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Page 2 A. EARLY DAYS - THE TIMES OF VIDA GOLDSTEIN
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8. 1903 WOMEN IN POLITICS
There never was any opposition from the men in Victoria, as a whole, to women having political equality with themselves.
The opposition came from only a few conservative men, from a section of the press, and, for a brief period, from a few sheltered women, who, immediately after the women were enfranchised for the Commonwealth in 1902 were induced by those same conservative gentlemen to form a political organisation to work in the interests of the Conservative party.
At first these women had only male speakers at their meetings for they still considered it "unwomanly" for women to speak in public. But gradually they got over that, and cheerfully took on the hitherto masculine prerogative of political oratory.
Vida Goldstein The Struggle for Woman Suffrage - summary of the Suffrage Movement in Victoria presented to the WCTU Melbourne 1947 in Isabel McCorkindale ed Pioneer Pathways Sixty Years of Citizenship 1887-1947 Morris and Walker 1948
Vida Goldstein's admirable poll of 51,497 votes in her 1903 campaign had shown the potentiality of the women's vote. Her success, however, aroused fear in the opposite political camp.
The result was the formation of the Australian Women’s National League (AWNL). Despite its claims, the AWNL was not formed by women but by men. On 10 March 1904, at a meeting called by the Victorian Employers' Federation at the Melbourne Town Hall, and attended by forty ladies, the AWNL was formally launched…
(It was) never feminist ... and hostile to the Women's Political Association ... (it) considered it immoral. The hostility was mutual.
Janice N Brownfoot Women's Organisations and the Woman Movement in Victoria 1890-1908 1968 SLV
9. 1904 VICTORIAN EMPLOYERS FEDERATION BETRAYAL
A women's league had been mooted by the Victorian Employers' Federation in June 1903, and at the end of September over two hundred women gathered to discuss the suggestion in the Cliveden ballroom, on the invitation of Lady Clarke ...
The first object of the Australian Women’s National League (AWNL) was, not surprisingly, "Loyalty to the Throne".
Double Time Women in Victoria - 150 Years Marilyn Lake, Farley Kelly Penguin 1985 p.181
The men behind the formation of the AWNL envisaged the women's organisations as adjuncts to the male Australian National Leagues, which were concerned with electing right-wing Liberal men to Parliament, but the movement quickly took on a life of its own ...
By September 1905 (only eighteen months after its formation) it had eighty-three branches, providing social activities for its 10,000 members as well as working for the party ...
Speakers at its meetings, she went on, were men, "all of whom bitterly opposed the granting of the franchise to women, and are opposed to it still".
Audrey Oldfield Woman Suffrage in Australia A Gift or a Struggle? CUB 1992 p.155
10. 1907 THE HARVESTER DECISION BETRAYAL
She (Vida Goldstein) then set out a list of weekly expenses for a married man with five children - "Rent 10/-; bread 5/-; milk 4/-; butter 1/3d; meat 7/-“ etc.
She listed 24 items altogether totalling two pounds eighteen and sixpence and added:
"A man on this standard can't belong to a union, or take a daily paper, or have any amusement. He can't afford to get ill because, though he would have free hospital treatment, his family would starve. He can't save for old age, and must be prepared to take charity when he can no longer work. This is all due to the competitive system and the drive for profits."
Vida's article appeared while Mr Justice Higgins was hearing the Harvester Case in the Arbitration Court, and it was the reading of this list which led him to have working men and women brought before him to give evidence as to the living expenses of the working community.
Life and Work, Leslie Henderson State Library of Victoria
In November 1907 Justice H.B. Higgins handed down a judgement that wages at the Sunshine Harvester works were not fair and reasonable. He had been required to do this under the Excise Tariff Act of 1906. This act offered Australian employers substantial tariff protection if they paid their employees "fair and reasonable" wages.
Federal Parliament did not define what it meant by fair and reasonable, and Higgins was left to decide this. The decision was widely supported in that it acknowledged that workers had a right to a living wage, but it was a disappointment in its treatment of women."
Such was the beginning of the famous Arbitration Court awards based on the normal needs of a working man and his family.
