Louisa Collins 1849 - 1889

Louisa Collins was the first woman executed in Darlinghurst Gaol and the last woman hanged in New South Wales. She had been convicted of murdering her husband, Michael Peter Collins by slowly poisoning him with arsenic. There was great interest in this case and it was widely publicised across the Colony. Louisa was also being accused of murdering her former husband, Charles Andrews, in order to obtain his life insurance. The all male jurors were instructed not to let this influence their final decision. (It would be hard to imagine how it would not influence the outcome!)

Public opinion was harsh and Louisa’s gender played a big part in her vilification. How could a woman who vowed to ‘love and cherish’ her husband, do such a thing? It was espoused how ‘every right-thinking person must feel that Louisa Collins, while she lived, reflected little credit on her sex. The very fact of a woman nursing with all the attention possible… watching the effects of her own wickedness is heart rending in the extreme’. Although many women ‘prayed’ for a reprieve for Louisa and explained she was a mother and therefore not ‘ready to die’, were reported as ‘somewhat amusing’ in the press. It was stated that she ‘proved herself an unworthy woman and wicked wife, and therefore could be of no possible good to her family’.[1]

His Honour, Chief Justice Darley stated,  "I hold out no hope of mercy for you on Earth". Louisa was hanged on 8 January 1889.


[1]The Terowie Enterprise, Friday 11 Jan. 1889, pp.2-3.

Photographic Description Books, (Darlinghurst Gaol).    2138. State Records Reels 5097-5106. Roll; 5103, State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood.

Photographic Description Books, (Darlinghurst Gaol). 2138. State Records Reels 5097-5106. Roll; 5103, State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood.

"Populate or Perish: Ten Pound Poms."

“Populate or perish” was the opinion of the Curtin Government prior to World War 2, therefore post war, the Chifley Government created and implemented the Assisted Passage Migration Scheme. In order to increase Australia’s population and economic viability, immigration was vital. Negotiations were underway with the British Government in order to secure a populous that would easily assimilate with Australian life. Although remnants from the White Australian Policy made it difficult for some to immigrate, generally assisted passage was open to all Commonwealth countries, and refugees from worn- torn Europe. Migrants paid ten pounds for each adult and children came for free. Some migrants returned to England because Australia was not for them, but most families thrived and prospered.[1]

The O’Connell family migrated in the 1950s from Salford, England. Dan O’Connell’s cousin Vince convinced the family to join him and create a better life. Dan and his family arrived first, followed by his brother James, his wife Kathleen and their children. The extended family was complete with the arrival of their sister Lucy, her husband Edward Fitzsimmons and their three sons. All of the siblings established a great family life for themselves and their descendants, in Australia.



The Illawarra Mercury, 29 Mar 1961. Page 1.

The Illawarra Mercury, 29 Mar 1961. Page 1.


1. http://museumvictoria.com.au/immigrationmuseum/discoverycentre/your-questions/ten-pound-poms/

On this Day: 9 Novemeber 1841

Edward VII was born to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on the 9th November 1841, at Buckingham Palace. He was their second child but first son and heir. Upon his birth, Edward was bestowed with many titles such as the Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Saxony, but he would generally be known as the Prince of Wales. Education was very important for the Royal family, however it has been stated that Edward did not excel at his studies. Nonetheless he was charming, intelligent and social, something that would be of great benefit as he matured.

Edward scandalised the Royal family in 1861 when it was found out that he had spent three nights with an Irish actress. His parents were not amused and his father travelled to chastise him. Prince Albert, who was ill at the time of the visit, died two weeks later. Queen Victoria was grief stricken and blamed her son for his father's death. She regarded him with distaste and abhorrence for the rest of her life. 1

In Australia, Edward was a popular Prince and this is apparent in the Illawarra Mercury's birthday greeting in 1875. The colony and his 'legion of loyal subjects' wish him "many happy returns of the day" and states how 'genuine the feelings of regard and loyalty are within the breasts of the millions of British subjects worldwide'. 2

Edward at the time of his coronation

Edward at the time of his coronation


1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_VII

2. The Illawarra Mercury, Tuesday November 9, 1875.

Family History: Michael Kelly (1883-1927)

Michael Kelly was born in Pendleton, England in 1883. He was the 8th child of John Kelly and Eliza Donohue who had both come from Ireland and settled in Salford. Michael met Mary Ellen Gettings, a local Salford lass, and they married in 1910. The couple went on to have 4 sons and 1 daughter together, however their sons died over a ten-year period, leaving their daughter Norah Elsie as an only child. Tragedy struck the young family again in 1923, when Mary died, leaving Michael a widow and 7 year old Elsie, without her mother. Michael and his brother John raised his daughter.

