Militant spirits

The rebel women of Broken Hill


This chapter is based on a thesis entitled Rebel Women: Women and Class in Broken Hill, 1889-1917, BA (Hons,) La Trobe University, 1996.

A beautiful fine day in August 1892 became known in Broken Hill as the Fateful 25th. By mass picketing, striking workers and their supporters prevented the mine owners re-opening the mines with blacklegs. This victory owed much to the enthusiasm and militancy of women on the pickets who, armed with axe and broom handles, led foray after foray against blacklegs and shift bosses with vigorous violence. To the horror of conservative opinion, the ‘inevitable women’ molested a respectable businessman and seized the reins of a bank manager who rode his horse into the crowd. Popular legend has it they also tarred and feathered scabs.

The degree to which the success of the day was attributed to the women can be judged by this sour comment in the mouthpiece of conservative opinion on the Barrier, the Silver Age:

It would be a grave error for the leaders to assume that because a crowd of men did not face the tar pots and the viragos yesterday morning the victory is theirs.1

The unionists had been on strike since 4 July against the introduction of stoping (excavation) by contract. The workers firmly believed this was a cover for a wage cut and would result in more dangerous work practices.

On Sunday 3 July 5,000 people, including a good number of women, gathered in the treeless Central Reserve. It was agreed that only unionists could decide on a strike motion. They would ultimately be held responsible for the suffering endured by families and others in the town. But Josiah Thomas, mindful of the potential strength of a union which involved its supporters both women and men, put forward another motion. In part it read: ‘as the Miners’ Association is the most chiefly concerned, this meeting supports any action the miners may think fit, whether immediate or otherwise.’ The speeches emphasised the common interest of the miners, other unionists and women and families. Thomas’s motion was passed unanimously, cementing a sense of solidarity and determination, which was to ensure a wide involvement and keep the strike going until 23 October.2

Numbers of women regularly attended the daily mass rallies and pickets. In the first weeks of the struggle a Barrier United Females’ Strike Protest Committee was formed. The assembly of 500 passed a large number of resolutions, one of which was to join the union demonstration planned for 24 August. This idea was wisely abandoned in the view of the Barrier Miner.3 Nevertheless, plans were made for a women’s rally which some said was the highlight of The Fateful 25th, in spite of the excitement of the morning. In any case, a contingent of about 100 women did join the union procession and was favoured with a perfect volley of claps and applausive shouts.

Five hundred marched later in the women’s procession, a bold and daring activity for the times. Three times that number lined the streets to support them. Mrs C. Poole, mounted on a handsome bay, acted as field marshal.

Even the Silver Age, a hostile judge, admitted that ‘several of the ladies present ... discoursed eloquently and intelligently upon the situation at their rally.’ Thousands had gathered in the Central Reserve to support the women’s march. Mesdames Rogers, Hastings, McDonald and Trevarrow along with Miss Roberts were hoisted onto a lorry and

delivered short addresses condemnatory of the directors’ action and the contract system ...They heartily prayed that the men would stand firm ...

Mrs Rogers threatened a man who attended the last women’s meeting dressed in women’s clothing: ‘if the women caught him there again, they would see if they could make a woman of him.’4

Large and enthusiastic meetings of women continued even after some militants thought the strike was defeated, with seven of the strike leaders jailed and hundreds of scabs working. Women crowded the streets for the annual eight hour procession. Some who claimed to have taken blacklegs out of the mine rode on a vehicle displaying a banner emblazoned ‘Women’s Union’. They were involved in riotous scenes confronting scabs on Saturday nights.

Mary Lee, Vice President of the Working Women’s Trades Union, Adelaide, wrote to the Barrier Miner:

... Sir, this strike has one feature which renders it more profoundly interesting than any of its predecessors...which must secure it a prominent and distinguished page when the history of these colonies shall be written. It is that the women of Broken Hill are the first great body of working women who have raised their voices in united protest against the glaring injustice that ‘the present constitution will not allow them a voice in framing the laws ...’5

She was right to give the strike such historical significance. But for all the efforts to write a women’s history in recent years, it has not received a distinguished page. It has not warranted one sentence. Even when working class women’s experience intersects with issues such as suffrage, it has escaped historians’ notice.

