‘What does a woman want money for?

 - by whnadmin

‘Heading Households – Power, Domination, Subjugation and Survival’



 ‘What does a woman want money for?’ the Reverend Patrick Brontë asked when his daughter, Charlotte, told him she was going to be paid for a book she had written. The book was Jane Eyre.

Patrick’s stipend was not enough to maintain his children, and until his daughters began to earn money, first as governesses and then as novelists, the family lived in poverty.

But, what did Charlotte want money for?

Charlotte paid the doctor’s bills – her sisters, Anne and Emily died from tuberculosis. She paid for their home, the parsonage at Howarth, to be redecorated and improved. She paid off her brother’s debts. Her prosperity did not last long, for in 1855 Charlotte, now married, died, not in childbirth, but from being pregnant; her body was simply too frail to withstand a pregnancy. Did poverty during her own childhood contribute to her frailty?



By earning her own living, Charlotte Brontë took on the role of head of household, but it was not until 1993 that the assumption that the man was ‘head of household’ ceased to be automatic, and a definition of ‘chief income earner’ adopted. Charlotte broke the pattern of genteel poverty imposed on nineteenth century women of the middling sort, but only by posing as a male author.  When the success of Charlotte’s novels brought her to London to meet her publisher, George Smith, of Smith, Elder and Co, was shocked, but he was also generous towards his writers: Charlotte had chosen well, and she continued to earn what a man would have earned.

So, more than a century and a half on from the publication of Jane Eyre under a male pseudonym, how are women faring? And what impact has equal pay legislation had on women’s ability to earn a living?

The equal pay legislation

The Equality Act 2010, which replaced the Equal Pay Act 1975, enables a woman to claim pay equal to that received by a man on the grounds that they are doing:

  • Like work
  • Work rated as equivalent under a job evaluation scheme
  • Work of Equal Value

‘Pay’ includes wages, holidays, pension rights, company perks and some bonuses. Claims are pursued through the Employment Tribunal system.


The current gender pay gap

The median full-time gender pay gap for hourly earnings is 10.00 per cent [ONS April 2013], an increase on the previous year. For the tax year ended 5 April 2013 median gross annual earnings for male full-time employees were £29,300, women the figure £23,600.

Averages do not tell the full story: some women will experience no pay gap, others will experience much larger inequalities than the headline figures imply. And it’s important to recognise that a pay difference doesn’t necessarily signify pay discrimination. A pay gap can have many causes, only one of which could be pay discrimination.



Full-time gender pay gaps are wider in some occupations than in others. The gap in median hourly earnings is widest for skilled trades and for process, plant and machine operatives, both at 22 per cent. Among major industrial groups, the median full-time gender pay gap is widest for financial and insurance activities, 37 per cent, and in England, the widest gender pay gap is in the South East , reflecting the higher average earnings of men in those regions, particularly of men working in the financial services industry.

Full-time gender pay gaps widen for women aged 40-49 and 50-59, before narrowing for older. Conversely, the gap has largely disappeared for those in their twenties and thirties, with the earnings of women and men aged 22-29 being similar.



Research into the gender pay gap

We know from the large body of research into the gender pay gap, as well as from our own experience and observations as women, that the nature and pattern of women’s labour market participation remains distinct from that of men. Women’s choices about what kind of work to do, where to do it, and for how many hours a week, are still quite restricted. Women are over-represented in the ‘5 Cs’: caring, cashiering, cleaning, catering, and clerical. These roles tend to be poorly paid, with few opportunities for training and progression, and often do not make the most of women’s skills and abilities.

Men dominate full-time employment, women part-time, but while the proportion of men working part-time is steadily increasing, for men this reduction in hours tends to be for a finite period of time – while they are students, or after they have retired; for women it lasts for many years. Despite advances in ‘flexible working’ – intended to open up higher paid jobs to working on a reduced hours basis, there is still a real limit to high quality and well paid part time work.