Mining was the main source of employment in Salford in the late 1800s and Agecroft Colliery, owned by Messrs. Andrew Knowles and Sons Ltd. was Michael’s employer. Agecroft originally opened in 1844 and closed for the first time in 1932. When he was 16, Michael was as a ‘Wagoner’ in the coal pit and later became a coal hewer. The main job of the hewer was to loosen the rocks and minerals and extract coal. On 25th October 1927, Michael was filling in for the regular haulage worker when a haulage rope struck him, lacerating his leg. The City Reporter[1] stated, Samuel Price, a mine fireman, was walking along 5 East level, when he heard a shout and at once ran in the direction of the sound. He came across an injured Michael and promptly bandaged the wound. Michael stayed and worked the remainder of the shift but his leg was considerably swollen and painful by the time he returned home. The injury was reported to Colliery officials and Michael attended Salford Royal Hospital for the following week. The leg became increasingly infected to the point where Michael could no longer walk. A doctor was called on November 10 and ordered Michael’s removal to the infirmary. He remained there until 24 November 1927, when he died of Septicemia.

[1] The City Reporter, Saturday, December 8, 1927.


Agecroft Colliery Miners. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfk8OHqhcJk

Agecroft Colliery Miners. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfk8OHqhcJk

Australia and the Dictation Test

At the beginning of Federation in 1901, the Australian government had an ideal of maintaining a population that had an overwhelming British origin. Politicians and legislators of the time had a vision that would see Australia maintaining a predominately ‘pure’, white population. The British element, on which the country was founded, was the greatest impetus for introducing new policies to exclude all non-European migrants from the growing nation. Central to Australia’s developing national identity, the Immigration Act 1901, was comprised of complicated legislation that worked to contain the migration of non-white and non-Europeans into the country, and to deport those already residing in Australia.[1]

An important component of the Immigration Act was the Dictation Test. The test was a very successful means of excluding unwanted migrants from either entering or residing in Australia. It consisted of a fifty word paragraph, to be written out in a language that was completely unknown to the immigrant, for the sole purpose of failure. The test could be administered in any language that the custom officer chose. If you were Chinese, the test could be in French, Greeks were tested in Japanese, and so on. Upon failing, the person would either be gaoled for six months and /or deported. Non-European, Australian residents were able to obtain a Certificate of Exemption from the Dictation Test, however custom officers could forfeit these at anytime.[2]

The Immigration Act and Dictation Test were abolished in 1958 due to its overtly racist legislation and the realisation after two World Wars, that Australia would depend on immigration to increase its population in the ensuing years.


[1] D. Day, ‘The White Australia Policy’ in Carl Bridge & Bernard Attard (eds), Between Empire and Nation: Australia’s External Relations from Federation to the Second World War, (Victoria: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2000), pp. 31-46.


[2] Barry York, ‘White Australia and the Dictation Test’, Voices, Vol. 6, No. 3, (1996), pp. 27-33.


Certificate Exempting from Dictation Test for Maudie Kim Kow, 1920.   Photo: National Archives of Australia.   Photo Search:  E752, 20/24 .  http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/snapshots/chinese-australians/kim-kow.aspx

Certificate Exempting from Dictation Test for Maudie Kim Kow, 1920. Photo: National Archives of Australia. Photo Search: E752, 20/24. http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/snapshots/chinese-australians/kim-kow.aspx

On this Day: GOLD!!

The discovery of the largest single piece of gold was on the 19th October 1872, in the Star of Hope Mine, Hill End, New South Wales. The ‘nugget’ weighed 286kg and was 1.5 metres long. The find was named the Holterman Nugget after Bernhardt Holterman who was one of the partners in the mining company that extracted it. The claim was widely publicised throughout the Colony, further fuelling the mining frenzy of the time. The Sydney Morning Herald from the 25 October 1872, relayed how wonderful the find was and how the reporter, and ‘nearly the whole town’, went to look and marvel at its size. It was on display for all to peruse and even ‘many of the fairer sex’ were interested in the discovery. The gold was worth approximately 12,000 pounds at the time, roughly equivalent to about 7 million dollars today. Holterman retired a wealthy man and focused on his love of photography.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 October 1872. p.3.

