During the period 1869-95 the Brisbane boot trade not only provided work for an increasing number of the city’s residents, it also gave rise to two of Queensland’s more significant trade unions. Of these, one, the Amalgamated Operative Boot Trade Union, gave voice to male craftsmen seeking to defend their status as independent handicraft producers. The other, the Female Boot-Machinists Union, proved to be the largest and most enduring female industrial organisation established in Brisbane prior to 1900. Despite the commitment of both male and female bootmakers to the cause of organised labour, the relationship between the two groups was characterised by a fundamental disjuncture. In large part, this reflected the uneven and tardy introduction of mechanised production into the northern capital, as, prior to 1894-95, it was only the women who did ‘the machinery’. In the end, this disjuncture left the cause of organised labour in a weakened state, despite the continuing growth in boot trade employment during the study period.