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A collage featuring a shadow of a woman cast over a piles of books on feminism.


with Anna Funder, moderated by Jemma Birrell

10 March 2024

In theatre and livestreamed

Few writers captured the mechanics of tyrannical power better than George Orwell. That is, until Anna Funder came along. Hear how she exposed the great literary hero’s own ‘Orwellian’ erasure of his wife Eileen O’Shaughnessy, and how the tyranny of ‘wifedom’ persists today. 

Wifedom is a wicked magic trick we have learned to play on ourselves. I want to expose how it is done and so take its wicked, tricking power away.

Anna Funder, Wifedom

The doublethink of patriarchy exposed

When Anna Funder turned to her literary hero, George Orwell, for inspiration, she discovered a writer who had deliberately obscured the significant contribution his first wife Eileen O’Shaughnessy made to his most significant and successful works. It was a grand silent conspiracy across time that included Orwell’s biographers who obscure the fact that Animal Farm and 1984 would not have been the books they were without O’Shaughnessy. The writer who gave us “Big Brother” and critical terms like “doublethink” to describe how tyrannical power works, engaged in his own doublethink to keep his wife’s talents subservient to his own. 

Join Funder, who coined her own term, “wifedom”, to describe this phenomenon, as she wrestles with Orwell’s legacy and how we might dismantle the “doublethink of patriarchy”. 

Sydney Opera House Presents


Anna Funder (she/her)

Anna Funder is the author of Stasiland and All That I Am - both international bestsellers, published in more than twenty-four countries - and the novella The Girl with the Dogs.

Her books have won multiple literary awards, including the UK's premier award for non-fiction, the Samuel Johnson Prize, for Stasiland, and Australia’s most prestigious, the Miles Franklin, for her novel All That I Am.

Originally trained as an international human rights lawyer, Anna is a former DAAD Fellow in Berlin, Australia Council Fellow, and Rockefeller Foundation Fellow. She lives in Sydney.

Jemma Birrell (she/her) Moderator

Jemma Birrell is Head of Writing at the Powerhouse, an unprecedented role for a museum bringing in new voices through commissions, collaborations and events. Previous roles include artistic director of Sydney Writers’ Festival, co-director of FestivalandCo and events director at Shakespeare and Company in Paris. She also published a short book series and hosted a podcast with writers.

Other information

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