This Day in History. Australian History.


Photo: B.O Holterman with the Holterman Nugget, ca. 1874-1876 / photographer American & Australasian Photographic Company. State Library of New South Wales.  http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemLarge.aspx?itemID=888373

Photo: B.O Holterman with the Holterman Nugget, ca. 1874-1876 / photographer American & Australasian Photographic Company. State Library of New South Wales. http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemLarge.aspx?itemID=888373

Family History: Thomas Martin 1890-1951

Thomas Martin was born in Hydepark Street, Glasgow, on 24 Nov 1890. He was the tenth child of Thomas Martin Senior, a steam ship fireman and Helen Jamieson. Thomas followed in his father’s footsteps and also worked on steamships in the Merchant Navy. He served from about 1910 through to his death in 1951. Thomas travelled extensively during this time, leaving behind a wife and four children. His daughter recalled stories of WW2 where rationing meant that luxury items such as soaps, or stockings were in short supply. However Thomas would manage to find these things for his wife and daughters and bring them back on his visits home. Thomas died onboard the ship MV Corinaldo in 1951 when the ship was in Buenos Aires. His daughter explained that Thomas had been on shore and involved in a fight, and upon his return to the ship, he collapsed and died. His death certificate shows that Thomas died as a result of a heart attack. Thomas’ body was not brought back to Scotland but was buried in the British Cemetery, Chacarita, Argentina. This was a great source of sorrow for his daughter who was aghast that her father was not ‘home’.

Thomas Martin's funeral Car. Argentina, 1951.

Thomas Martin's funeral Car. Argentina, 1951.

Thomas Martin, graveside. 1951

Thomas Martin, graveside. 1951

Luna Park Opens Today!!

October 4, 1935 saw the opening of Sydney’s iconic Luna Park at Milsons Point. The park took three months to complete and was built on land that was previously used to house workshops, railway sidings and cranes during the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Rides and amusements from Glenelg Luna Park in South Australia were brought to Sydney and reassembled at the new site. It took about 1000 engineers, fitters and employees to assemble Luna Park’s rides at a cost of sixty thousand pounds. The park operated on a nine-month season until 1972 when it changed to year round operation. The giant smiling Face at the entryway has been changed eight times in the park’s history, the current one being completed in 1994. Luna Park has gone through many transformations, restorations and tragedy over its illustrious history but you must agree, it is a great place to visit with one of the most spectacular views in the world!



Family History: John Frizzell (1829 - 1894)

John Frizzell was born in Bedford County, Tennessee, on 8 Sep 1829. John spent the majority of his childhood working on his parent’s homestead assisting his mother in anyway she needed. He sporadically attended school when he was not required at home, thus not very often. The only ‘official’ education that John received was one term at the county academy when he was 18, which is quite remarkable when you consider his career.

When he was 14 he commenced writing for the office of the circuit court and was promoted to deputy clerk upon turning 15. (A job he would have for the next ten years). In 1849 he was elected registrar of the Land Office in Nashville, where he worked for three years. By 1854 Chancellor B.L. Ridley and Judge Nathaniel Baxter had licensed John to practice law. He did so in Winchester until the outbreak of the Civil War. At this time, John volunteered as a private in Col. Turney’s Confederate regiment. However he was redirected to Atlanta where he became a Captain and was placed in charge of transportation and auditing all railroad accounts. He remained in this department for the duration of the war and had paid out around seven million dollars that were all accounted for. This was a record that no other disbursing officer could obtain and for his service he was promoted to the rank of Major.

After the war, he became a Judge and a strong advocate of public education throughout Tennessee. John served as trustee of the Robert Donnell Female Institute at Winchester. He was elected school commissioner in the seventh school district of Davidson County, where he helped legislate the education system of the time. Politically, John was a Democrat but never held any political office. He petitioned as candidate for Franklin County only to be defeated. Judge Frizzell had an exemplary reputation as a ‘clear-headed, painstaking and upright judge’.[1] On 30 Nov 1894, he died in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, when he was 65 years old.




Judge John Frizzell. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=25620994

Judge John Frizzell. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=25620994

[1] Speer, William S. Sketches of Prominent Tennesseans: Containing Biographies and Records of…, Nashville, 1888. Reprinted: Baltimore: Geological Publishing Co., Inc. 2003.