 The consequences of the gender pay gap

Almost all the research into the gender pay gap has looked at its causes, but I want to look at its consequences. The correlation between low pay and unequal pay is unclear – I believe deliberately so: policy makers quite simply don’t want to face up to the fact that poverty is a women’s issue; easier by far to blame the education system, or the way in which benefits are distributed, than to redress the imbalance of power that impoverishes women.


Low income in retirement

What we do know is that women are more likely to be low paid than men throughout their working lives. This often translates into lower income in retirement. 17 per cent of women pensioners live in households with a low income compared to 14 per cent of men [EHRC 2012]. The pensions’ gap is narrowing, but until the underlying cause – the gender pay gap – is tackled, the problem is not going to go away.

The consequences of unequal pay and/ or low pay are more than financial, especially when women are heads of household. Over the past fifteen years the proportion of mothers in couples who are breadwinners has risen from 18 to 31 per cent, while the proportion of mothers who are sole earners is up from 11 to 18 per cent. The consequences of unequal pay/low pay for women include:

  • Residence in poor neighbourhoods. More female-headed households with children report both ‘pollution and grime and other environmental problems’ and ‘crime, violence and vandalism’ in the local areas than do other types of household [EHRC 2012].


  •  Poor housing. Households headed by women are more likely to live in overcrowded or substandard homes than those headed by men.  articlewhnblog18imagesCAGGUMH3
  •  Life transitions. Bereavement or divorce have a more significant and potentially negative impact on women’s financial position than on men’s [BHPS].


  • Domestic violence. Divorced or separated women are more likely to experience domestic violence, but domestic violence is less likely to occur in households where male and female contributions to household income are roughly equal [Olsen &  Walby, 2002]. articlewhnblog18untitled


Not enough has changed in the century and a half since Charlotte Bronte shocked her father and her publisher by taking on responsibility for her own material wellbeing. While the headline gender pay gap is 10 per cent, the figure for older women is 18 per cent. ‘Women’s rates’ were outlawed almost fifty years ago, but we all know that a part-time rate is a ‘woman’s rate’. ; Unequal pay all too often also means low pay, which in turn means poorer housing provision and less ability to self-provide for a pension. We’re still stuck in the male breadwinner mould. It’s not regulation that is needed, nor endless policy initiatives, but a seismic shift in attitudes towards women.

Sheila Wild (c) March/April 2014




Sheila Wild

Writer and equality consultant Sheila Wild was for many years the Director of Employment Policy at the Equal Opportunities Commission (the EOC), where she headed up a number of major projects on workplace issues affecting women. Through her work on equal pay cases, and on the 1997 and 2003 codes of practice on equal pay, she acquired a particular expertise on equal pay issues and subsequently led the development and dissemination of the EOC’s equal pay audit kit, which for over a decade has been the focal point for UK campaigns to close the gender pay gap.  Sheila moved across to the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2007, where she continued to lead on equal pay issues. After leaving the Commission in 2011, Sheila set up www.equalpayportal.co.uk an information resource on equal pay. Sheila Wild is an award-winning poet and is currently reading, part-time, for a Masters in Publishing.

This is an edited version of a presentation at the WWAFE (Women Worldwide Advancing Freedom & Equality) seminar at the House of Lords on 6 March 2014 – ‘Heading Households – Power, Domination, Subjugation and Survival’.


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Violating Human Rights by Criminalising Trafficking Victims/Survivors

 - by whnadmin



March 27, 2014 | CUNY School of Law

Today, the U.N. Human Rights Committee urged that the U.S. end the prosecution of human trafficking victims for crimes that they are forced to commit. The Committee expressed concern that victims of sex trafficking are arrested and convicted for prostitution and related offenses, and recognized that there is insufficient identification of trafficking victims. The Committee urged the U.S. to “take all appropriate measures to prevent the criminalization of victims of sex trafficking, including child victims, to the extent that they have been compelled to engage in unlawful activities.”

The recommendations follow the Committee’s dialogue with a U.S. government delegation in Geneva earlier this month to review the U.S.’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, one of three human rights treaties to which the U.S. is a party.



“The Committee’s concluding observations send a clear message that criminalizing trafficking victims violates their fundamental human rights,” says Cynthia Soohoo, director of the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic (IWHR) at the City University of New York School of Law.

