Labour History

Australian Women Journalists and the “Pretence of Equality”

Labour History (2015), 108, (1), 1–16.

Abstract

Australian women journalists were granted equal pay for equal work in 1917, under the first federal award for journalists. This article analyses the role of women in Australian journalism in the first half of the twentieth century and reveals that behind the appearance of gender equality is a history of persistent discrimination. Between the wars most women journalists were confined to work considered to be of lesser value, typically on the women’s pages of daily newspapers, and had limited opportunities for advancement to higher paid positions. Although World War II enabled many women journalists to move into higher status positions, they continued to be perceived according to gendered assumptions about their roles, modes of behaviour and abilities. War also reinforced anxieties about the disruption of normal gender divisions within the newspaper office.

Access Token
£25.00
READ THIS ARTICLE
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Footnotes

*The author would like to sincerely thank Georgine Clarsen, Frances Steel, Matthew Bailey, Jonathan Symons, andLabour History‘s two anonymous referees, for their valuable comments on earlier versions of this paper. Google Scholar

1. Commonwealth Arbitration Reports 11(1917):67;Keith Hancock, Australian Wage Policy(:University of Adelaide Press, 2013), 163. Google Scholar

2. Commonwealth Arbitration Reports 6(1912):61;Edna Ryan andAnne Conlon, Gentle Invaders: Australian Women at Work(:Penguin, 1989), 98–100. Google Scholar

3.See for example,Jane Carey, “Departing from Their Sphere? Australian Women in Science, 1880–1960,”inDepartures: How Australia Reinvents Itself, ed.Xavier Pons(:Melbourne University Press, 2002), 175–83;Jane Carey, “A Transnational Project? Women and Gender in the Social Sciences in Australia, 1890–1945,” Women’s History Review 18, no. 1(2009):45–69;Bronwyn Hanna, “Australia’s Early Women Architects: Milestones and Achievements,” Fabrications 12, no. 1(2002):27–57;Kathie Cooper, “Accounting by Women: Fear, Favour and the Path to Professional Recognition for Australian Women Accountants,” Accounting History 15, no. 3(2010):309–36. Google Scholar

4.Henry Mayer, The Press in Australia(:Lansdowne, 1964);Clem Lloyd, Profession: Journalist;R. B. Walker, Yesterday’s News: A History of the Newspaper Press in New South Wales from 1920 to 1945(:Sydney University Press, 1980). For a comprehensive study of early women journalists, seePatricia Clarke, Pen Portraits: Women Writers and Journalists in Nineteenth Century Australia(:Allen & Unwin, 1988). For historical overviews of women in the Australian media, seePatricia Clarke, “Women in the Media,”inA Companion to the Australian Media, ed.Bridget Griffen-Foley(:Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2014), 495–98;Barbara Lemon, “Women Journalists in Australian History,”The Women’s Pages: Australian Women and Journalism since 1850,Australian Women’s Archive Project, accessed March2015,http://www.womenaustralia.info/exhib/cal/intro.html;Louise North, “Media Print News,”inThe Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia, accessed March2015,http://www.womenaustralia.info/leaders/biogs/WLE0435b.htm. Google Scholar

5.Sharyn Pearce, Shameless Scribblers: Australian Women’s Journalism 1880–1995(:Central Queensland University Press, 1998). Google Scholar

6.Paula Hamilton, “Journalists, Gender and Workplace Culture 1900–1940,”inJournalism: Print, Politics and Popular Culture, ed.Ann Curthoys andJulianne Schultz(:University of Queensland Press, 1999), 97–116. Google Scholar

7.See for example,Bridget Griffen-Foley, The House of Packer: The Making of a Media Empire(:Allen & Unwin, 1999);Gavin Souter, Company of Heralds: A Century and a Half of Australian Publishing by John Fairfax Limited and Its Predecessors, 1831–1981(:Melbourne University Press, 1981);Patricia Rolfe, The Journalistic Javelin : An Illustrated History of the Bulletin(:Wildcat Press; distributed by Golden Press, 1979). Google Scholar

