Samantha Tidy & Aśka – When Grandma Burnt her Bra

EK Books, an imprint of Exisle Publishing Pty Ltd, Australia, 2023
Design by Aśka (

Samantha Tidy, both as a writer and publisher, has long interested herself in matters of social and environmental import. This picture book takes us back to the days of the women activists through the eyes of a child, Maggie, who is trying to make sense of her grandmother’s world. Amongst other things, they share a name.

Samantha Tidy talks to Barbie about When Grandma Burnt Her Bra

Through the metaphor of bra burning, a number of inequalities for women in history and in the present are highlighted – rates of pay, attitudes to the roles and occupations suitable for women, division of domestic tasks, the right to vote, childcare.

The metaphor of the dinosaur is also employed to make the point – outmoded attitudes belong in the realm of palaeontology, according to grandma. Soon the child narrator takes up the cause.

Our youthful heroine expresses her desire to be an astronaut, partly to escape the dinosaur attitudes but also as a demonstration that she can be whatever she wants to be. Grandma encourages Maggie to keep the revolutionary fire burning.

Maggie is all in with that, although she does still want to be a grandma, proving that her grandma has been a wonderful role model and an inspiration to the younger generation.

Aśka’s bright and expressive pictures with their comic book style work well with Samantha Tidy’s jaunty text, as well as telling their own story, for example in the press photo like image of the marching women.

This is a strong artistic pairing. I especially like the maturity of the language both creators use; they both assume the intelligence and curiosity of their readers.

Readers will also see the shift from the stereotypical image on the first page of the white haired and bent granny digging in the garden to all the other things Grandma is, has been, has done and has thought. Cheers for that – ageism is alive and well in our society along with sexism and many other isms.

This is the sort of book that will eventually send young readers (and probably their adults) to other places for information, for instance seeking out the history of the suffragette movement, the writings of Germaine Greer, articles about the women who changed the game like Anne Summers and Eva Cox.

The book’s content is age appropriate and hence avoids some of the darkest issues affecting women whilst allowing enough outrage to stir the imagination and perhaps action of the youthful audience.

Thank you to EK Books for my review copy.