“We hope that the U.S. government will heed the Committee’s recommendations and take action to ensure trafficked people are not arrested and criminalized,” says Kate Mogulescu, supervising attorney of The Legal Aid Society’s Trafficking Victims Advocacy Project (TVAP). “In addition, many states have passed laws allowing trafficking survivors to vacate criminal convictions.  These laws are a crucial step toward redressing the harms of unjust criminalization and should be encouraged across the country.”



Advocates from IWHR and TVAP were in Geneva during the review to raise the issue of criminalization of victims of sex trafficking with U.S. government representatives and the Committee.  IWHR, TVAP, and the Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center also submitted a shadow report to the Committee highlighting the issue as a human rights violation.

IWHR recently issued a new report describing the alarming consequence of the U.S’s emphasis on a criminal justice approach to trafficking: trafficking victims are often treated like criminals rather than being recognized as victims of a crime. The report documented the lasting consequences that criminal records impose on the lives of trafficking survivors, including barriers to safe housing and stable employment, in addition to fueling mistrust of law enforcement.

Sixteen states across the country have enacted legislation designed to mitigate these harms by allowing survivors of human trafficking to clear prostitution and related convictions from their records.

The Committee’s full concluding observations are available online.


Cindy Soohoo, Director, CUNY Law’s International Women’s Human Rights Clinic, Cynthia.Soohoo@law.cuny.edu(718) 340-4329

Kate Mogulescu, Supervising Attorney, The Legal Aid Society Trafficking Victim Advocacy Project, kamogulescu@legal-aid.org(347)834-6089.




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Electronic Gadgets Cost More than Money …

 - by whnadmin


Self-confessed electronics fan Adam Turner [The Age, March 22], deemed wearable gadgets as yet to meet his desires. Such technology fails to tick his boxes relating to simplicity, elegance, and value for money. Others would agree, though for some the reasons are distinctly unrelated to user-friendliness, cosmetic appearance, and price.

The central critique of newly emerging technical gadgets is unconnected to a mentality innately fearing and/or loathing technology per se.  Rather, the basis is humanitarian. It focuses on the source of the ingredient, Columbite-tantalite, essential for the manufacture of hi-tech appliances, including laptop computers, mobile phones and paging systems, digital and video cameras, game consoles and applications, and military missiles and drones.




The Congo is home to 80 percent of the world’s Columbite-tantalite. Known as Coltan, this black tar-like mineral produces a heat resistant powder uniquely capturing and retaining a high level of electric charge. These properties, together with a conductive ability in extreme temperatures, also make Coltan ideal for smart bomb guidance controls. Security analysts refer to it as a strategic mineral.

Yet in Central Africa, Coltan is known as a conflict mineral. According to a 2001 UN Report on the Illegal Exploitation of the Congo’s  Natural Resources, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and their proxy militias are the primary exploiters of the Congo’s Coltan.

Mining is masterminded by rebels and foreign forces, then sold to foreign corporations. Although UN Reports on the Congo have not directly blamed multi-national corporations for the conflict in the country, they have stated that these companies serve as “the engine of the conflict in the DRC.

Mining facilities are described as 19th century. Miners are men and women refugees displaced during the Congo’s war which began back in 1998; prisoners as a result of the conflict; and children. They toil from dawn until dusk under the supervision of soldiers, without protective clothing, and in narrow tunnels with virtually no ventilation. Children are seen as a valuable resource since they can squeeze into the small Coltan-rich cavities within the makeshift mines located within the Eastern Congo’s riverbeds”.



Adult miners are paid between $10 and $50 per week, considerably more than the country’s average monthly wage of $10 per month. Child miners, destined to remain illiterate in the absence of any schooling, receive just $1.50 per week.



Mining processes have turned the forests and fields into swamps, with lethal landslides a common occurrence. The toxic impact of Coltan, together with mining intrusions into animal habitat has reduced elephant numbers by 80 percent, and gorilla numbers by 90 percent. By and large, miners fail to fulfil the national life expectancy of 47 years due to malnutrition, Coltan toxicity, contagious diseases, and the extremely gruelling labour. Women miners face physical and emotional violence from both military overseers and co-workers. Estimates have two children paying with their lives for each kilogram of Coltan harvested.