This kind of political and militant activity seems extreme and unusual. However, it was part of a recurring pattern in Broken Hill. Three years earlier, a Women’s Brigade picketed the mines during a week-long strike to establish compulsory unionism for the all-male workforce and tarred and feathered scabs.

The next great confrontation, the 1909 lock-out, saw women mobilise again. Broken Hill was in ferment in the last months of 1908. The companies had summarily dismissed demands for a wage increase and shorter hours and BHP was even threatening a pay cut. The Barrier Truth Women’s League (the Barrier Truth was the union paper) was involved in organising, propagandising and agitating, preparing women for the expected show down. But they were not left to do it alone. Wednesday afternoon 14 October, Tom Mann, the famous and much loved union organiser recently employed by the Barrier unions, addressed the League at Trades Hall and again on Monday 19th.

The Wednesday meeting resolved to stand by the men and to help them by all means in their power, not just because of loyalty to their men, but to resist any lowering of the standard of living on the Barrier. In fact, they were more demanding than the unionists, who were prepared to continue with the old agreement: ‘We call upon the men to claim the half-holiday as a reasonable concession ...’6 They resolved to meet weekly and set up a strike committee. The new Lady Editor of the ‘Women’s Sphere’ column in the Barrier Truth promised to deal chiefly with issues which affected the economic interest of working class women. The women asked the Combined Trade Unions to produce a badge to be worn by both sexes, and if unionists were seen without it committee women would have the right to challenge them. Lizzie Ahern, a popular speaker from the Victorian Socialist Party and now living on the Barrier, gave talks such as ‘The War of the Classes’.

After more than a decade of relative peace, the Women’s League had only 21 members. But they were to mobilise thousands in the months to come. Their task as militants was organising more women into the struggle, but this was not solely their responsibility. Nor did they attend only women’s meetings. The Lady Editor used her column to call on women to swell the meetings. Tom Mann, in his address at Trades Hall on ‘The Social Upheaval: Its Causes and Cure’, urged the women to use their influence to get the men into the union.7

The picketing began on Friday, 1 January. A marked feature of the previous Wednesday’s mass meeting was the large number of women present whose hands were held up conspicuously when the vote was taken. From the beginning, women were on the pickets and an extraordinary large number of ladies were seen at the rallies, which heralded shift changes every four hours. Lizzie Ahern, now known as Mrs A.K. Wallace since her wedding on 10 December, urged all to stand firm in the fight they had undertaken in her address to a monster crowd. Sometimes they could be relentless in their demand for solidarity. L.E., in Women’s Sphere, pointed out that it was good that Tom Mann appealed to the women and got a positive response. But the Tramways delegate at the same meeting had made a ‘knock kneed, apologetic speech about why his union could not stop provisions getting into the scabs in the mine. There is only one place for him ¾ on the other side.’8

On Friday 8 January, Tom Mann asked at a mass meeting how many of the women present would march at the head of the union procession the next day, quite a new departure, as the Barrier Daily Truth put it. They responded enthusiastically. Thirty males (and no females) were arrested that day. Being female might save women from custody, but it did not shield them from the baton blows .9

Women played their part in isolating police brought in from Sydney. After the police attack on 9 January, women responded that night with back handers and spitting at police. On a Saturday night, one girl ignored a policeman’s order to ‘come here’, throwing back the remark: ‘Go back to Sussex St, you plague rat’. And the police were later to allege that Mrs Gibson, one of the leading lady socialists, used insulting words for which she spent one month in jail.10

