Labour History

Labour Women’s Leadership: Concept and History

Labour History (2013), 104, (1), 1–8.


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1.Leaders and leadership have been mentioned regularly inLabour Historysince its foundation in 1962. A digital search of the journal brings up 653 results for “leadership.” Of these 366 are articles, the rest are book reviews: only two articles have leadership in the title. The word “leader” comes up 645 times but just twice in titles: both of these articles are about J. A. Lyons. In sum, women are not identified by title as “labour leaders” at all. Google Scholar

2. Labour History, no. 27 (1974):93–94. Google Scholar

3.Ann Curthoys, Susan Eade, and Peter Spearitt, eds, Women at Work(:Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, 1975). Google Scholar

4.The conferences are discussed in:Daphne Gollan and Susan Magarey, “2nd Women and Labour Conference, Melbourne, 17-19 May 1980,” Labour History, no. 39 (1980):98–102; Marian Simms, “2nd Women and Labour Conference, Melbourne, 17-19 May 1980,”Labour History, no. 39 (1980): 103-8; Wendy Harcourt and Gillian Higginson, “The Third Women and Labour Conference, Adelaide June 1982,”Labour History, no. 43 (1982): 109-17; Adele Murdolo, “Warmth and Unity with All Women? Historicizing Racism in the Australian Women’s Movement,”Feminist Review, no. 52 (1996): 69-86, 82, n. 2;Fourth Women & Labour Conference: Papers, Brisbane, 1984(St. Lucia, Qld: Organising Committee, Fourth Women and Labour Conference, 1984). The 5th and 6th conferences were held a decade later in 1995 (Sydney) and 1997 (Geelong): Maree Murray “5th Women and Labour Conference, 1995: Sydney,”Labour History, no. 70 (1996): 212-14;Book of Abstracts: 6th Women and Labour Conference, Deakin University, November 1997(Geelong, Vic.: Deakin University, 1997). Google Scholar

5.Elizabeth Windschuttle, “Introduction,”inWomen, Class and History: Feminist Perspectives on Australia 1788-1978, ed.Elizabeth Windschuttle(:Fontana/Collins, 1980), 19–33. Google Scholar

6.For example,Bernice Morris, Between the Lines(:Sybylla Co-operative Press, 1988); Almirah Inglis, The Hammer & Sickle and the Washing Up: Memories of an Australian Woman Communist(South Melbourne: Hyland House, 1995). Google Scholar

7.John Shields and Andrew Moore, “The Biographical Register of the Australian Labour Movement: A Progress Report,” University of Sydney, accessed March2013, Shields and Moore note that 275 women have been selected among the 2,000 projected entries. Google Scholar

8.“Struggling for Recognition: The Individual in Labour History,” special thematic, ed.Mark Hearn and Harry Knowles, Labour History, no. 87 (2004):1–192. Google Scholar

9.Susan Magarey, “Editorial,” Australian Feminist Studies 19, no. 43(2004): 3-4. Google Scholar

10.P. R. Hart, review ofSo We Take Comfort, by Dame Enid Lyons, Labour History, no. 10 (May1966):53–55. Google Scholar

11.Winifred Mitchell, “Wives of the Radical Labour Movement,”inWomen at Work, ed.Ann Curthoys, Susan Eade, and Peter Spearitt(:Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, 1975), 1–14. Google Scholar

12.Marian Simms, “Writing the History of Australian Women,” Labour History, no. 34 (1978):96. Google Scholar

13.Magarey, “Editorial,” 3–4. Google Scholar

14.The second conference was collected asMargaret Bevege, Margaret James and Carmel Shute, eds, Worth Her Salt: Women at Work in Australia(:Hale & Iremonger, 1982). Google Scholar

15.Simms, “2nd Women and Labour Conference,” 108. Google Scholar

16.Harcourt and Higginson, “The Third Women and Labour Conference,” 111, 115; Sneja Gunew, “Margins: Acting Like a (Foreign) Woman,” Hecate 17, no. 1(1991): 31. Google Scholar