Once the Coltan is processed, chiefly by corporations in the US, and others in Germany, China and Belgium, it is  sold  to companies such as Nokia, Motorola, Compaq, Alcatel, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lucent, Ericsson and Sony for the manufacture of electronic devices.

The market does not stop there. Coltan-dependent drone manufacturing companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, AeroVironment, and Textron in the US, Northrop Grumman in Australia, Prox Dynamics in Norway, Denel Dynamics in South Africa, and Israel’s Aerospace Industries report annual multi-billion dollar profits.

While blood hi-tech has proceeded unabated, the world has lost its conscience when it comes to accepting responsibility for capitalising on a market largely financing a war witnessing the slaughter of an estimated six million of the Congo’s 70 million people, and the brutal rape and torture of in excess of 200,000 females – age being no protection against this atrocity.



Instead, as new technologies have emerged and new electronic devices are manufactured, the demand for the Congo’s Coltan has grown even larger. Right now there is no known substitute for Coltan, but the time is nigh for individuals to question whether we wish to remain complicit with the gross crimes against humanity in the Congo. For starters, who truthfully needs a new mobile phone each year, or a replacement iPad whenever a new colour range appears on the scene, or an expensive electronic gadget that will serve multiple futile functions while attached to the wrist?

Lynette J. Dumble and Jocelynne A. Scutt (c) March 2014

electrictronicgadgets5imagesCAL9JQOH electronicgadgets6imagesCATO91DW



Dr Lynette Dumble is the founder and director of The Global Sisterhood Network, and Dr Jocelynne Scutt a barrister and human rights lawyer.

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Human Rights & Development – An Essential Duo!

 - by whnadmin
The UN hosts the Commission on the Status of Women annually in New York City. CSW 58 – 9-20 March 2014 - saw a debate on human rights and development. Clearly human rights should not be seen as in conflict with development, and development should go ahead in complete concert with human rights. Women from CSW 58 spoke out on this issue, drafting the Civil Society Red Flag appearing here. All organisations endorsing the letter to date and involved in shaping it are listed.


In the past year, civil society organizations worldwide from different fields of work have closely followed United Nations Member States’ deliberations on the post 2015 development agenda. We have welcomed invitations to contribute through online or in-person consultations and have been suggesting development alternatives, analysis, and comprehensive recommendations throughout this process.

Despite these efforts, we are alarmed that within the post 2015 discussions, little seems to be underway to reverse the trend of doing business as usual and that the UN is about to lose the opportunity to transform the current vicious cycle of development focused on economic growth alone that fuels inequalities, inequities, environmental degradation and marginalization into a virtuous cycle where human rights and justice prevail. Despite the statement of the UN Secretary General that “no one will be left behind,” the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] are not on track to be built on the essential priorities for a sound and effective post 2015 global agenda, namely human rights and dignity for all.





In the Millennium Declaration, governments made an explicit commitment to “promote … respect for all internationally recognized human rights (…) including the right to development [and] (…) to strive for the full protection and promotion in all our countries of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights for all.” It is unacceptable that at this point in UN history, despite all agreements and commitments affirming their interlinkages, there is still a dangerous disconnection between development and human rights.

This means that the most important lesson from the MDGs has yet to be learned: that sustainable development is impossible unless human rights are at its center as a foundational pillar of vibrant, equal and prosperous societies. Progress on people’s rights and substantive gender equality in the development agenda requires critical attention to interconnected and indivisible sexual, reproductive, and other civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Moreover, in order to be truly effective and inclusive in the face of current global inequalities, the post 2015 agenda must focus on a just distribution of the benefits of development, consider and commit to the creation of an enabling macroeconomic environment for the achievement of development goals and ensure that human rights underpin all development efforts.