The incarceration of unionists and Mrs Gibson provided another reason for frequent demonstrations. A Mrs Nolan was the flag bearer for the Socialist Group. At the Court, she defiantly waved the red flag over the fence, her action being loudly cheered. Mrs Wallace spoke, condemning the police as scabs, castigating men who stood on the footpaths instead of joining the marches, pointing out that the capitalists raised the old cry of women’s suffering in the struggle. But the suffering would not be half so great as if their husbands and fathers accepted lower wages.11 Her point was driven home by the ambiguous result, which left hundreds of men unemployed for months after the lock-out was called off on 23 May. BHP defied the Arbitration Court’s ruling in favour of the union by keeping the mine closed.

This legacy of industrial militancy helps explain why Broken Hill saw the first strike against conscription during World War I. When Prime Minister Billy Hughes announced a referendum to introduce conscription, the militants sprang into action, reviving some of the old traditions and mobilising large numbers, by linking anger about falling living standards and the desire for shorter hours with hostility to conscription.

The Barrier anti-Conscription campaign opened in the Central Reserve on Sunday 16 July, 1916. One week later the Labour Volunteer Army (LVA) was formed at a mass meeting of 500 men and ‘several staunch labor women’ at Trades Hall. Hundreds took an oath to the ‘working class of Australia’ not to ‘serve as a conscript (industrial or military) ... even though it may mean my imprisonment or death’.12

The LVA Women’s Corps received a boost with a three week visit by Mrs Bella Lavender, the popular agitator from Melbourne. Promoted as one of the ‘most intellectual women in the Commonwealth ... the first of her sex in Australia to take the MA degree,’13 Lavender spoke to large crowds on ‘Australia’s Peril’, (the employing class), ‘The War Precautions Act’, and ‘Man’s Love for Woman’ in which she dealt with the status of women industrially and socially.

The Corps held regular meetings at Trades Hall, formed their own choir which led their contingent in demonstrations and had their own banners. However public speaking was still an area they found more difficult than men did, even though many who took on the role of orators received a tumultuous welcome. Mrs Frances Mortimer, who told LVA rallies that workers must make war on war, wrote to a friend that she was the ‘only woman in the Town who can get on the soapbox’, adding, ‘but the crowds like me.’14 Adela Pankhurst, the famous suffragette from Britain, was a popular visiting speaker. There was such a crowd to hear her on ‘War and the Workers’ that she had to address an overflow meeting outside Trades Hall after the main event.

A number of male anti-conscription leaders received jail sentences. Typically, the police did not think women important enough to arrest. However many lived with harassment such as having mail opened and their activities under constant surveillance.15 Frances Mortimer lost her job as a result of a campaign by the secretary of the Jockey Club. The miners’ union organised such an effective ban against the club that he was in his turn forced to resign and leave Broken Hill.

The second conscription referendum provoked similar activities. The frequent visits by women agitators, this time including Labor activist Kathleen Hotson, plus the prominent role of women such as Mesdames M. Lawson, A. Barbor, Weaver, Sinclair, Joyce, Davis, and Lumson had raised the expectations of larger numbers of women. They set up a speaker’s class and asked Alice Cogan to coach them.

Workers took pride in the overwhelming rejection of conscription on the Barrier: 3,854 YES, 8,922 NO, with the No vote even larger in the second referendum of November 1917.16

Ideas and the struggle for change

The following advertisement appeared in the first edition of the Barrier Truth in 189817 and was still running in 1917:

should persuade their HUSBANDS,
MALE RELATIONS to join, and
should see that they KEEP

It exemplifies the contradictions we need to keep in mind if we are to understand working class history. By today’s standards the ad seems patronising, but there is another side to it. The union assumed women read the union paper, and were political. Therefore they could be influenced and, in turn, could influence men and thereby play a role in building the union.

