blue.

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