The current level of inequalities is insulting and, as global citizens, we do not agree with investing human and financial resources for governments at the UN to merely reaffirm what was agreed on 20 years ago, or in the Rio+20 outcome document.  We demand that you go beyond these commitments and establish a well articulated and interlinked human rights and development agenda, with all stakeholders held responsible for coherent and transparent policies, programs and services. This means naming rights holders and duty bearers, identifying obligations of all parties, focusing on implementation and accountability through legal, policy and institutional measures to fully realize all human rights for everyone. It means preventing cultural, religious, ethnic, gender or other forms of bias, the possible non-recognition of the rights of certain categories of persons and categories of rights when shaping the future.

There will not be sustainability in any development model without human rights. We need and call on Member States and UN Agencies to demonstrate and sustain the necessary leadership and political will to ensure that the post 2015 development agenda is based on fully realizing the fundamental principles of human rights, equality, non-discrimination, and social justice for all. ­

The future we need requires courageous actions to shape the future we want. Civil society organizations from around the world are watching. And we do hope to be heard.



Gestos- HIV, Communication and Gender, Brazil LACCASO – Latin American and the Caribbean Council of AIDS Organizations RESURJ – Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice Alliance Coalition of African Lesbians Engajamundo, Brazil Diverse Voices and Action for Equality,


Fiji Pacific Feminist SRHR Coalition The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission YouAct: European Youth Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights Balance, México


ILGA LAC Women International for a Common Future WICF/WECF DSW – Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung Association of War Affected Women (AWAW), Sri Lanka ASTRA Central and Eastern European Women’s Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (ASTRA Network)

Italian Association for Women in Development – AIDOS Rome, Italy Federation for Women and Family Planning, Poland PROFAMILIA, Puerto Rico INTER-MUJERES, Puerto Rico. RFSU, IPPF Member Association, Sweden Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)
COC, Netherlands Women in Europe for a Common Future WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform Union Women Center, Georgia FOKUS-Forum for Women and Development, Norway MEXFAM, Mexico Zimbabwe Young Women’s Network for Peace Building (ZYWNP)
Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago Amnesty International Red de Educacion Popular Entre Mujeres de Latinoamérica y Caribe, LAC La Red de Mujeres Afrolatinoamericanas, Afrocaribeñas y de la Diáspora

Center for Women’s Global Leadership Fundacion para Estudio e Investigacion de la Mujer- FEIM, Argentina International AIDS Women’s caucus – IAWC RedNAC Red Argentina de Adolescentes y Jovenes por los derechos sexuales y Reproductivos, Argentina


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CSW 58 – Voices Call for Peace

 - by whnadmin


The Commission on the Status of Women takes place every year at the United Nations in New York City. CSW 58 saw Canadian Voice of Women for Peace construct a letter to the Chair of CSW 58, calling for Peace in the World:

Canadian Voice of Women for Peace

7 Labatt Ave. Suite 212-I, Toronto, ON Canada

M5A 1Z1

March 20th, 2014

Dear H.E. Mr. Libran Cabactulan,

I am pleased to submit to you, as Chair of the Bureau for the 58th session (2014) of the Commission on the Status of Women, this petition which has circulated during the two weeks of this CSW.

We have collected much support for the recommendations which you will see on the petition.

The number supporting them amount to four hundred, half collected here at the meeting and half online (www.vowpeace.org).

The signatories are from thirty-six countries, and sixty-seven organizations. The countries represented are: Hungary, Iceland, USA, Canada Uganda, Hong Kong, Sierra Leone, UK, Sudan, Tunisia, India, Mexico, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Taiwan, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Bulgaria, Malaysia, Germany, Nepal, Nigeria, Burma, Pakistan, Australia, Greece, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway ,Guatemala, Japan. France, Finland.


 WE CALL FOR the years of international rhetoric to be translated into action.

WE CALL FOR  the delegitimization of war. Given the social, economic, ecological, health and psychological consequences of war, under no circumstance or condition is was legal or just.