17.Note the important debates around these issues:Ann Curthoys, “What is the Socialism in Socialist Feminism?” Australian Feminist Studies 3, no. 6(1988):17–23; Rosemary Pringle, “Socialist-Feminism in the Eighties: Reply to Curthoys,”Australian Feminist Studies3, no. 6 (1988): 25-30; Ann Curthoys, “Reply to Rosemary Pringle,”Australian Feminist Studies3, nos 7-8 (1988): 171-77; Pauline Johnson, “More on the Socialism in Socialist Feminism: A Response to Pringle,”Australian Feminist Studies3, nos 7-8 (1988): 179-86; Carol Johnson “Is it Worth Salvaging the Socialism in Socialist Feminism?”Australian Feminist Studies3, nos 7-8 (1988): 187-91; Daphne Gollan, “Socialism and the Ecological and Feminist Movements,”Australian Feminist Studies3, nos 7-8 (1988): 193-96; Philipa Rothfield, “Splitting Theory’s Atom: Feminism’s Uncertainty Principle,”Australian Feminist Studies3, nos 7-8 (1988): 197-202. Google Scholar

18.Judy Lattas, “Feminism as a Proper Name,” Australian Feminist Studies 4, no. 9(1989): 85-96. Google Scholar

19.Rosemary Webb, “Collaborative Women,” Australian Feminist Studies 22, no. 52(2007):107–26; Cathy Brigden, “A Women’s Place? Women in the Victorian Trades Hall Council from the 1880s to the 1990s,”Australian Feminist Studies22 (2007): 369-84. Google Scholar

20.Meaghan Morris, “I Don’t Really Like Biography,” Australian Feminist Studies 7, no. 16(1992): 12-23, 20. Google Scholar

21.A point made more generally in:Sharon Erickson Nepstad and Clifford Bob, “When Do Leaders Matter? Hypotheses on Leadership Dynamics in Social Movements,” Mobilization 11, no. 1(2006):1. Google Scholar

22.V. G. Childe, How Labour Governs: A Study of Workers’ Representation in Australia(:Melbourne University Press, 1964), 32, 34; H. V. Evatt, Australian Labour Leader: The Story of W. A. Holman and the Labour Movement, (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1940), 35-39. Google Scholar

23.Amanda Sinclair, Leadership for the Disillusioned: Moving Beyond Myths and Heroes to Leading that Liberates(:Allen & Unwin, 2007), 82–83. Google Scholar

24.Michelle Kaminski and Elaine K. Yakura, “Women’s Union Leadership: Closing the Gender Gap,” Working USA 11, no. 4(2008):461. Although theorists have considered the importance of upbringing on leadership potential, looking specifically at parental influence, birth order and siblings, disruptions, and the influence of gendered social norms on future leaders, such analysis does not consider class as a direct influence. Sinclair, Leadership, 59, 85. For the importance of acknowledging women’s “multiple oppressions,” including class, see Karen L. Suyemoto and Mary B. Ballou, “Conducted Monotones to Coacted Harmonies,” inWomen and Leadership: Transforming Visions and Diverse Voices, ed. Jean Lau Chinet al., (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), 38-40. Google Scholar

25.Amanda Sinclair, “Not Just ‘Adding Women In’: Women Re-Making Leadership,”inSeizing the Initiative: Australian Women Leaders in Politics, Workplaces and Communities, ed.Rosemary Francis, Patricia Grimshaw and Ann Standish(:eScholarship Research Centre, University of Melbourne, 2012), 15–34. Google Scholar

26.Boas Shamir and Galit Eilam, ‘“What’s Your Story?’ A Life-stories Approach to Authentic Leadership Development,” Leadership Quarterly, no. 16 (2005):395–417. On the value of collective biography, see Harry Knowles, “Trade Union Leadership: Biography and the Role of Historical Context,”Leadership3 (2007):191-209. Google Scholar

27.Edgar H. Schein, Organisational Culture and Leadership, 4th ed.(:Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2010). Google Scholar

28.Linda Briskin, “Union Renewal, Postheroic Leadership, and Women’s Organizing,” Labor Studies Journal 36, no. 4(2011): 514-15. Google Scholar

29.Ibid., 515. Google Scholar

30.Ibid., 512, 519. Google Scholar

31.Linda Briskin, “Victimisation and Agency: The Social Construction of Union Women’s Leadership,” Industrial Relations Journal 37, no. 4(1998):359–78; Judy Wajcman, Managing Like a Man: Women and Men in Corporate Management(University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998); Kaminski and Yakura, “Women’s Union Leadership,” 459; Briskin, “Union Renewal,” 518; Sinclair, Leadership, 32. Google Scholar

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Author details

Dickenson, Jackie

Grimshaw, Patricia

Scalmer, Sean