The Melbourne Tailoresses' Strike 1882-83

The Melbourne Tailoresses’ Strike in 1882-83 was seen as the ‘emergence of a women-centred, trade unionism’ whose role was to call for the upgrading of wages and conditions. Reduction of garment rates often halved the income earned, hours worked were long, and working at home was expected. This industrial action was momentous as it was the first instance within the British Empire where women, who were perceived to be unskilled, had attracted such publicity. The workers had managed to garner the support of not only the public but of unions representing numerous trades. At the time, this was significant as women were seen as inferior to their male peers. The role of the union was paramount in highlighting that women rarely only had themselves to care for, but also provided for children and extended families. The strike was not completely successful with its role of negotiation, however the union felt they had accomplished small steps to gaining a better employment relationship and more importantly, female workers had gained a ‘new- found assertiveness’ within the community. This was invaluable as women were being recognised as wageworkers that contributed to the economy and society.[1]

Photo: Melbourne Textile Factory, Museum Victoria PA004794   http://www.womenworkingtogether.com.au/6.Moving%20into%20the%20Public%20World.html

Photo: Melbourne Textile Factory, Museum Victoria PA004794

http://www.womenworkingtogether.com.au/6.Moving%20into%20the%20Public%20World.html


[1]  D. Thorton,’”We have no redress unless we strike”: Class, Gender and Activism in the Melbourne Tailoresses’ Strike, 1882-1883’, Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History. May, no. 96, (2009), pp. 24-32.