Vida Goldstein Life and Work, Leslie Henderson State Library of Victoria
The wages log prepared by the Clothing Trades' Congress has been published. The weekly minimum wage for women employed in the same branch as men is to be two-thirds of the women's wage.
Woman Voter March 1911 University of Melbourne
11. 1910-11 OTHER PREWAR ACTIONS
- Mass Meeting of Women Engaged in the Bookbinding Trade was held in the Trades Hall, Carlton on Monday 17th October 1910 at 8pm for the purpose of taking steps to form a union of women in connection with this class of employment. The object is "Preservation of a uniform scale of wages, weekly work, and to promote the interests of the trade in its moral, social and industrial aspects.”
Miss Mulcahy, Delaney, Townsend, Collins, McGrath, Triffle, Cohen, McLean. State Library of Victoria MS 11550
Widows of Miners and other workers in Victoria will find their positions improved by two Acts passed last year. The Wrongs Act 1910 enables the widow of a man killed through the negligence of another person to sue the negligent person for the pecuniary loss sustained by her husband's death. Till last year, the action could be brought only by the executor or administrator of the dead man. The Residence Area Act 1910 ... the holder's widow can apply to the Warden of the Court of Mines for an order permitting her to hold the residence area (of the miner's right).
Woman Voter March 6 1911
Dr Georgina Sweet, the first woman to win a science degree in our university, has proved that her knowledge is not all book learning. This year, against all comers, she carried off the David Syme Research Prize for brilliant research work ...
Woman Voter May 1 1911
The WPA has decided to invite delegates from all women's Associations, professions, and trades, to co-operate with it carrying on a special equal pay for equal work campaign.
Woman Voter September 10, 1912
12. 1911 THE MATCH GIRLS’ STRIKES
By November 1911 shoulderers - young women at Bryant and May Melbourne factory who put the cardboard inside box into the matchbox - struck for pay increases to 2s a crate (4,000 boxes) from 1s 8d. They said their wages were not adequate to self-support.
The management said they were well paid - they could earn 20s a week, and that shoulderers could be easily replaced if they were unable to reach that amount. It was argued that "they had homes and fathers, brothers and mothers to keep them, and plenty of their own sort could instantly be found to take their places"
The matchworkers’ union had been formed in 1910 and the average wage of women factory workers in Victoria in 1911 was half or less that of male workers ... The strike was of short duration, but by their industrial action the matchworkers’ demonstrated that solidarity of women workers could achieve success.
Double Time - Women in Victoria - 150 Years Marilyn Lake and Farley Kelly Penguin 1985 p.261, 266
13. 1911 FACTORIES AND SHOPS ACTS BETRAYAL
The Law of the Land: The two Factories and Shops Acts of 1910 repeat the blunder of 1897, by permitting Wages Boards, in determining the wages of apprentices and improvers, to take into consideration the sex of the person concerned.
Woman Voter March 6 1911
14. 1912 JUSTICE (?) HIGGINS BETRAYAL
In June 1912, twenty year old Miss Olive Gray took the witness stand in the Mildura Courthouse and gave evidence at the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court hearing for the Rural Workers Union.
She had packed dried fruit for the Mildura Co-op Fruit Company for five years. She came from a rural worker's family and her father who was a labourer had died. Olive supported not only herself but her mother and three younger siblings.
Facing cross-examination by the growers' solicitor and questions from Justice Higgins, president of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, when asked if she was “perfectly satisfied” with the wages of 4/6 a day, Olive hesitated.
After ascertaining that the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the factory where she worked was present, Higgins said:
"Tell me frankly whether you are satisfied with the 4/6 or not ... I shall see there is no injury to you from the answer".
Olive replied: "No, I am not satisfied ... Because it does not seem enough. It would be if I only had myself, but I have others to support".
Higgins dismissed her challenge to his concept of the "woman worker" as a secondary earner, which was central to his notion of male workers receiving a family wage:
"I cannot fix different wages for those who have others dependent on them and those who have not".
Ruth Ford, I am not satisfied DOI:10:2104/HA040007
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