This tension between accepting gender stereotypes and treating women as political participants in working class life was common in the language and rhetoric of socialists and militants. This is partly because all radicals operate within the historical and cultural restraints of their time. Early this century it was far more difficult to avoid child birth and its consonant restraints. Child care was only for those who could pay a nanny. No family could afford to forego a miner’s pay for the low wages a woman could earn. This reality underpinned an acceptance of roles which today are more open to challenge.

In any case, even those prepared to challenge mainstream ideas do not always have clearly worked out alternatives. The very fact that socialists wanted to demonstrate their respect for women could lead them to emphasise the stereotypes: a responsible man gave his wages to his wife, i.e. he was a reliable breadwinner and she was faced with the task of making ends meet. A socialist might see some of the problems with this model, and yet use its imagery to get a point across.

All radicals face this problem: how far can we be in advance of widely accepted ideas and still gain a hearing? The contradiction between ideas and activity can lead to confused rhetoric and representations which do not fully reflect the activity, or even defensiveness in the face of an ideological offensive from their opponents.

These contradictions abounded in Broken Hill. The Flame, the local socialist paper, was notable for its hyperbole:

It is difficult to rein one’s self in at the thought of the indignities heaped upon brave women ... And when it comes to gaoling a sensitive, high-souled publicist such as Tom Mann ... to say nothing of the imprisonment barbarously inflicted upon bold men and good women, it is surely time that the liberty-loving people ... rose to the occasion.18

First the women are brave, the man is sensitive, then the men are bold and women good. However the left did consistently argue that women should be involved in the struggles of the working class. Thus the Barrier Truth did not relegate their interests to one column. Items in the rest of the paper backed up the ideas of the Lady Editor and her contributors, emphasising both that socialism would mean social and economic emancipation for women and that they needed to join the fight.

The anniversary of the Paris Commune of 1871 was celebrated each year, and certainly was not portrayed as a celebration of male achievements, as if often claimed by feminist historians: ‘What greater and grander sublimity can be depicted than that of men and women who are prepared to sacrifice their lives for even a dream?’ The article emphasised female bravery: when soldiers tried to force Communards to kneel before their guns, ‘one woman with a child in her arms refused to do so, shouting to her companions: ‘Show these wretches that you know how to die upright’. An article on the 1916 Dublin Uprising had a sub header ‘The Bravery of the Dublin Girls’.19 Tom Mann’s speeches to the women’s meetings were often about the role women were playing in international movements.20

Ambiguous rhetoric did not prevent women building their own organisation and taking their own initiatives, nor did it prevent the unions taking them and their activities seriously. In December 1906 the male trade unionists and the socialist Mayor treated Lizzie Ahern and Mrs Anderson as respected activists when they visited to build support for a free speech campaign in Melbourne. Apart from a gruelling program of meetings, rallies and electioneering in searing heat, they visited the hospital, a source of both community pride and bitterness at government neglect, inspected the Stephens Creek reservoir and even went down a mine, the same tour given to male visitors.21

Miners’ union secretary W.D. Barnett was responsible for authorising the notices in the Barrier Truth for the women’s organising committee. This is not surprising, given the authority and power of the union. But at times he was also called upon to provide support in a less predictable manner. In 1908 the Lady Editor agitated for a ‘monster meeting ... when the situation can be fully talked over’. Women were to bring their neighbours and babies. ‘Mr Barnett, our obliging secretary, will see they are looked after ... Our men ¾ God bless them ¾ are fighting, but they don’t mind minding babies whilst we confer.’22

Conservative sections of the labour movement were more likely to portray the struggle in conventional terms. A cartoon by Claude Marquet, ‘The Broken Hill Outrage’ published by the Sydney Worker is typical. On one side of the confrontation are businessmen, a policeman, and the vindictive daily press represented by an old woman. On the other, the workers’ struggle is epitomised by the clean-cut, brawny man, sheltering a frightened woman from the blows.23

For all the times men referred to women as mothers of the nation, or talked of men’s responsibility to defend them, there were genuine attempts to raise the rights of women. J.T. Kelly gave talks on birth control, the emancipation of women and their right to vote. Tom Mann argued for equal pay in his pamphlet Socialism. A conference held to form the One Big Union passed a motion that equal pay for the sexes be part of the objectives.

