Labour History

‘We Have No Redress Unless We Strike’: Class, Gender and Activism in the Melbourne Tailoresses’ Strike, 1882-83

Labour History (2009), 96, (1), 19–38.

Abstract

By examining on the role played by rank-and-file activists and their leaders, this article seeks to balance the institutional focus of existing accounts of the 1883-3 Melbourne Tailoresses’ Strike. Placing the strike in the broader context of the emergence of a woman-centred trade unionism, it argues that while the strike ultimately failed in its goal of improving the tailoresses’ wages, it marked a major turning-point in public perceptions of female factory workers. Whereas the popular stereotype of the ‘factory girl’ was of a feckless adolescent who jeopardised her morals for a ‘pernicious freedom’, the striking tailoresses presented themselves as redoubtable activists, responsible for the support of young families, younger siblings and aging parents. In claiming the status of breadwinners in their own right, they challenged their exclusion from the ‘brotherhood’ of organised labour and won the support of the Victorian public.

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Details

Author details

Thornton, Danielle

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
p. 191
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p. 279
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