Ottolangui-Langley OZ & NZ

In Memory of Joan

Joan Marie Eisma
née Ottolangui/Langley
5 November 1922 – 3 May 2004

Joan Marie was the daughter of David Ernest Ottolangui/Langley, he was the fourth child of Gershon Ottolangui a.k.a. George Langley, the youngest son of Aaron Ottolangui and Reyna née BenSabat. David Ernest was born in Australia in 1885 and married Veronica Smith in 1921. She was born in 1896. She died in 1969 in Australia.
He died in 1972 in Australia .

JOAN MARIE EISMA    ‘PROTESTER’   5.11.1922-3.5.2004 
Obituary by John Stevens


Joan Eisma spent her latter years constantly dripping on the unyielding stone of what she saw as society’s entrenched bastardry. She protested publicly and passionately for many difficult causes – forest destruction, refugee detention, injustices towards Aborigines, declining train and tram services, parkland annexation, the war on Iraq, uranium mining, Israeli action against Palestinians. 

It was a turn-around from what had been a conventional early life – that of a mother, homemaker and staunch neighbour known for her good works. “I just want to make a difference,” Joan would say. She wanted a fairer life for her grandchildren. 
At the age of 68, Joan learnt to swim in a wetsuit and, with 44 members of the Rainforest Action group, jumped into the murky water of North Wharf in a vain effort to stop a ship bringing in Malaysian forest timber. 

She was arrested several times during the demonstrations against holding the grand prix at Albert Park, but never convicted. She was incensed at being picked up for trespassing in the very place where she had played as a child. Albert Park was the catalyst for the serious campaigning that became such an important part of her life. 

Joan was a vivid personality, a loud, all-embracing presence, a non-stop talker. Despite the intensity of her commitments, she delighted in making fun of her foibles. On one occasion when she was arrested on April l, she and her co-offenders climbed out of the divisional van on arrival at the police station and declared “April fool, we were only kidding”. It did not go down well.

An Albert Park worker once yelled at her: “Get a job, you wanker.” Joan’s quick response was: “l’m too old for the first and physically unequipped for the second.” 

During the tram strike, when dozens of trams were abandoned for days in Elizabeth Street, she bowled up to a man in a theatre foyer and unleashed a tirade. The affronted look-alike for then transport minister Jim Kennan sympathized but pointed out that he was not, after all, Kennan. But Joan persisted: “Oh no, Mr Kennan, you can’t get out of it like that.” 

Once, she went by bus to the Northern Territory with a group of vegetarians to protest against uranium mining, only to report that they were indifferent protesters: the women deficient in stamina and the men lacking aggression. “It’s the diet, you know,” she said.

Joan was born and raised in Eisternwick. Her father was from a Jewish family with the anglicized name of Langley. Her mother was a Catholic and Joan was brought up in that faith. She wanted to be a nurse or a jockey, but instead was sent to secretarial school. 

During World War II she ran away from home to Townsville, where she became a plane-spotter/gunner in the women’ s auxiliary service. 

She fell in love and became engaged to Lester Kranz, an officer of the judge advocate’s office of the US in Townsville. His passion for social justice and, perhaps, his Jewishness, made a deep impression, and she contemplated a blissful life in America. But in 1944, flying to Melbourne for the wedding, Kranz was killed when his aircraft crashed.

Joan burnt his letters and shut out the pain, determined to get on with life. She became a dental nurse, and took part in amateur theatre productions at Melbourne University. She acted in radio drama and married the ABC broadcaster Howard Baker in 1947. Their five children were dubbed by friends “her rhythm quintet” – she was still a practising Catholic.

Joan was a familiar figure in Montrose, where the family settled. She drove their old green van around the village, often to the rescue of someone with a young family and a minor crisis. She continued her theatrical interest, joining in productions with the Hut players, Croydon Theatre and Lysterfield 1812 Theatre. 

She also gave driving lessons to the nuns, even after one of them had crashed into a level-crossing gate. 

The Montrose years ended in 1970, around the same time that the marriage was breaking up. Joan returned to full-time work. She married Bruce Eisma in 1974. For Joan it was a rare but brief period of calm.  Bruce died in 1978.

At the age of 60, Joan began tertiary education. At Phillip Institute of Technology she won an associate diploma of ethnic studies; she studied Turkish and Greek. She also completed courses for health assistants and motion picture operators. At 71, Joan was disqualified from giving further blood donations; she had given 101 times.

At 73, having taken up rowing a few years earlier with the YWCA Club, she won a seniors race on Albert Park lake, although it must be confessed that her boat was the only entrant. In her late 70s Joan became legally blind but still made her way by public transport to the city, and to her beloved beaches at Black Rock and Sandringham. She swam with her white cane tied to her shoulder – the cane enabling her to tap her way back to her clothes. 
Surgery restored her sight for the last year of her life. 

In her 80s, she backpacked across the US by bus, often sleeping the night on a bus station bench. When her mobility decreased, Joan discovered talkback radio as an alternative protest medium. She bombarded the lines until some producers restricted access.  But Joan of Carnegie slipped under the wire occasionally as Joan of Caulfield or Joan of  Elsternwick. 

In the end, she did make a difference.
Written by an old friend with the help of Joan’s daughter, Josephine Humphreys.

Bryanell2020 says – There is a radio interview with Joan Marie from Marh 2004, probably her last, with a full transcript here:

By bryanell2020

Occasional genealogist and full-time Ottolangui family historian. 8th generation descendant of the 17th century Ottolenghi family of Livorno, born in London, graduated in Birmingham, lived around the United Kingdom, Israel, and in Rome, Italy. For a short while in Buenos Aires, and currently residing in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic where I have been since 2005.

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