Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

Respect not Relief: Feminism, Guild Socialism and the Guild Hall Commune in Melbourne, 1917

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2008), 94, (1), 113–132.

Abstract

The Women’s Political Association and Peace Army responded to the Wharf Labourers’ strike in Melbourne in 1917 by setting up a commune to assist the men and their families. Critical of the demoralising effects of relief — even when provided from within the labour movement — these feminists evolved a new model of support for those left destitute as a result of industrial action, in the interests of economic and social justice. Preferring to characterise their actions as facilitating self-help and self-respect, they renamed their headquarters the Guild Hall Commune. The article focuses on how the organisers saw their actions as different from the other relief committees supporting strikers and their dependants at this time; it argues that the ideas of guild socialism were of particular significance, and had special resonance for feminists. While the commune’s work was soon overtaken by the second conscription referendum campaign, it is an episode that deserves analysis as an alternative construction of traditional female relief and auxiliary work.

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Details

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Smart, Judith

Table of Contents

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