Family History: William Baldridge

William Baldridge was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, on 26 Feb 1761.  He was baptised by Rev. John Cuthbertson on 23 Mar 1762. As a young child, William lived on his families plantation in North Carolina, about 200 miles from the coast. On the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, William tried to enlist, however because he was underage, he went into service as a teamster. Once old enough, he joined a Cavalry Regiment and fought for the duration of the War.

In 1790 he graduated from Dickinson College, coming first in a class of 12. After graduation,
he started the study of theology with Rev. Alexander Dobbins. He was twice offered the position of president of Washington College in Virginia, but declined on both occasions as he felt religion was his duty. His wife was Rebecca Agnew and they married on 17 Jul 1792. Together they had eleven sons and two daughters. In 1792 William was licensed to preach and ordained by the Presbytery of Pennsylvania, Associate Reform. William was devoutly religious and preached for the majority of his adult life. In 1793 he accepted the role of pastor for two churches in Rockbridge County, Virginia. He worked there until 1803. From around that time until 1809, many of his congregation were moving to Cherry Brook, Ohio. Upon their arrival they built a small church and persuaded William to become its pastor.

In 1808, the family moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio. William had accepted the position at
Cherry Fork and West Fork Congregations. It is stated that he was such a popular pastor
that many of his parishioners moved with him. William preached that slavery was a sin and
having convinced his congregation, many of his parishioners also moved to Ohio, a free
state, and emancipated their slaves. Overall, about forty families settled in Adam’s County
on Cherry Fork at the time. Many of William’s sermon were publicised in the ‘Associate Reformed Pulpit’. He was an important member of the community that was instrumental in its development and prosperity. (1) In 1820, three years after Rebecca’s death, William remarried Mary Logan Anderson and they had a son and a daughter. Of all William’s children, 2 became ministers and three became physicians. On 26 Oct 1830, he died in Adams County, Ohio, when he was 69 years old. He is buried in the Cherry Fork Cemetery, Ohio however although there is a headstone, the exact grave site is unknown.

(1) Riggs, Henry Earle. Our Pioneer Ancestors. Michigan: Ann Arbor, 1942. (Baldridge Family)

Family History: Thomas Chilton Jasper

Thomas Chilton Jasper, known as TC, was born in Middleburg, Casey, Kentucky, USA on 11 Jan 1844. He was the son of Oliver Perry Jasper and Cyrenna T. Chesney. TC was a farm labourer on his parent’s property In Pulaski, Kentucky as a young man. On the 13 Sep 1862, he enlisted with the Company C, 6th Regiment Confederate Cavalry. TC was a Union Prisoner of War after being captured at Cheshire, Ohio on 20 Jul 1863. He was incarcerated at Camp Chase, Ohio and later transferred to Camp Douglass, Illinois on 20 Aug 1863. He was paroled at Camp Douglass and forwarded to Point Lookout, Maryland, for exchange on the 20 Feb 1865. On returning from the Civil War he became a school teacher.

In 1873 he married Mary Wilmont Jones. TC and Mary established a very prosperous General Store in Mount Salem, Kentucky and by 1887, the family had moved to Plano, Texas. In July 1887, TC organised the Plano's first National Bank, investing $40,000 of the $50,000 required. He became a cashier and would work in this position for 25 years. TC was a very prominent figure within the Plano community. He owned numerous businesses and co-founded the Plano Cotton Oil Company in 1902. He was involved in many ventures. Starting the "44 Club", heavily involved with the Church, was a member of the Lions and Masons. In 1994, T.C Jasper High School in Plano was named in his honour. Thomas died on 1 Jun 1924.

"44 Club" T. C Jasper, front row, first left.  (photo credit: http://glhtadigital.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/ux/id/73/rec/20)

"44 Club" T. C Jasper, front row, first left.  (photo credit: http://glhtadigital.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/ux/id/73/rec/20)

Killed in Labour Feud

Sometimes receiving a death certificate can open a whole new story relating to your ancestors, as was the case with James Campbell Martin. James died in 1913 and his death record specified he died from internal hemorrhaging as a result of being shot. Researching through newspapers of the time explain that James was involved in a union dispute on Glasgow Docks and was shot by Albert French, the Scottish secretary of the National Seaman’s and Fireman’s Union of Great Britain. James was a member of the British Seafarer’s Union and it is stated there had been a long running feud between the two groups. The trial was widely publicised in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. French was later acquitted as he stated he feared for his safety and the discharging of the gun was accidental. Nonetheless it was a tragic occurrence as James left behind a widow with six young children and Albert French seems to have vanished.