Radical orators invariably referred to workers as men and women, as when Tom Barker, of the Industrial Workers of the World told an anti-conscription rally: ‘He could see the time coming when men and women would conduct the economic affairs of the world on their own behalf.’24

However, the stereotypes of women provided a useful tool with which conservatives could attack militancy and sow divisions. In 1892 the Silver Age painted a lurid picture of the ‘Amazon Brigade’: ‘the females ¾ they hardly deserve to be called women, were vowing vengeance, and that one woman related kicking in a hat with gusto ... it can positively be said that but for them there would not have been the least interference with personal liberty.’ The paper lectured the men about the ‘extreme danger of allowing women of the class that were present interfering in their affairs’, while asserting that most of the men ‘rather resented the presence of these females’.25

In reality the women’s contingent in the march which followed was cheered as it entered the Reserve. At the women’s rally that afternoon, there were no recriminations and thousands of unionists gathered to listen to the lady orators. Only Richard Sleath, the union official, tried to restrain them. He ‘urged the men to keep law and order ... They did not want any disturbance, such as might be caused by a woman being roughly pushed or struck ...’26 The gender stereotype provided a useful ploy, which cannot conceal the fact that the officials took steps to reduce the militancy of both males and females, not just on this day, but on a number of occasions when the rank and file wanted a tougher approach.27

Sometimes the conservative papers drew on the stereotypes in attempts to make workers defensive about their actions. The Silver Age pontificated:

We feel constrained to protest against the abortive attempt to drag from the seclusion of their homes the wives and mothers of the strikers ... Surely we can fight an industrial war even to the bitter end without resorting to tactics worthy of Dahomey.28

At the height of women’s involvement in the 1909 lock-out, the conservative Barrier Miner used its occasional column ‘Woman’s World’ to remind them:

... it would be well for woman to remember that her special mission is to create a beautiful home life for her husband and family first, and then, if time allows, and her mental aspirations and ability go beyond that scope, she may seek to improve the social and moral conditions of less favoured humans.29

The marked difference in the response of the conservative papers and The Flame and the Barrier Daily Truth reflected class and political differences. This should serve to remind us of the danger in attributing sexist attitudes simply to the male sex in general.

Little can compare with the sexism of the police who diligently kept watch on every activity and read every letter of both female and male activists during World War I. Alice Cogan and women with whom she corresponded were ‘foolish women with crank social views’. But because of her education and sincerity, Alice was ‘capable of much harm among ignorant women and the children of Broken Hill.’30

Working class militants saw capitalist sweat shops and recoiled, often vowing women would not have to work under socialism. But in the next breath they could argue for women’s economic independence. Sometimes they argued against conscription on the grounds that men would be replaced by low-paid women, which would undercut living standards generally. But when M.A. Smedley argued that if there was female labour, all they had to do was see that the women who replaced men got equal pay, he was applauded.31

Joy Damousi has argued:

Prior to, and during the First World War, the public realm of speaking, proselytising and agitating was perceived to be the preserve of male activists. These activities were associated with manliness which found its expression in the public realm. Female activists were removed from their realm and occupied the domestic sphere.32

In fact, male activists in Broken Hill thought it essential for women to play a public role. The union paper expressed delight: ‘A pleasing feature of the demonstration was the large number of enthusiastic women.’33 Mick Considine, socialist President of the AMA, considered it ‘a great pity for the industrial and political movement of the country that they did not have hundreds of women like Miss Pankhurst and Mrs Lavender.’34