8.Journalism in the Thirties (sound recording), 6–7 December1976, ORAL TRC 121/85, National Library of Australia (NLA). Google Scholar

9.Maurine Beasley, “Recent Directions for the Study of Women’s History in American Journalism,” Journalism Studies 2, no. 2(2001):209;Hamilton, “Journalists, Gender, and Workplace Culture,” 102. Google Scholar

11.The distinct role of the reporter was to gather the news in the field, such as by interviewing, attending meetings or observing court cases. Charles H. Wickens and Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics (Australia), Census of the Commonwealth of Australia Taken for the Night Between the 3rd and 4th April, 1921(:Government Printer, [1925–27]);Marianne Salcetti, “The Emergence of the Reporter: Mechanization and the Devaluation of Editorial Workers,”inNewsworkers: Toward a History of the Rank and File, ed.Hanno Hardt andBonnie Brennen(:University of Minnesota Press, 1995), 56–7. Google Scholar

12.Beverley Kingston, My Wife, My Daughter and Poor Mary Ann(:Nelson, 1977), 61. Google Scholar

13.The figure for nurses includes the following sub-categories: 922 (hospital), 923 (mothercraft and child), 924 (hospital probationer), 938 (private), 939 (maternity and midwife), and excludes matrons. Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics (Australia), Census of the Commonwealth of Australia, 30th June, 1933(:Commonwealth Government Printer, 1933). Google Scholar

14.Lloyd, Profession: Journalist, 29. Google Scholar

15.Ibid., 296;Mayer, The Press in Australia, 191. Google Scholar

16.Hamilton, “Journalists, Gender and Workplace Culture,” 100–101. Google Scholar

17.Deborah Chambers,Linda Steiner, andCarole Fleming, Women and Journalism(:Routledge, 2004), 27. Google Scholar

18.Tess Van Sommers interviewed by Hazel de Berg (sound recording), 8 March1976, ORAL TRC 1/919, NLA. Google Scholar

19.Margaret Curtis-Otter interviewed by Hazel de Berg (sound recording), 6 December1975, ORAL TRC 1/906–907, NLA. Google Scholar

20.Lloyd, Profession: Journalist, 161;Bridget Griffen-Foley, “‘Operating on an Intelligent Level’: Cadet Training at Consolidated Press in the 1940s,”inCurthoys andSchultz, Journalism, 145–46. Google Scholar

21.Pat Weetman, “Husband Taught Leader of Housewives to Cook,” Herald, 1 May1954. Google Scholar

22.“Hain, Gladys Adeline (1887–1962),” Australian Dictionary of Biography(ADB),National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, accessed March2015,http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hain-gladys-adeline-6520;Gladys Hain, “They are Learning to be Australian,” Argus, 30 July1938(supplement), 5;“A Woman Looks at the Slums,” Argus, 27 October1937, 9. Google Scholar

23. “Hain, Gladys Adeline”;Weetman, “Husband Taught Leader.” Google Scholar

24.The University of Queensland initially offered a Diploma for Journalism, which became a Diploma in Journalism in 1934.Rod Kirkpatrick, “Diploma to Degree: 75 Years of Tertiary Journalism Studies,” Australian Studies in Journalism 5(1996):257–59;Minute Book, Diploma in Journalism Committee 1920–49, UM26,University of Melbourne Archives. Google Scholar

25. Journalist, 17 February1928, 17 May1928, 24 September1930, 30 June1937, 31 August1937, 28 February1938;Penny O’Donnell, “Journalism Education,”inGriffen-Foley, A Companion to the Australian Media, 226. Google Scholar

26.Lloyd, Profession: Journalist, 130. Google Scholar

27. Journalist, 24 September1928;Clifford Turney,Ursula Bygott, andPeter Chippendale, Australia’s First: A History of the University of Sydney, vol. 1, 1850–1939(:University of Sydney in association with Hale & Iremonger, 1991), 478–79. Google Scholar

28.Minutes of Meeting of the Board of Journalistic Studies, 1 March1940, cons 714, University of Western Australia (UWA) Archives; UWA Calendar1947, 385 and1949, 402; Handwritten List of Journalism Students1928–46, extract from cons 732, attached to enquiry 1991/37, UWA Archives. Google Scholar

