Labor studies journal, 2011-06, Vol.36 (2), p.245-268
Debates about women’s participation, representation, and leadership in trade unions frequently focus on the role of separate organizing. This article examines the historical use of separate organizing by women and its effect in an Australian state peak union, the Victorian Trades Hall Council (THC). Adoption of different forms of separate organizing in the 1910s, in particular autonomous organizing through women-only unions, transformed the gender profile of the THC. A subsequent shift in union strategy to support for industrial unionism led to union amalgamations, which saw the absorption of most of the women’s unions by the 1920s. The key issue is the degree to which this separate organizing campaign had an ongoing influence through the interwar years. In particular, the article looks at the experiences of the 1910s generation of women activists, the impact of amalgamation for the women’s THC profile, the community they formed, and some of the issues they debated in the THC. The 1920s and 1930s saw a steady decline in women’s representation and fading influence in the THC, as a result of a lack of sustained support for separate organizing by the THC and contradictory attitudes among its affiliates.
Feminism ; Labor movement ; Social aspects ; Australia ; Labor unions ; Analysis
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