The opposition of private or domestic and public spheres is too often artificially used to impose a rigid division between women and men’s roles, thereby minimising the important role socialist women sometime played. Joy Damousi takes the argument even further: ‘Women’s domestic work ... [such as organising fundraisers, celebrations and concerts] not only circumscribed their contribution, it also was not considered to be political labour and thus devalued.’ Therefore, she says, women were made responsible for Socialist Sunday Schools, seen as appropriate to their domestic role, and considered of lower status than public tasks kept for the men.35

Yet in Broken Hill both women and men took responsibility for the Socialist Sunday School which was seen as very important. When the Barrier Socialist Group wanted to start up a Sunday School, they invited Tom Mann to found it. It met in Trades Hall, placing it firmly in the public life of the union movement. The school used a pamphlet called The Lyceum Tutor to educate the children on the role of women and men. Woman’s ‘natural position’ was at the side of man, counselling in some things, being counselled in others. Because when circumstances are equal, woman has proved herself his equal. To the question ‘why should we give women other rights than those she has? the Tutor answered: ‘Justice asks it, and equity demands it. Woman has been wronged in the past and is entitled to reparation.’ And when she does the same work as man, she should be paid as he is.36

R.S. Ross, editor of The Flame, was superintendent with one woman and five men as teachers in January 1908. In March four women and four men taught the children. The school organised the Paris Commune celebration. In September, Mrs Glennie was secretary. The Flame proclaimed: ‘we realise increasingly the importance and responsibility of the Sunday School in relation to the Socialist cause, and indeed, the whole conduct of life.’

During the crisis from October 1908 into the lock-out, the school was used to involve the children in the affairs of the unions. They sang a Socialist hymn at Tom Mann’s meeting.37 Tom Mann addressed the scholars and advised them they were getting knowledge adults did not have, of poverty, capitalism and socialism.38 A message from Percy Laidler, a prominent agitator and organiser indicated leading male socialists in other places were also closely associated with the schools’ education: ‘The scholars of the Melbourne Socialist Sunday School wish your fathers success in the fight.’39 The children were expected to assemble on Sunday afternoon to assist with meetings held by the Combined unions during the lock-out.

Seven years later, the anti-conscription organisation, the Labour Volunteer Army, had its own Sunday School. It was founded at a large meeting on 5 November, 1916 to which both sexes were invited. By 20 November, 103 children attended. Ern Wetherell, a well-known militant, was superintendent, assisted by Tom Hytten, Miss Alice Cogan and Mrs Bail. The children marched in anti-conscription rallies.

Other areas of political work Damousi devalues are fundraising and organising cultural events and entertainment. She describes them as domestic, or political work largely confined to private space and therefore relegated to women.40 Because the rise of mass entertainment and the decline of the socialist movement have contributed to a separation of political events from entertainment, the latter seems of secondary importance today.

But this was not the case at least until the 1920s. In all the industrial upheavals in Broken Hill to 1917, marches down city streets to the beat of the union band, rallies in the Central Reserve, at Trades Hall and on city corners, free concerts and fundraising events were constant features. Political meetings often included a concert program of songs, poetry recitals, piano performances, skits and choirs. The work of organising and participating in such events were not seen as having a lower status than other political work, or regarded as solely women’s responsibility.

The Women’s Political Association in 1903 had a fundraising and social committee of both women and men who organised the AMA Band to play at their socials where both women and men performed. The Socialist Group tried to set up a choir in 1906:

By comparison with the effect of singing, the reading of the song we printed in last issue ¾ ‘The Red Flag’ ¾ is tame. We want to make the veins flow with melody, and the head swim with sound and revolt; and teaching the people the songs of humanity is the way to do it.41

A typical advertisement for a strike concert promised ‘Sweet Song and Solid Education’. The songs would be rendered by ‘Leading Lady and Gentlemen amateurs’.42 During the 1909 lock-out a typical concert had nine male and six female performers.43 In 1916 there were women and men on the Labour Volunteer Army’s social dance committee, and the strike concert in 1917 featured thirteen men and six women.

