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Wonthaggi Women's Auxiliary (1934 - )

From
1934

Summary

The Wonthaggi Miners' Women's Auxiliary, the first Women's auxiliary of a mining union, was established at Wonthaggi, Victoria during the Wonthaggi Coal Strike. The strike, which commenced on 6 March 1934, lasted for five months. Miners' wives established a Board Committee and the President, Mrs Agnes Chambers issued an official statement on behalf of the Committee:

the women of Wonthaggi are firmly behind their husbands in this struggle. We women have for the past two years seen our husbands' pay reduced by more than a third…If our men quietly accept these reductions without further protest where will they end?...Our men have stood solidly in this great struggle, and the Government, realising that it cannot break the spirit of the men, now turns and threatens to take our homes from us. The Government threatens to close the mine permanently….The dispute has now been in progress 17 weeks, and it would appear that we have a long and dreary winter in front of us, but with the help of the women of Australia we can hold out. [1]

By the second week of July the Hon. R G Menzies, Deputy Premier and Minister for Railways, the State Government Department that held responsibility for the mine, agreed to negotiate. He agreed to the immediate recognition of pit-top committees and the reinstatement of the five wheelers whose dismissal provoked the strike. He also proposed that the reinstatement of two men who had been dismissed for insubordination be negotiated once the miners were back at work - a palatable concession for most miners. [2]

The women's independent organisation and their willingness to persist further thoughout the winter was a factor in resisting efforts to call off the strike before their demands had been met.

[1] Cochrane, P, 'The Wonthaggi Coal Strike, 1934', Labour History, no. 27, 1974, p. 28
[2] ibid p. 29

Sources used to compile this entry: Cochrane, P, 'The Wonthaggi Coal Strike, 1934', Labour History, no. 27, 1974, pp. 12-30; Reeves, Andrew Paul, 'Industrial men : miners and politics in Wonthaggi 1909-1968', MA thesis, La Trobe University History Dept, 1977, 439 pp; http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/1996/247/247p26.htm accessed 2003-12-10.

Archival resources

National Library of Australia Oral History Collection

  • Interview with Jessie Hansen, dressmaker and secretary of the Wonthaggi Women's Auxiliary and the Pensioner's Committee [sound recording], ORAL TRC 3388/181; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details
  • Interview with Joe & Lyn Chambers, retired teachers, and Fred Brown, retired miner [sound recording], ORAL TRC 3388/152-153; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details

The Noel Butlin Archives Centre, ANU Archives Program

  • Australian (Australasian) Coal and Shale Employees Federation, 1909 - 1967, E164; The Noel Butlin Archives Centre, ANU Archives Program. Details

The University of Melbourne Archives

  • Australian Coal and Shale Employees' Federation (Miners' Federation), 1909 - 1968, 75/71; The University of Melbourne Archives. Details
  • Chambers, Joe and Lyn, 1910, 98/63; The University of Melbourne Archives. Details
  • Rankine, Bill [Papers], 1927 - 1965, 73/82; The University of Melbourne Archives. Details
  • Wonthaggi Women's Auxiliary, 1978, 79/116; The University of Melbourne Archives. Details

Anne Heywood

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