29.Minutes, 20 September 1923 and 16 December1924, Diploma in Journalism Committee1920–49, Minute Book, 1920–49, UM26, University of Melbourne Archives. Google Scholar

30.Lynn Beaton, “The Importance of Women’s Paid Labour: Women at Work in World War II,”inWorth Her Salt: Women at Work in Australia, ed.Margaret Bevege,Margaret James, andCarmel Shute(:Hale & Iremonger, 1982), 85–86;Kingston, My Wife, My Daughter, 62. Google Scholar

31.Lloyd, Profession: Journalist, 84. Google Scholar

32.The Menzies award of 1927 provided for a simplified grade system, from A to D.Ibid., 161. Google Scholar

33.Kay Whitehead, “Careers Advice for Women and the Shaping of Identities,” Labour History, no. 92(May2007):60. Google Scholar

34. Journalist, 18 January1929, 14;R. B. Walker, The Newspaper Press in New South Wales 1803–1920(:Sydney University Press, 1976), 162, 242. Google Scholar

35. Australasian Journalist, 25 November1916, 204–305. Google Scholar

36.Ibid., 15 December1916, 326. Google Scholar

38.Lloyd, Profession: Journalist, 147–48. Google Scholar

39. Journalist, 19 January1928, 5. Google Scholar

40.Ibid., 17 December1928, 188–91. Google Scholar

41.Lloyd, Profession: Journalist, 147, 305;Clarke, “Women in the Media,” 496. Google Scholar

42.Lesley Heath, “Society of Women Writers 1925–1935,” Australian Literary Studies 21, no. 3(2004):362–78. Google Scholar

43.“Women and Journalists,” Clarence and Richmond Examiner, 5 February1914, 3. Google Scholar

44.For example, Frances Taylor was founder and managing editor ofWoman’s World1921–33, and Florence Taylor became the sole publisher and editor of three construction/engineering periodicals in1928, following the death of her husband George Taylor.Christa Ludlow, “Taylor, Florence Mary (1879–1969),” ADB, accessed March2015,http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/taylor-florence-mary-8754;Maya V. Tucker, “Taylor, Irene Frances (1890–1933),” ADB, accessed March2015,http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/taylor-irene-frances-8761. For analysis of the continuing gender imbalance in senior roles in the Australian press, seeLouise North, “Women’s Struggle for Top Jobs in the News Media,”inSeizing the Initiative: Australian Women Leaders in Politics, Workplaces and Communities, ed.Rosemary Francis,Patricia Grimshaw andAnn Standish(:eScholarship Research Centre, University of Melbourne, 2012), 262–70. Google Scholar

45.Noel Stewart, As I Remember Them(:Artlook Books, 1987), 4–5;Betty Osborn, “Girl Reporter,” The Fifth Estate, RMIT Journalism ezine (December2001), accessed March2015,http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/23203/20020122–0000/fifth.estate.rmit.edu.au/december01/osborn/osborn.htm. Google Scholar

46.Margaret Curtis-Otter interviewed by Hazel de Berg; see alsoOsborn, “Girl Reporter.” Google Scholar

47.Hamilton, “Journalists, Gender, and Workplace Culture,” 111. Google Scholar

48.Full membership was finally granted to women in 1972.Lloyd, Profession: Journalist, 147;Don Angel, The History of the Journalists’ Club(:The Journalists’ Club, 1985), 152–53. Google Scholar

49.For a discussion of the rigidity of sex-role stereotyping in US journalism in the interwar period, seeLinda Lumsden, “‘You’re a Tough Guy, Mary – and a First-Rate Newspaperman’: Gender and Women Journalists in the 1920s and 1930s,” Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly 72, no. 4(1995):913–21. Google Scholar

50.Marilyn Lake, “Female Desires: The Meaning of World War II,”inGender and War: Australians at War in the Twentieth Century, ed.Joy Damousi andMarilyn Lake(:Cambridge University Press, 1995), 62. Google Scholar