WE CALL FOR  the United Nations, to agree that all States will reform their domestic laws and judicial procedures so that they provide effective and meaningful protections for the rights of indigenous women within  their jurisdictions, and to take steps, immediately, to ensure the elimination of the direct and indirect impacts that militarization and the development and utilization of nuclear  processes/byproducts have on  indigenous people,  particularly indigenous women and girls*(using the transfer or capital money no longer being used  to fund war) *note., who are the most severely impacted, as a result of various States intentionally identifying and locating industries related to militarization, nuclear facilities and related waste disposal on their legally protected homelands.



WE CALL UPON all governments to help prevent war by invoking the UN charter’s chapter VI; the peaceful resolution of disputes.

WE CALL FOR the United Nations to promote common security and call upon the member states to sign  and ratify  international covenants and conventions  which embody obligations  and commitments related to common security.

WE CALL UPON  the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to calculate the contribution of militarism to greenhouse gas emissions.


WE CALL FOR the disbanding of NATO and the relying on UN Peacekeeping instead.

WE CALL FOR the conversation, to peaceful purposes, of military bases (including those on foreign soil).

These measures would contribute to a much invigorated development agenda for developing and developed countries. May these ideas provide momentum for future consideration.


Janis Alton

Co-Chair, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace


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Politics & Women’s Voices – Anna Howard Shaw

 - by whnadmin

Anna Howard Shaw 1875

 Dr Anna Howard Shaw

On April 20, 1917, Dr Anna Howard Shaw, honorary president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), received what was essentially her draft notice. President Woodrow Wilson had appointed her to head the Women’s Committee of the Council for National Defense (CND), the governmental entity created to coordinate the domestic war effort. The Women’s Committee would become the first governmental organization composed solely of women and focused on women.

President Wilson made a definite pro-suffrage statement with this appointment, but perhaps even more, the entire government was recognizing the remarkable depth and breadth of women’s activism of all stripes that existed in the United States at that point in our history. Yet how many people know of either this committee or its leader?

Fast-forward nearly a century later. Perhaps Hillary Clinton will run for president again. While such an election would mark a significant milestone for United States’ women, many question whether it would really be a measure of women’s political power. How might we compare where women are today to where they were in 1917?  In her famous 1914 speech, “The Fundamental Principle of a Republic,” Shaw argued that for the United States to live up to its foundational ideals, to be a representative government, all voices must be heard.  Have we reached that representative government? Are women even allowed an equal voice on the issues that disproportionately affect their lives? Unfortunately, those ideals have yet to be realized.

Wilson’s choice of Anna Howard Shaw recognized her years of activism and her standing among the general public. In many ways, this one remarkable and unusual woman was representative of women then. Shaw embodied women’s expanding opportunities in the 19th and early 20th centuries for education, work and politics, as well as the challenges they faced. An immigrant raised in poverty on a Michigan farm, from an early age Shaw worked to financially support her family, teaching school in addition to her unpaid hard physical farm labor. When she was called to the ministry, her family didn’t approve. She went it alone. She worked her way through college and seminary in the 1870s, fought for ordination, headed two parishes, and earned a medical degree, before giving all of it up to become a freelance lecturer, activist and organizer. Shaw devoted more than 30 years working full time for the women’s movement and over 12 important and transformative years as president of NAWSA. She was the movement’s greatest orator and truly a self-made woman.


 Dr Anna Howard Shaw

Shaw led the way for the many impressive women in leadership today. We see individual women in positions of power in the government, in the professions, in business. We might think we have accomplished a great deal in terms of gender equality. Nevertheless, when we look at the numbers of women in Congress (18.5%), as governors (27.6%), in state legislatures (24.2%), and as mayors (18.4%), somehow it doesn’t seem like we have made a century of progress after women’s century of struggle. Looking beyond these statistics, almost every week we see politicians stumbling because they can’t coherently articulate or analyze gender-related issues.

And while some women have made great strides, it is also clear that other women, generally poorer women, haven’t. From raising the minimum wage to health-care coverage, from clean water to safe foods, from sexual assaults in the military to real sex education – aren’t these all women’s issues? Are women’s voices equally heard and women’s views equally represented?

