NEXT PAGE page 9 PREVIOUS PAGE page 7
Page 8 B. RECOVERING FROM WAR, MORE WAR, MORE RECOVERING -
THE TIMES OF MURIEL HEAGNEY
50-56 on this page
50. 1926 THE CLOTHING TRADE UNION CLAIMS
The justification for women's claims in the 1926 Clothing Trades Union case for an equal minimum or basic wage was primarily a demand for the right to complete economic independence for women workers and a frank declaration that a woman's contribution to production is equally valuable to that of a man.
In 1926 she (Muriel Heagney) helped the Clothing Trades Union prepare evidence for their application for men and women to receive the same basic wage ... But such activities were soon overshadowed by the Depression of the late 1920's and 1930's.
The Changemakers Suzanne Fabian and Morag Loh Jacarandah Press 1983
51. UNEMPLOYMENT IN THE DEPRESSION
The Labor Government White Paper on unemployment gives the official figures: On the average during the twenty years 1919 - 1939 more than one tenth of the men and women desiring work were unemployed. In the worst period of the depression over 25% were left in unproductive idleness.
The First 200 Years Helen Palmer and Jessie MacLeod, Longman Cheshire 1981 p 244
52. 1930 THE HEAGNEY-RILEY REPORT ON UNEMPLOYED WOMEN
The Heagney-Riley report of June 1930 presented a horrifying picture of the plight of unemployed women. Of the eighteen Melbourne municipalities visited, none gave 'sustenance' to women. For the growing numbers of unemployed women there was no financial relief or unemployment benefits as we know it ... it was reported that unemployed women received no assistance and that thousands were poverty-stricken, ill and suffering psychological stress.
Muriel Heagney and F J Riley from the Women's Trade Union Unemployment Committee set out to collect the hard evidence that might bring about a change for the better.
The Changemakers Suzanne Fabian Morag Loh Jacarandah Press 1983 p 120
Australia had the second highest unemployment rates in the Western world. Only Germany was higher.
Wendy Lowenstein, Weevils in the Flour, An oral record of the 1930's depression in Australia Scribe 1978
53. 1930 UNEMPLOYED GIRLS' RELIEF MOVEMENT
Muriel Heagney co-operated with Jessie Henderson, president of the (probably anti-feminist) Central Council of Victorian Benevolent Societies to achieve this: “Muriel Heagney was one of those who realised the plight of unemployed women and girls and a 'girls' Week" was organised in Melbourne in 1930 to raise funds for their assistance.
The Unemployed Girls' Relief Movement was able to carry on with funds collected for over two years. Centres were organised where girls could drop in, for company and sisterly support, for the opportunity to use a sewing machine and make up some clothing, or to attend education courses which were provided.”
Edna Ryan and Alice Conlon Gentle Invaders Thomas Nelson 1975 p118
54. THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF AUSTRALIA BETRAYAL?
The Communist Party of Australia saw it as a twin evil - the work of a social fascist and a work of charity. The Girls' Relief Movement existed for two years while the Labor Government was in power and supplied work and other services for between 10,000 and 12,000 women.
Muriel Heagney urged "complete government financing and responsibility for all relief payments" and denied that the project was "charity or philanthropic work". While there may have been grounds of criticism of this project, particularly in respect to wages and conditions, Working Woman's (Communist Party of Australia publication) response seems more than a little extravagant.
It urged the "Working women of Melbourne" to realise that ... in demanding the right to live, the biggest enemies you have to fight against are Muriel Heagney and the rest of the Trades Hall social fascists, who with revolutionary phrases on their lips, aid the bosses to crush you. Let your slogan be: "Down with the social fascists, build up the Unemployed Workers Movement".
Joyce Stevens, Taking the Revolution Home Work Among Women in the Communist Party of Australia 1920-1945 Sybilla Press 1984
55. 1932 NATIONALIST PARTY BETRAYAL
The Unemployed Girl's Relief Movement was stopped when the Nationalist Party was returned to Government in 1932.
Yvonne Smith, Taking Time A Women's Historical Data Kit
56. 'MISS HEAGNEY CEASES WORK'? BETRAYAL
The headline was 'Miss Heagney Ceases Work', but she didn't just cease work: 'Miss Heagney Ceases Work - Relief Organiser - Miss Muriel Heagney, who has been in charge of the workless girls' relief scheme since its inception two and a half years ago has received notice of termination of her appointment from the Minister in charge of Sustenance (Mr Kent Hughes) and from the Central Council of Benevolent Societies.
The decision is likely to cause a stir in relief circles. Miss Heagney was the organiser of the suburban work centres, at which homeless girls work two days and workless girls work one day for 12/6 and 7/7 a week respectively - at the peak period she had (2,800?) girls under her charge and it is estimated that she handles 10,000 cases.
Minister's Letter - In letters to Miss Heagney, and to the Central Board, the Minister has explained the reasons for the step as follows:
"With the absorption of girls into domestic service after training at the domestic art school, it is anticipated that the number of girls employed at the centres will be reduced to between 500 and 600. Under these circumstances, the services of a superintendent will not be required.
Mr Kent Hughes sent the following explanation to Miss Heagney on Dec 5: "The reason for notifying you of the decision at this stage was in order to give you as long notice as possible. I thought that this was only fair in view of the excellent services that you have rendered to the Government during the past three years...
On behalf of the Government I desire to thank you most sincerely for the work that you have done, and I hope that your organising ability will enable you to obtain employment in another sphere. Miss Heagney will be given 4 weeks holiday on full pay from Jan 3, after which her engagement will end. The administrative work will be carried out by the Central Committee in future. Miss Heagney's office staff will probably be retained."
Herald 12 December 1932
NEXT PAGE page 9