51. Journalist, September1938, 4. Google Scholar

52.Bonnie Brennen, “Cultural Discourse of Journalists: The Material Conditions of Newsroom Labor,”inHardt andBrennen, Newsworkers, 85. Google Scholar

53. Journalist, 17 April1930, 52. Google Scholar

54. Australasian Journalist, 18 April1927, 60; see also“Tessa Fubbs’s Tragic Death,” Journalist, September1938, 4. Google Scholar

55.Clarke, “Women in the Media,” 496. Google Scholar

56.Coralie Rees interviewed by Hazel de Berg (sound recording), 1968, ORAL TRC 1/359–361, NLA. Google Scholar

57.Paula Poindexter andDustin Harp, “The Softer Side of News,”inWomen, Men and News, ed.Paula Poindexter,Sharon Meraz, andAmy Schmitz Weiss(:Routledge, 2008), 85. Google Scholar

58.Clarke, Pen Portraits, 2–4;May Maxwell, “Plain Speaking,” Journalist, 31 July1936, 10. Google Scholar

59.The journal, which was the official organ of both the AJA and the New Zealand Journalists’ Association, changed its name to theJournalistin 1927.Australasian Journalist, 15 August1919, 136;Heather Roberts, “Mackay, Jessie,” Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, accessed March2015,http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/2m15/mackay-jessie. Google Scholar

60.“The Kaleidoscope,” Brisbane Courier, 7 September1922, 12;Barbara Lemon andNikki Henningham, “Moore, Winifred (–1952),”the Australian Women’s Register,Australian Women’s Archive Project, accessed March2015,http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/AWE2894b.htm. Google Scholar

61.Michael Schudson, The Power of News(:Harvard University Press, 1995), 7–8. Google Scholar

62. Herself, April1929, 16. Google Scholar

63.“Women and Journalists,” Clarence and Richmond Examiner, 5 February1914, 3. Google Scholar

64.North, “Media Print News.” Google Scholar

65.Mary Marlowe, That Fragile Hour(:Angus and Robertson, 1990), 151–52. Google Scholar

66.Deborah Campbell, “From Theatre to Radio: The Popular Career of Mary Marlowe,”inAustralian Popular Culture, ed.Peter Spearritt andDavid Walker(:George Allen & Unwin, 1979), 92. Google Scholar

67. Journalism in the Thirties. Google Scholar

68.Joan W. Scott, “Deconstructing Equality-Versus-Difference: Or, the Uses of Poststructuralist Theory for Feminism,” Feminist Studies 14, no. 1(1988):40. Google Scholar

69. Journalist, 15 June1927, 83; see for example,“A Woman’s Impression: Uniforms Outshine Dress,” Argus, 10 May1927, 19. Google Scholar

70.Helena Studdert, “Women’s Magazines,”inA History of the Book in Australia 1891–1945, ed.Martyn Lyons andJohn Arnold(:University of Queensland Press, 2001), 276–81;Heather Radi, “Jackson, Alice Mabel (1887–1974),” ADB, accessed March2015,http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jackson-alice-mabel-10597/text18827. Google Scholar

71.Griffen-Foley, “Operating on an Intelligent Level,” 143;Griffen-Foley, House of Packer, 43. Google Scholar

72.Sol Encel,Norman MacKenzie, andMargaret Tebbutt, Women and Society: An Australian Study(:Cheshire, 1974), 72–73. Google Scholar

73.Beaton, “Importance of Women’s Paid Labour,” 86–87. Google Scholar

74.John Curtin, September1942, quoted inIbid., 88. Google Scholar

75.Lloyd, Profession: Journalist, 205–206;Rod Kirkpatrick, “War and Lasting Change: The Battle for Survival on the Provincial Newspaper Front,” eJournalist 1, no. 2(2001), accessed March2015,http://ejournalist.com.au/v1n2/KIRK.pdf. Google Scholar

76.Lloyd, Profession: Journalist, 207. Google Scholar

77.Ibid. Google Scholar

78.Kate Darian-Smith, On the Home Front: Melbourne in Wartime 1939–1945, 2nd ed. (:Oxford University Press, 2009), 61. Google Scholar

