Greer, Germaine

September 12, 2011

Germaine Greer was born on January 29, 1939, in Melbourne, Australia. She was the first child of Margaret Mary “Peggy” and Eric Reginald “Reg” Greer. Germaine’s younger sister Jane arrived 6 years later and her brother, Barry, was born 5 years after Jane.

In January of 1942, Germaine’s father joined the Australian Imperial Forces and soon left for war. Germaine was just about to turn 3 and it would be almost 2 years before she would see her father again. During those 2 years, Germaine had all of her mother’s attention for herself. Upon her father’s return, this changed. Reg Greer returned from war a different man, cold and unaffectionate. Germaine was desperate for his affection, but he would reject any attempts she made. She also received less attention from her mother now that her father had returned. Her father’s rejection and the decrease in maternal attention caused Germaine to become bitter.

Germaine’s childhood was not the best. Her mother often resorted to corporal punishment to deal with the headstrong temperament of her oldest child and her father did nothing to stop the punishment. The Greer home was basically culturally devoid, absent the books that Germaine would later come to love.

Germaine was a bright but sickly child. She began school at St. Columba’s, a small Catholic school attached to the church where her parents had married, in 1943. By all accounts, Germaine was a very bright, if somewhat reluctant, student. She left St. Columba’s for Sacred Heart, then on to Holy Redeemer. In 1952 she went to Star of the Sea College. Germaine earned honors in English and French literature at the University of Melbourne, a master’s degree at the University of Sydney, and in 1967 a doctorate in literature from Newnham College at the University of Cambridge in England. She then lectured at the University of Warwick in Britain.

In 1979 Greer taught poetry and directed the Center for the Study of Women’s Literature at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. She soon left there and returned to writing. She is currently a Professor of English and Comparative Studies at the University of Warwick.

The Female Eunuch, first published in 1970, is Germaine Greer’s most famous work and the one that launched her into history as a great feminist. The book deals with the systemic disempowerment of women, claiming that marriage is, in essence, slavery, and proposes that the way to regain power is through reclamation of women’s sexuality. The Female Eunuch soon became a bestseller. Another of Greer’s wellknown publications is Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility (1984). In this book, she criticizes the Western world for pushing Western birth control methods on Third World countries. Her opinions in this book brought her much criticism as being antifeminist.

Some of her other writings are: The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work (1979), The Madwoman’s Underclothes (1986), Daddy, We Hardly Knew You (1989), The Change: Women, Aging, and the Menopause (1992), Slip-Shod Sibyls (1995), and The Whole Woman (1999).

SEE ALSO: Birth control; de Beauvoir, Simone

Suggested Reading

  • Fraser, K. (1996). Ornament and silence: Essays on women’s livesfrom Edith Wharton to Germaine Greer. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Greer, G. (1970). The female eunuch. London: MacGibbon & Kee.
  • Greer, G. (1989). Daddy, we hardly knew you. London: Hamilton.
  • Miller, L. (2003). The impulsive, fatally naive diva of feminism made the world a better place in spite of herself. Retrieved June 22, 1999
  • Wallace, C. (1998). Germaine Greer: Untamed shrew. New York: Faber & Faber.


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