During the anti-conscription campaigns Harry Kelly wheeled a piano around on a trolley to all the demonstrations, rallies and mass meetings to provide entertainment.

Just because historians often focus on orators and agitators, we should not assume the work of other activists was seen as less political or important by workers themselves. Workers had less access to mass entertainment and anything but the most basic education from the state, so socialists took responsibility for providing them. If most women were not prominent as orators, neither were most men. Only a tiny minority of those who actively supported the aims of the unions were ever prominent in any of these ways.


Workers’ ideas change in the course of struggle. The act of going on strike, of marching together down a street, has the potential to challenge both women and men’s deeply held ideas about appropriate behaviour. In the industrial and political struggles for which Broken Hill became famous, women’s activity itself helped to break down oppressive stereotypes. The need for solidarity led some men not to just grudgingly accept this challenge, but to encourage it. But this was not an automatic process. The very fact that socialists like Tom Mann at the height of the struggle argued for women’s involvement, the fact that the union paper commented on it and also helped carry the arguments indicates an ideological struggle had to take place. For this there had to be militants who saw the need to challenge the ideas that divide workers. It was in the periods of struggle that their influence was most significant.

Why have labour historians not noticed this? Much of labour history tends to emphasise the official structures of the unions and the ALP. Because of their oppression, women are less likely to be represented in the official structures. They are more likely to be active at the rank and file level.

Much of the deconstruction of working class history does little more than raise the obvious: women and men interpret their experiences, whether it be raising a family or organising a strike, through the prism of the dominant ideology. In Broken Hill, socialists confronted the reality of women and men’s lives organised around the gender stereotypes. During the period of this study, even the feminist movement accepted similar stereotypes. Images of women on their banners and publications are strikingly similar to the allegorical figures of trade union banners. Feminists emphasised the civilising, moderating influence women would have on political life if they were given the vote and invariably made their arguments in terms of women’s mothering role.44

To concentrate on the gendered imagery, language and assumptions, which permeate the working class movement is to suggest it is possible to overthrow the dominant ideas and culture of society without first destroying the social existence which gives rise to them. How this can be done is not clear, so the one-sided emphasis both reflects and entrenches the prevailing scepticism about class struggle.

Struggle is not sufficient to completely rework the language and iconography of a movement unless it brings about great changes in society. Socialists firmly believed that women would only throw off their oppression by the complete transformation of society, not an unreasonable assumption given the problems we continue to experience in spite of the gains made for women’s rights in recent times. If we focus too narrowly on the forms of their struggle, which were so greatly shaped by the limitations of their time, we miss the content, which challenged those limitations and which remains relevant today.45 We fail to see the potential for women and men to challenge the dominant ideas of society and make a difference to the lives they lead.

George Dale’s book The Industrial History of Broken Hill offers a testimony to the past, and also a dialogue with the future. In his concluding pages he sums up the importance of the history he recorded and which has been important for this chapter. It is fitting to conclude with his words:

[W]e leave the destinies of this magnificent fighting industrial centre in the hands of the militant spirits of the present and future generations; and sincerely trust that some of the facts and phrases herein placed on record may prove beneficial to the coming agitator in the struggle for the emancipation of the working men and women ...46



1. Silver Age, 26 August 1892.

2. Barrier Miner, 4 July 1892.

3. Barrier Miner, 22, 24 and 25 August 1892.

4. Silver Age, 26 August 1892; Leader, 3 September 1892; Silver Age, 26 August 1892; Barrier Miner, 25 August 1892.

5. Barrier Miner, 1 September 1892.

6. Barrier Truth, 16 October 1908.

7. Barrier Truth, 2 October 1908; 23 October, 1908.

8. Barrier Daily Truth, 2, 5 and 6 January 1909.

9. Barrier Daily Truth, 11 January 1909.

10. George Dale, The Industrial History of Broken Hill, p. 118-119. Barrier Daily Truth, 1 and 4 February 1909; Barrier Miner, 27 April 1909.