Excerpt from the New Zealand Herald, 18 Oct. 1913, p.2.

Today in History

On this day in 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted and decimated the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy. An estimated 16000 people were killed in seconds as a result of the ejection of pulverized pumice and molten rock at the rate of 1.5 million tonnes per second. Both cities remained ‘lost’ until about 1599 and a greater expedition of the cities took place in 1748. It is stated that Pompeii was slightly ‘easier’ to excavate with only four metres of debris in comparison to Herculaneum that had twenty metres. There are some fantastic documentaries about this event that are well worth a watch. It is thought that the intense heat caused an instant rigor mortis that has allowed us a glimpse into these people from so long ago.

Pompeii the Last Days (BBC) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlZ-SGfp6Os

Herculaneum: The Other Pompeii https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDWZEJK6VSc

The Real Pompeii; National Geographic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmM2tCcsLEY

Aquiring Polish Naval Records

On the 18th of November 1939 the Polish Navy signed its first agreement with the British government that would see a mutual cooperation that enabled the two countries to become allies and fight together during the Second World War.[1]

Artur Nowaczyk was a member of the Polish navy and served on many of the Polish Naval ships. In 1942 he was involved in convoy operation PQ15 in the Atlantic and Arctic onboard ORP Garland. On May 27, seven German aircraft ‘Ju-88’s’, attacked the Garland and although it did not receive a direct hit, the explosions were in close enough proximity that she suffered significant damage and loss of life. The Garland travelled to Murmansk to deliver the wounded from not only the Garland, but also the Jastrzab.[2] Artur Nowaczyk was one of the enlisted men who was decorated with the Krzyz Walecznych or Cross of Valour for his bravery and assistance at this time.

Polish Naval records for WW2 are available from the Ministry of Defence APC Polish Enquiries in England. Although the process of obtaining these records is somewhat arduous, it is definitely well worth it to obtain information relating to your family member.




[1] M.A. Peszke, Poland’s Navy: 1918 – 1945. (New York: Hippocrene Books Inc., 1999), p.179.

[2] M.A. Peszke, Poland’s Navy: 1918 – 1945. (New York: Hippocrene Books Inc., 1999), pp. 118-119.

Census Records

Census records can be incredibly informative sources regarding our ancestors. Don't just look at the information about your family member but look at others on the entry too. Often you'll be surprised what you find. An example is that of John Gettings. On his marriage certificate, Eliza Annie Holland was a witness and it was hard to determine if she was a relative. The 1881 census shows that Eliza and her husband were actually neighbours of John, so we can assume they were all friends and not related.

     Class: RG11; Piece: 3971; Folio: 111; Page: 51; GSU roll: 1341948


Class: RG11; Piece: 3971; Folio: 111; Page: 51; GSU roll: 1341948

Wollongong Gaol

Did you know that Wollongong’s first lockup was located next to the old Courthouse at Belmore Basin and was in operation from 1860 until 1915? It was a relatively small prison that started with 12 cells. The Wollongong Gaol Entrance books give a fascinating insight into the crimes committed by local people and the harsh penalties that were often given.

In 1866, Thomas Edwards was charged with ‘exercising his horse in a public street in the town of Wollongong’. He could pay a one-pound fine or be imprisoned for 7 days. He paid the fine. Susan Simpson was charged with obscene language and had the option of paying the one-pound or spending one month in prison. It can be assumed she had no money because she was incarcerated. John Robertson ‘neglected to perform certain work’ and was given six months labour. John Evans was imprisoned for 14 days because he was ‘idle and disorderly’.

The expense of running the establishment, the efficiency of transferring prisoners to other gaols, along with the desire to better utilise the services of retaining officers to other positions, led to its closure on the 31 October 1915.

