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Page 7 B. RECOVERING FROM WAR, MORE WAR, MORE RECOVERING -
THE TIMES OF MURIEL HEAGNEY
43-49 on this page
B. RECOVERING FROM WAR, MORE WAR, MORE RECOVERING –
THE TIMES OF MURIEL HEAGNEY
The causes of war are primarily economic. and
Those who control the economic system react the same way to all threats to their sovereignty ...
Muriel Heagney: State Library of Victoria
43. LIVING STANDARDS FALLING
The percentage of women in the paid workforce and the percentage of married women in the paid workforce dropped well below what it had been at the start of the century.
The number of social justice measures such as those that had been brought in after women won the vote, stopped, except for schemes to alleviate conditions for returned soldiers - and these were too few and too little.
After the war, in 1918, there was massive industrial unrest - strikes and disputes - because living standards were falling.
The basic wage ... was below the 1907 equivalent, average wages were low and many people were unemployed.
Suzane Fabian and Morag Loh The Changemakers Jacarandah Press 1983 p.117
44. 1918 RETURNED NURSES' CONDITIONS BETRAYAL
When the armistice was signed, Sister Stilton was working at No 11 AGH at Coalfield. She had arrived back in Melbourne on transport duty in May 1918. "We came home tired and weary; the world seemed completely changed; our thoughts were with our losses, the beastliness, the destruction, the waste; the agonies and endurance", she wrote.....
Their medals (on ANZAC day) tell the story of heroism and devotion by nurses", runs a typical headline. The reality was very different. After returning to Australia, a large number of returned nurses found their hopes and dreams turned to fears and nightmares. The records of some of the funds established to assist former army nurses paint a grim picture of widespread hardship, often caused or exacerbated by wartime experiences ...
Sister Gladys Sumner had nursed in India, Egypt, Salon, and England during the War, had contracted malaria and pneumonia while overseas, and had been demobilized in January 1920. She had attempted to resume nursing after the War, but was forced to keep stopping because of frequent attacks of malaria, some of which resulted in hospitalization ...
During the Depression her situation became desperate. In July 1934 she wrote: "I am really worried, as I have no money at all - only 10/-. I live in a room - as I have no home - and have paid for that till the 23rd without meals.
I have tried every source for work - am trying every day ... I have tried to hang on and not ask for a grant ... but I have had only nine weeks work out of seven months - since last December - at very poor pay."
Jan Bassett Guns and Brooches, Australian Army Nursing from the Boer War to the Gulf War Oxford 1992 p.95
45. 1916-18 MURIEL (HEAGNEY) HAD GOT A JOB
In 1916 Muriel (Heagney) had got a job as a clerk at the Defence Department in Melbourne and for three and a half years worked closely with returned soldiers. She was moved by stories of personal tragedy that were never recorded in official war histories. She became an anti-war activist.
She spoke publicly in the anti-conscription campaigns of 1916 and 1917 and, with her mother, joined street demonstrations against the war ...
The Intelligence section of the Defence Department reported her subversive activities to her superiors in order to have them stopped, but Muriel insisted on her rights as a citizen to engage in political activities. She refused to be intimidated and, despite Defence Department disapproval, continued her political activism throughout the war ...
Muriel was paid the full male rate of the Defence Department. Because women hadn't worked there before, the regulations made no allowance for a lower rate of pay for women. She kept this precedent before her in her life-long struggle to have wages determined by the rate for the job, not the sex of the worker.
The Changemakers Suzanne Fabian and Morag Loh Jacarandah Press 1983 pp.116-117
The right to work is no prerogative of men ... Women's right to work rests not on her dependents, nor on the fact that she does or does not compete with men, but in the absolute right of a free human being, a taxpayer and a voter, to economic independence.
Muriel Heagney papers, State Library of Victoria
46. 1919 THE BASIC WAGE BETRAYAL
In 1919 Muriel began work as an investigator for a Royal Commission set up to inquire into whether the basic wage was enough for a family to live on ... the judge (Justice Higgins) had read an article by Vida Goldstein which listed budgets of desperately poor families, but no thorough official investigation of Australian conditions had been made...
As an investigator for this important Royal Commission, Muriel travelled to six capital cities and to Newcastle gathering evidence on living standards and the cost of living. She took into account such basics as food, rent and clothing, but also included the cost of fuel, haircuts, newspapers, fares and schooling, which had never before been considered (as Vida Goldstein had noticed) in wage fixing.
The evidence was comprehensive and conclusive. Muriel found that the basic wage did not provide adequately for a family and that living standards had indeed fallen ... The Commission recommended an immediate increase. Furthermore, it recommended that the basic wage should be given to a husband and wife and that the children's needs be met by child endowment.
Both the Federal Arbitration Court and the government rejected the Commission's findings. Justice Higgins of the Arbitration Court made it clear that the basic wage was not to be a proper wage guaranteeing adequate diet, clothing, shelter and education. It was to cover only the bare needs of “the humblest class of worker.”
Suzane Fabian and Morag LohThe Changemakers Jacarandah Press 1983 p.118
Henry Higgins: A differentiation between men's wages and women's wages in most tailoring work has been conceded ... Is it right that this court should aid the gentle invaders?
Clothing Trades Dispute 1919 Henry Bournes Higgins, MA, Llb President of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, 1907-1921 from The Gentle Invaders
47. “WHERE IS THE BACHELOR TAX”?
1921-2 Melvina Ingram of the Victorian State Schools Teachers Union argued in a deputation to Minister Alexander Peacock that if the argument that women will not marry if they receive a salary equal to that of a man is to be accepted, then: "We must look on the Education Department as a matrimonial bureau, forcing its women into matrimony by giving less than the men and penalising the remainder who do not marry by exhorting a fee - the difference between a man's and woman's salary.
She presented it as a "spinster tax" and asked the Minister "where is the bachelor tax, though".
Cheryl Griffin Women’s Liberation archives University of Melbourne
48. 1925–6 WOMEN’S ACTIVISM
Inspired by Alice Henry's visit, working women in Melbourne formed a Women's Trade Union League modelled on the organisation for which Henry worked in the United States. Delegates from thirteen unions attended a meeting in July 1925, which adopted a platform aimed at increasing women's participation in their individual unions and on public tribunals. They also resolved to obtain for girls and women equal opportunities with boys and men in trades and technical training, and pay on the basis of occupation and not on the basis of sex.
Jean Daley quoted in The History of Australian Feminism Marilyn Lake Allen & Unwin 1999
49. SHALL NOT BY SEX OR MARRIAGE
In 1926 the Victorian Women's Qualification Act removed disqualification of women to take up (some) judicial offices and in 1928 further provided that they “shall not by sex or marriage be disqualified from any profession or society”. 700 employees at Yarra Falls Spinning Mills, 500 of them female, went on strike ...
With 3,500 out in Melbourne there were too many to meet in Trades Hall, so the strikers went to the Temperance Hall, the girls marching along Russell St singing!
Rebel Women in Australia, working class history ed Sandra Bloodworth and Tom O'Lincoln Interventions Melbourne 1998
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