79.Lloyd, Profession: Journalist, 209. Google Scholar

80. Supplementary Civilian Register, 5th June, 1943, AustraliainAustralian Bureau of Statistics, Historical Microfiche Series: Statistical Publications Since Federation(:Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1989), 20–007. Google Scholar

81.Lloyd, Profession: Journalist, 217. Google Scholar

82.Andrea Lofthouse andVivienne Smith, Who’s Who of Australian Women(:Methuen Australia, 1982), 54;Journalist, March1944, 6. Google Scholar

83.Walker, Yesterday’s News, 164. Google Scholar

84.Julie Norman, “She’s ‘Woman’s’ Copy Boy,” Woman, 8 January1945, 22;Pat Holmes, “She Photographs the News,” Woman, 12 March1945, 20–21;“Pat Holmes,”The Australian Women’s Register, accessed March2015,www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/AWE3123b.htm. Google Scholar

85.Jack Cannon, “Tales of George Johnston and Geoffrey Hutton,”inThe Argus: Life & Death of a Newspaper, ed.Jim Usher(:Jim Usher, 1999), 33. Google Scholar

86.Jeannine Ann Baker, “Beyond the ‘Woman’s Angle’: Australian Women War Reporters during World War II”(PhD diss.,University of Melbourne, 2013), 237. Google Scholar

87.Ibid., 169–71. Google Scholar

88.K. S. Inglis, This is the ABC: The Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1932–1983(:Black Inc, 2006), 104–105. Google Scholar

89.Marilyn Lake, “The War over Women’s Work,”inA Most Valuable Acquisition, ed.Verity Burgmann andJenny Lee(:McPhee Gribble/Penguin, 1988), 210. Google Scholar

90.Letter from“Browning Off,” Journalist, January1944, 2. Google Scholar

91.Lake, “War over Women’s Work,” 205. Google Scholar

92. Journalist, February1944, 2. Google Scholar

93.Lloyd, Profession: Journalist, 218;Maurine Beasley, “Women and Journalism in World War II: Discrimination and Progress,” American Journalism 12, no. 3(1995):322. Google Scholar

94. Journalist, September1944, 2. Google Scholar

95.Ibid., October1944, 2. Google Scholar

96.Ibid., November1944, 2. Google Scholar

97.Ibid., August1944, 3. Google Scholar

99.Lloyd, Profession: Journalist, 218, 305. Google Scholar

100.Ibid., 242. Google Scholar

101.Susan Mitchell, Tall Poppies: Nine Successful Australian Women Talk to Susan Mitchell(:Penguin, 1984), 34. Google Scholar

102.Justine Lloyd, “Women’s Pages in Australian Print Media from the 1850s,” Media Information Australia 150(2014):63;Barbara Lemon, “Women Journalists in Australian History.” Google Scholar

103.See for example, letter by“Singleton,” Journalist, February1944, 2. The roles of women scientists also expanded during World War II, only to contract in peacetime. SeeCarey, “Departing From Their Sphere?” 181. Google Scholar

104.Justine Lloyd, “Gendering Radio Research: The Circuit of Everyday Culture,”inMaking a Difference: Refereed Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Australia New Zealand Communication Association, Sydney, 2004(:ANZCA, 2004), 63–64;Sandy George, “South Australian Women Journalists and the Struggle for Equal Career Opportunities in Newspaper Journalism,” Cabbages and Kings: Selected Essays in History and Australian Studies 6(1978):14–24;Clarke, Pen Portraits, 253;Julie Rigg andSusan Anthony, “Equal Pay, Low Grades,” Metro Magazine: Media & Education Magazine, no. 37(Spring1976):15. Google Scholar

105.Darian-Smith, On the Home Front, 66–67;Marilyn Lake, “War over Women’s Work,” 211. Google Scholar

106.Rita Dunstan, “Will Servicewomen Want Former Jobs Back?” Sunday Times, 2 May1943(supplement), 3. Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Baker, Jeannine