Wollongong Gaol Entrance Records Microfilm Copy: 5/1628-5/1629 R994.46 ARC Reel 2378


Wollongong Gaol Entrance Records Microfilm Copy: 5/1628-5/1629 R994.46 ARC Reel 2378





The Eight Hour Day

For most of us, working an eight-hour day is just the norm, but how did it develop? Australia, from 1860-1890, was experiencing a rapid growth in wealth that was transforming the middle class, yet the working classes were not reaping the benefits of their labour. Most were paid just enough to subsist; working long hours in poor conditions. One of the most fundamental roles of unions at this time was standardising working hours in order to obtain a family / work balance. Even though the eight-hour day was first achieved by the Operative Stonemason’s Society in 1856, it resonated within union movements through out the latter half of the 19th century. Newspapers and employers attacked the eight-hour day and felt it would inevitably fail, yet the eight-hour system only further spread through varying industries. Working less enabled people to enjoy family time and self-education, which was more often seen as the domain of the middle classes. Learning to read and write was becoming a reality for the working class as a result of the eight-hour day, and unions were providing a vast array of literary information to further the development of their members.[1]

Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA : 1910 - 1924), Thursday 29 April 1920, page 2

Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA : 1910 - 1924), Thursday 29 April 1920, page 2


[1]  Michael Cannon, Life in the Cities. (Victoria: Viking O’Neil, 1988), p.248.

Edith Dircksey Cowan 1861-1932

Edith Cowan is the face on our $50 note. Do you know anything about her?

She was the first woman in Australia to have a seat in State Parliament, where she campaigned for social justice. The rights of women and children in relation to domestic violence were the main priority for Edith. This stemmed from her early experiences as a child. She lost her mother at seven and grew up in an increasingly violent household after her father remarried and began drinking heavily.

When she was fifteen, Edith’s father murdered her stepmother in a drunken rage. Her father’s aggressive, domineering persona, was perceived as the ‘norm’ at a time when women and children were seen as ‘property’, had no legal rights and violence and rape were commonplace in marriage. Her father was tried and hanged.

Edith became increasingly interested in education and read widely about political and social reform. She married lawyer James Cowan at nineteen and often attended court sessions with him. It was in these sessions that Edith realised the extent of battered wives and abused children. She became a public speaker, and a staunch advocate for women’s refuges, highlighted the need for government help for widows and single mothers, and most importantly, legislation to ensure women were no longer slaves and victimised in their own homes. She petitioned for adoption laws, sanitation in slums, and worked tirelessly to stop child prostitution in brothels, at a time when syphilis was rife. In 1906 her hard work helped pass the first Protection of Children Act. In 1920 she was voted into parliament, mainly by the women she worked so hard for. Discrimination and patriarchal attitudes were deeply ingrained at this time and Edith received little help from her male colleagues. She was continually criticised in the press and parliament, however this did not deter her. Edith Cowan was a woman whose ideologies were extremely progressive and fundamental to the rights that we enjoy today. She was a wife, mother, grandmother and an incredible role model to the women who were fighting for social justice at a time when patriarchy ruled supreme!

Edith Cowan 1925. photo: State Library of Western Australia.

De Vries, S. Great Australian Women from Federation to Freedom. Sydney: Harper Collins. 2001. pp. 179-183.


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


[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.

Women Who Made A Difference

I enjoy researching pioneering women, those who subverted patriarchal society to defend their beliefs, and one such woman was Indigenous activist Faith Bandler (1918-2015). Bandler was one of the most prominent activists of the 1950s, and along with Pearl Gibbs, they co-founded the Australian-Aboriginal Fellowship (AAF). The main objective of this organisation was to generate an amicable relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in New South Wales. One of the most successful petitions devised by the AAF was to change the Constitution in regards to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. This petition, established by Jessie Street, a white feminist activist, along with Bandler and Gibbs, effectively enabled the success of the 1967 Referendum.  

Bandler's activism and resistance saw her under surveillance from the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) for decades. Volume One of her file (1950-1962) is a well-documented collection of newspaper cuttings, minutes from protest meetings, surveillance notes and correspondence in relation to her Indigenous identity.  The detail contained in this file provides insight into the agency Faith Bandler had, and the way she confronted issues of repression and brought those issues into public consciousness. Particularly in an era where being Black and a woman, was subject to public scrutiny and was perceived as a detriment.

Bandler's ASIO file is available at The National Archives of Australia.

Yes' for Aborigines poster authorised by Faith Bandler.   http://www.nma.gov.au/collections/highlights/faith-bandlers-gloves

Yes' for Aborigines poster authorised by Faith Bandler.  http://www.nma.gov.au/collections/highlights/faith-bandlers-gloves