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Ginibi, Ruby Langford (1934–2011)

Ruby Langford, Don’t Take Your Love to Town, Ringwood, Australia, Penguin 1988

NAME: Ruby Langford Ginibi

SEX: Female

BIRTH DATE: 26 January, 1934

BIRTH PLACE: Boxridge Mission

FIRST LANGUAGE: English

SIGNIFICANT LOCALITIES:

  • Boxridge Mission (outside Coraki, NSW): Where Langford was born, and where the family moved back to when she was in primary school. (pp.3-14)
  • Bonalbo (Northern Tablelands, NSW): Where Langford moved to live with her Aunt and Uncle after her mother left. (pp.14-26) She returned here after she’d finished school in Casino, when her first partner Sam started to abuse her, (p.60) and again with her third partner Peter to work in a sawmill. (p.85) She describes it as her 'Belongin place', (p.55) and her autobiography concludes with a vignette of the 75th anniversary of the Bonalbo school in 1985. (p.242-246)
  • Gunnedah Hill mission (outside Coonabarabran): Langford moved to Gunnedah Hill to live with the parents of her first partner Sam when she was pregnant with her first child, so as not to ‘bring any shame’ on her father. (p.54) She returned to live there with her second partner Gordon while he worked in the sawmill (p.72) and again with her third partner Peter. Peter left her when she was living at Gunnedah Hill, and she met her fourth partner Lance there. (p.102-112)
  • Sydney: Langford moved to Redfern to live with father and stepmother when she was 15 (p.42), to Waterloo when she got back together with her first partner Sam (p.142), to Alexandria when she found out her dad had died (p.102), and to Surry Hills with her fourth partner Lance. (p.113)
  • Green Valley: The suburb in outer Sydney where Langford lived in her first Housing Commission home, and suffered from discrimination. (p.173-181)
  • Stoney Gully Mission (outside Kyogle): where Langford’s moved when she was two. (p.3)
  • Casino (Northern Rivers): where the family moved after Stoney Gully, and where Langford attended high school while living with Aunt Amy and Uncle Harry. (p.25)
  • Woodenbong: where Langford lived while her first partner Sam worked in a sawmill. (p.61)
  • Mulli Mulli Mission (outside of Woodenbong): where Langford lived with Uncle Nulla after she discovered Sam’s infidelities, until her son Bill was too sick and she had to move back to Redfern. (p.64-6)
  • Toowoomba: the hometown of Langford’s second partner Gordon, where they lived as ‘bushies’ or ‘fringe-dwellers’, and where she met her third partner Peter. (p.84)
  • Texas: the place where she camped with her third partner Peter for six months after leaving Gunnedah Hill. (p.84)
  • Katoomba: Langford moved into her landlady’s house in 1964 with her fourth partner Lance (p.121-127)

EXPERIENCES OF EDUCATION:

  • Langford was class captain and school prefect and top of the class in school, and it was suggested that she should complete High School and go to Teachers College. However, her father rejected the proposal, as it rested on the support of the Aborigines Protection Board. (pp. 37-38) As such, her formal education ended at 15 when she moved to Redfern.

EXPERIENCES OF EMPLOYMENT:

  • Before becoming a writer, Langford did not pursue a career, but found work in various industries based on her circumstances. She often worked as a labourer alongside her partners – on a contractual basis and in remote locations – or did domestic work and collected food or stole sheep.
    “We never had permanent jobs or houses, so we were always thinking ahead to when this one would pack up and always feeling a bit insecure” (p.87)
  • Jobs included:
  • Clothing machinist apprentice at Brachs Clothing Factors, Elizabeth St (p.53)
  • Shirt maker for the Korean War, on Cleveland St .(p.53)
  • Farm labourer, at various times in various locations (fencing, burning off, lopping and ring barking trees, pegging kangaroo skins, tomato picking)
  • ‘Cutting stays’ for a coal mine in Gorge Creek with Peter (p.85)
  • Cleaner and laundress in a hospital in Coraki (p.85)

IMPORTANT INSTITUTIONS:

  • The Aboriginal Protection Board: could have put Langford through Teachers College; however her father rejected their help. Later, she came to understand her father’s opposition. (p.37)
  • National Aborigines and Islanders Observance Quest: Langford won one guinea in the NAIDOC writing competition while living at the Gunnedah Mission, for an essay describing a career she would like to pursue. (p.109)
  • The Brown Sisters: provided Langford’s family with food when she lived in Surry Hills with her fourth partner Lance (p.115) and later when she lived in Redfern (p.210).
  • The Central City Mission: where she sent the kids to Sunday school when she lived in Surry Hills with her fourth partner Lance. (p.115)
  • The Smith Family: gave Langford’s family clothing and food when they lived in Surry Hills, (p.113) and photographed them for their Christmas Campaign. (p.113), and where Langford bought Pearl’s debutant dress (p.140), and furniture for her house in Green Valley (p.172)
  • The Kings School: billeted Langford's two young sons for a week and took them to theatre. (p.129)
  • The All Blacks Football Club:  Langford used to watch them play with her father (p.48), go to their balls (p.49), her sons played for the team (p.158) and she often invited them over and made damper for their events. (p. 167, 268)
  • Aboriginal Progressive Association: Langford joined in 1964, (p.115) and was asked to be editor of their magazine and a representative at the World Conference on Women. (p.123)
  • The Country Women’s Association Blue Mountains’ Branch: asked Langford to become its first Aboriginal member, gave her hampers, and paid for her daughter to have ballet classes. (p.122-123)
  • St Vincent de Paul: a reliable source of support when they were stranded in foreign towns. (p.125)
  • The Empress Hotel: Where she and her friends met and drank in Redfern. Her “home away from home” (p.151)
  • Daruk, Tamworth, Long Bay and Bathurst Prison: Where her five sons were sent at different times for different reasons.
  • Aboriginal Arts Board: granted $10,000 for Langford’s sewing class to travel to Uluru. (p.231)
  • Australian Broadcasting Commission: Made a documentary about Langford’s sewing class’s trip to Uluru. (p.232)
  • ‘Allawah’ Aboriginal Hostel, Granville: Langford became a resident in 1987.
  • Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council/ Australian Bicentennial Authority’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program: Awarded Langford grant to write her autobiography. (p.x)

SALIENT LAWS AND POLICIES:

  • When Langford first went to Sydney, you had to show citizenship papers (‘Dog Licence’) to get into a venue licensed to sell alcohol. (p.48)

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH:

  • Langford was repeatedly the victim of domestic violence, and was hospitalised on numerous occasions. (p. 144, 171)
  • She became an alcoholic after the death of her daughter Pearl in 1969, and Bill in 1970. (p.148)
  • Langford suffered from high blood pressure due to her obesity. She was forced to lose 19 kilos so that she could have a lipectomy at the Prince of Wales hospital in 1982. (p.208-210)

RELATIONSHIP WITH PARENTS:

  • Langford’s mother left her and her sister in Bonalbo to be with another man (p. 6). When Langford and her mother had both moved to Sydney, Langford’s father tried to prevent them from seeing one another. (p.47) They eventually met, and when Langford was a teenager, her mother beat her for rebuffing her relationship advice, which led her father to take her mother to court for abuse. (pp. 52-53) Nonetheless, she forgave and befriended her mother later in life.
    “Much later I became friends with my mother, but it was hard work because she was distant at first, having cut off from us to bring up her new family….My sisters never were able to really forgive Mum, and the things they needed from her later she couldn’t give, because her priority had to be her new family. But somehow I wanted to friends with her.” (p.47)
  • While Langford’s father was not continually present throughout her childhood, he remained an attentive parent, an important source of support and guidance in the absence of her mother. Ruby was distraught when she found out that he had been dead for two months without her knowing, as she was out of contact. (p.100-101).
    “They both knew how Dad had been mother and father to me, and he’d always been there when I needed him, and now there was no more always, no Dad” (p.101)

RELATIONSHIP WITH CHILDREN:

  • Langford had her first baby at 17, when she herself still felt like a child. (p.57) She had to learn about sex, childbirth and parenting from direct experience.
    “I was throwing up every morning. I realized I was pregnant but I didn’t know the facts of life.” (p.54)
  • She raised nine children from four partners, often without paternal support. On one occasion, she had to walk to the hospital to give birth. (p.80) Despite the stress of parenting, she derived substantial pleasure and support from her ‘brood’ (p.131)
  • The second half of the autobiography is filled with Langford’s expressions of anguish, following the death or incarceration of her children. Her daughter Pearl died in a car accident (p.148), her eldest son Bill died from an epileptic fit (p.66), her son David died from a drug overdose (p.227). All her five sons were at some stage imprisoned.
    “I don’t think that there was a children’s court I didn’t go to” (p.163)

RELATIONSHIP WITH PARTNERS:

  • Sam Griffin: Langford’s first boyfriend, and the father of Bill, Pearl and Dianne. She ignored her mother and father’s skepticism and started dating him at 17 (pp. 52-53). Sam started getting jealous of Langford’s friendship with other men, and became violent towards her (p.58-60). She later found out he had a second family (p.64)
  • Gordon Campbell: Langford’s first non-Aboriginal partner, the father of Nobby, David and Aileen. Gordon drank and was unfaithful, but Langford ignored his flaws – as well as the advances of his friend Peter – for the sake of the family. (p.81) When he left, she moved in with Peter Langford, however she returned to Gordon once before he disappeared for good (p.85-6). When his adult daughter Aileen confronted Gordon on the street some years later, he denied the association (p.210).
  • Peter Langford (Chub): Father of Ellen and Pauline, who Langford married in 1960. (p.103) Peter began gambling (p.99) and became violent, and eventually left Langford living in a tent at Gunnedah Hill, saying that he was going to look for work in Sydney.
  • Lance Marriott: father of her youngest son Jeffery, who she met while living at Gunnedah Hill (p.111). Langford stayed with Lance for 10 years, and eventually left him because he too was cheating with a friend of Ruby’s (p.118) and being abusive (p.119, 118, 144).

EXPERIENCES OF RELIGION:

  • After her visit to Uluru, Ruby reflected: “It made me very humble and I could sense, even so far away, the spirit of the great rock we call Uluru.” (p.236)
  • Watching a video called ‘Surviving Culture’’, she retells its content: “The Pintubi sandpaintings were like maps and books of holy knowledge: they showed dreaming tracks, the waterholes, women’s business, dancing, firebreaks, animals in certain areas. These things had a strong effect on me and showed me how most books in white culture have so little value. What is an autobiography compared to a dreaming track?” (p.255)
  • Supernatural guidance: Langford was visited by ominous spirits – usually dead family members – at important points in her life (pp. 24, 71, 100, 103, 158, 171, 241).

IMPORTANT/INFLUENTIAL FIGURES:

  • Aunt Nell and Uncle Sam: became Langford’s surrogate parents when her mother left, and she used to refer to them as mother and father (pp.14-25).
  • Ruby Leslie: The mother of Langford’s first partner, Sam Griffin. Langford had lived with them in Gunnedah Hill, and she became a close friend and gave the young mother parenting advice (p.57).
  • Nerida Chatfield (Neddy): A friend that she made while living in Gunnedah Hill (p.56) They used to drink together. Neddy was unreliable (she once left Lance and Langford abandoned in Victoria, because she was intoxicated). (p.138)
    “Gert and Neddy and I were the best of mates and known as the Three Musketeers. We went everywhere together” (p.138)

THEMES/PREOCCUPATIONS:

  • Thwarted potential: Langford was class captain and school prefect and top of the class. It was suggested that she be educated further, but her Dad wouldn’t send her to high school (p.37). She had to give up her work as an editor for the Australian Progressive Organisation magazine, and her chance of attending the World Women’s Conference in 1964 because her partner Lance told her to look after the kids rather than “running around to meetings” (p. 118).
  • Abandonment: The sense of rejection following her mother’s departure, which affected her father most acutely, is a recurring theme of Langford’s childhood narratives (p.13). Abandonment – as well as alcoholism, infidelity, imprisonment, domestic violence and gambling – are recurring themes in Langton’s relationships with men.
    “It seemed like the men loved you for a while and then more kids came along and the men drank and gambled and disappeared. One day they’d had enough and they just didn’t come back. It happened with Gordon and later it happened with Peter, and my women friends have similar stories.” (p. 96)
    “I’d taken my love to town too many times and I was always on the defensive” (p.170)
  • Flux: Langford was constantly moving between various locations and employments, often due to the demands of her partners. While she enjoyed the adventure, she also yearned for a more stable existence.
    “I see from a distance now, it was another example of me being moved about by other people’s needs and I would not have minded being settled” (p.105)
  • Hardship and perseverance:  In both urban and rural scenarios, Langford experienced poverty, discrimination, loneliness, abuse and loss of family members. She embraced challenge, and found sources of self-respect in potentially degrading situations, by keeping her camp clean, being an observant mother, not tolerating drunks, remaining faithful to her partner despite infidelity, and always providing shelter for those in need.
  • The light-heartedness and camaraderie of her ‘mob’ – Aboriginal friends and family – was also a consolation during hardship. However, there is ambivalence in Langford’s writing about the nature of these relationships, which were often forged in exciting experiences involving alcohol abuse and violence.
    “My kids called Neddy the claw and me the hammer. When Neddy got drunk she’d scratch people, and I was always hammering them. We shared our fun, we were all in the same boat. No money no land no jobs no hope. So we had to find ways to keep our spirits up and that didn’t only mean our spiritual one but also our liquid ones” (p.151)
  • Political and cultural awakening: Her travels to Uluru, her readings about the Bundjalung people, and the autobiographical process made it increasingly apparent to Langford that urban Aboriginals are culturally adrift from both the mooring of settler-colonial and classical Indigenous society. (pp. 247-258)
  • Towards the end of the book she assesses her family’s history through this prism of cultural malaise and structural discrimination. In particular, she is concerned with police, misconduct and the failure of the penal system to rehabilitate her sons. (pp. 224, 255)
  • On Uluru: “…city black couldn’t survive here, and they couldn’t survive in our half black half white world.” (p.235)

MODE OF LITERARY PRODUCTION: Written by Ruby Langford.

USEFUL LINKS:

Ferrier, C. (2006). Ruby Langford Ginibi (26 January 1934 ). In S. Samuels (Ed.), Dictionary of Literary Biography: Australian Writers, 1975 - 2000 (pp. 110-115) USA: Thomson Gale.

'Ruby Records Her History.' Interview with Ruby Gibini Langford and Sonya Sandham, Sydney Morning Herald, 26 June 1993.

'Author to Help Discover New Talent.' Interview with Ruby Ginibi Langford and Judy Robinson, Sydney Morning Herald, 17 July 1993.

'Taking with Ruby Langford', Interview with Janine Little. Hecate, vol 20, no 1, 1994, pp 100-121.

Interview with Robin Hughes, Australian Biographical Project, (35 minutes)
http://www.australianbiography.gov.au/subjects/langford/interview1.html

'In Conversation with Elizabeth Guy', Ruby Ginibi Langford interview with Elizabeth Guy New Literature Review, no.31, Summer 1996, p.51-58

Langford, Ginibi Ruby, Interview with Frank Heimans (2000) Transcript pp.1-10, Digital Collections Audio.
http://www.nla.gov.au/apps/cdview?pi=nla.oh-3966-0000-0001-tr&player

 

Original Publication

  • Don’t Take Your Love to Town, 2011

Additional Resources

Source Project

This biographical entry was contributed by Australian Indigenous Autobiography Archive

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Ginibi, Ruby Langford (1934–2011)', Indigenous Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/ginibi-ruby-langford-16683/text29381, accessed 18 November 2017.

© Copyright Indigenous Australia, 2012