11. Barrier Daily Truth, 4 February 1909.

12. Barrier Daily Truth, 17 and 23 July 1916; George Dale, The Industrial History of Broken Hill, p. 207; Brian Kennedy Silver, Sin and Sixpenny Ale: A Social History of Broken Hill, 1883-1921, Melbourne University Press, 1978, p. 139.

13. Barrier Daily Truth, 10 August 1916.

14. Barrier Daily Truth, 30 October 1916; Kennedy, p. 140.

15. Australian Archives (ACT): A3932/1; SC294; Bolshevism, Sedition and Disloyalty. Australian Archives (ACT): A6122/40; iii; Summary of Communism.

16. Dale, p. 223.

17. Kennedy, p. 88.

18. The Flame, November 1906.

19. Joy Damousi, Women Come Rally: Socialism, Communism and Gender in Australia, 1890-1955, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1994, p. 36; Barrier Daily Truth, 22 March 1907 and 28 September 1916.

20. Barrier Truth, 16 October 1908, 23 October 1908.

21. Barrier Truth, 7 December 1906; 14 December 1906; Barrier Miner, 7-14 December 1906; The Flame, December 1906.

22. Barrier Truth, 20 October 1908.

23. Alan Katen Dunstan, ‘Broke-N-Ill The Writing On the Wall’: Cartoons From Around the ‘Lock-Out’ 1909-1910, Broken Hill City Council 1994, Plate 22.

24. Kennedy, p. 96; Barrier Daily Truth, 27 March 1909; Tom Mann, Socialism, Tocsin, Melbourne 1905, p. 58; Barrier Miner, 27 March 1909; Barrier Daily Truth, 31 July and 21 August 1916.

25. Silver Age, 26 August 1892.

26. Barrier Miner, 25 August 1892.

27. Barrier Miner, 26 August 1892; 10 September 1892; 15 September 1892.

28. Silver Age, 25 August 1892.

29. Barrier Miner, 1 May 1909.

30. Australian Archives (ACT): A6122/40; iii; Review of Communism.

31. Barrier Daily Truth, 9 October 1916.

32. Joy Damousi, ‘Socialist Women and Gendered Space: The Anti-Conscription and Anti-War Campaigns of 1914-1918’, Labour History, no 60, May 1991, p. 5.

33. Barrier Daily Truth, 28 August 1916.

34. Barrier Daily Truth, 11 September 1916.

35. Joy Damousi, Women Come Rally, p. 34-35, 51.

36. The Flame, January 1908.

37. Barrier Miner, 12 October 1908.

38. Barrier Truth, 16 October 1908.

39. Barrier Truth, 20 October 1908.

40. Joy Damousi, Women Come Rally, p. 35-36. Her argument is based on theoretical analysis ranging from an examination of English middle class life 1780-1850 to gender in Marakwet society in Kenya, rather than any evidence from the Australian workers’ movement itself. Joy Damousi, ‘Socialist Women and Gendered Space’, p.5.

41. The Flame, June 1906.

42. Barrier Miner, 20 August 1892.

43. Barrier Miner, 20 March 1909

44. Judith Allen, ‘ "Our Deeply Degraded Sex" and "The Animal in Man": Rose Scott, Feminism and Sexuality 1890-1925’, Australian Feminist Studies, Nos 7 and 8, Summer, 1988, p. 71-73; Darryn Kruse and Charles Sowerwine, ‘Feminism and Pacifism: "Woman’s Sphere" in Peace and War’ in Norma Grieve and Ailsa Burns (eds), Australian Women: New Feminist Perspectives, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1986, p. 42.

45. Verity Burgmann makes a similar point with regard to the image, style and language of the Industrial Workers of the World in her Revolutionary Industrial Unionism: The Industrial Workers of the World in Australia, Cambridge University Press, 1995, p. 110.

46. George Dale, The Industrial History of Broken Hill, p. 246.

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