It is up for debate whether women had more power 100 years ago, but it is pretty clear that they were seriously involved in social issues. They weren’t unified, but they were speaking out. And if they did need to come together, as they did during the war, they found a way to work in coalition across their differences. As we begin to assess what we have accomplished over the last century and what we haven’t, perhaps we need to go back and study our history, women’s history.

Trisha Franzen (c) March 2014


 Professor Trisha Franzen

Trisha Franzen is professor of women’s and gender studies at Albion College and the author of Anna Howard Shaw: The Work of Woman Suffrage (University of Illinois Press, 2014).


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Molly Hadfield – A Radical Warrior Woman Remembered

 - by whnadmin


Mary Catherine (Molly) Hadfield (1922 – 2012)

At 15, Molly Hadfield (1922-2011) wanted to be a nurse. Growing up in a small town in country Victoria through the 1930s Depression, she had no choice but to be political. Surrounded by uncles and a grandfather who, as shearers, constantly talked unions and politics, she had a father who was an environmentalist before the word was coined. Her educational and employment experiences led her in that direction, too.

Having left school by necessity when she was 13 years old, her mother having died when Molly Hadfield was 10, she was told that nursing was not for her – ‘you can’t do the exams’ – but she would be welcome to work in the nurses’ dining room. She took the job. Under the rules lunches were set out on tables for nurses, but sisters and matrons’ meals were kept in the oven. Sisters and matrons sat down to piping hot fare. Cold and cooling meals waited until nurses finished their shifts. The unfairness of the hierarchical system struck Molly Hadfield then and stuck with her, as did the distinction made between kitchen and nursing staff which prevented her from meeting on the premises with cousins and friends who were nurses.



Moving to the city in 1940, she made stockings and men’s underwear, timed by time-and-motion men roaming up and down the factory aisles clicking their stopwatches. This too grounded her strong stand on industrial rights, carried on through decades in lobbying, marches and protests. Her activism began from her family’s centre, too. She fought for tenants rights when she and her family were threatened with eviction. It began collectively when she lobbied for a school bus, then public transport, kindergartens, community centres, footpaths and roads, for residents of a newly developing outer suburb of Melbourne, Chelsea, where she and her family moved upon leaving Collingwood.


From 1970, Molly Hadfield worked at the International Bookshop in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, living during the week in inner-city Fitzroy and returning to Chelsea at weekends. She combined her bookshop work with reading the books and going to Women’s Movement conferences: running the International Bookshop stall at women’s conferences was a major bonus. For her, fair wages for women incorporated the need for family friendly policies, working conditions cognisant of pregnancy and maternity needs of working women, attention paid to aged care and support for those caring for relatives with a disability. She was mindful that without these services, equal pay would not be won, for women would never be recognised as full participants in the world of paidwork and worthy of remuneration commensurate with their capabilities, talents and workplace contribution.



Her perspective developed out of her own experience and the books she took down from the shelves. She learnt, too, from her own experiences. In the 1970s, her homecare and family responsibilities expanded exponentially. She took on the care of the husband of a friend, having promised she would do so after the friend died. The husband had a brother, along with two sisters suffering from dementia. Active in the community health centre movement, Molly Hadfield agitated for complementary medicine, consumer rights and aged care, and was instrumental in establishing the Frankston Housing for the Aged Action Group. She succeeded in gaining one worker for the centre, for eight hours. Then the centre expanded into an organisation with a staff of five.




Meanwhile, she marched and protested during the maritime workers strike, alongside her longtime friend and colleague Edith Morgan, their photograph appearing, fists raised triumphant in celebration and support, on the cover of With these Arms, songs and poems of the MUA. Most recently, she participated in a protest by bank workers over conditions which, amongst other restrictions, prevented them from leaving their workstations to go to the lavatory, even if pregnant, and required them to work unpaid overtime – all with minimal training. The conditions of the protesting workers she compared with factory workers’ conditions in the 1950s and 1960s. Today’s workers and conditions, she believed, come off badly against the poor working conditions of past decades. ‘I have been protesting for over fifty years now,’ she said, and ‘I suppose I’d better stop. But I am not going to stop while I have breath in my body and a working head to think about it all.’[1]


Molly Hadfield and Edith Morgan Demonstrating on Melbourne Wharves


Jocelynne A. Scutt (c) August 2006

The Hon. Dr Jocelynne A. Scutt is a Barrister & Human Rights Lawyer, Member of the Victorian Bar and the Inner Temple London. Amongst others, her books include Women and the Law – Cases and Commentary, The Incredible Woman – Power and Sexual Politics (2 vols), The Sexual Gerrymander – Women and the Economics of Power and For Richer, For Poorer – Money, Marriage and Property Rights (with Di (Diana) Graham. Her most recent publication is ‘(Dis)Honour, Death and Duress in the Courtroom’, chapter 6 in  ‘Honour’ Killing and Violence – Theory, Policy and Practice, Aisha K. Gill, Carolyn Strange and Karl Roberts, eds (forthcoming, Palgrave Macmillan, November 2014).


[1] Edith Morgan, in Jocelynne A. Scutt (ed.), Living Generously – Women Mentoring Women, 1996, Artemis, Melbourne, Victoria;  Women’s Web – Women’s Stories, Women’s Actions, Interview with Molly Hadfield,  http://www.home.vicnet.net.au/~womenweb/sources/First%20Narratives/MollyHadfield.htm, pp. 1-8 (accessed 20 June 2006); Women’s Web – Women’s Stories, – Women’s Actions, Interview with Edith Morgan, http://home.vicnet.net.au/~womenweb/sources/First%20Narratives/EdithMorgan.htm, pp. 1-7 (accessed 20 June 2006);  Melissa Moreno, ‘Molly Hadfield OAM Activist 14-7-1922 — 10-11-2012’, Sydney Morning Herald, http://www.theage.com.au/comment/obituaries/cheerful-crusader-for-the-community-20121218-2bkxe.html (accessed 5 April 2014).


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Raging for Wages – An Extract

 - by whnadmin



‘Even at the early age of three, I had some instincts as to the relations of cause and effect, and the basic need to remove the cause of the trouble.’[1] Her words become an epitaph in Kay Keasey’s spirited Australian Women’s Weekly article, ‘Jessie Street – Salute to “A Class Traitor”’. Published on 5 August 1970, shortly after Street’s death, this tribute celebrates a woman warrior’s life.

As warrior, agitator, lobbyist, thinker, Street is not alone.

When Di Graham protests against pay less than her subordinates, she ‘… was told it was inevitable, the government made the wages rules. Yet the firm kept publicising my capabilities in trade journals.’

The repudiation propels her to action.

Unjust Ethos, Unequal Practice

The dissonance for women paid less than a man for working equally hard or better sometimes generated silent shame – although why women should be shamed by shameful employers’ exploitation and industrial bodies’ ignorance was moot.  Sometimes women harboured a sense of injustice, erupting when newspapers reported wage disparities akin to their own, or Basic Wage or National Wage Cases confirmed men’s wages and livelihood standing on different footing from their own. Some channeled anger into union activism, women’s organisations, or both. Pay packet differences propelled a lifetime struggle.

Confronted with injustice rationalised by some of their sisters, taken by male colleagues as their due, unquestioned by employers and condoned by authority, on one level, the insult was laughable. To survive, women developed a fine sense of the ridiculous. Simultaneously, their work deemed worth less lay like an open wound. Women paid as much, often more, for goods and services. Lower wages meant less power, fewer rights and less say.



Wage injustice did not mean women classed men working alongside as enemies responsible for pay differentials – although sometimes scoffing at lesser abilities of those paid more. Women ascribed the problem to governments impervious to realities of women’s strengths and abilities, or politicking between powerful groups of men: political parties, politicians, trade unions, employers. They were incensed when, despite wage disparity, their responsibilities were no different. They cast wry amusement when men claimed superior talent and capability. Pay differentials made no difference to women’s dedication or performance. But this weighed them down.

In all trades and professions, women working alongside or over men uncovered deception. Like Graham, Joan Woodbury earned less than her juniors:

‘I had two masters degrees and years and years of experience, had worked in universities and overseas. It didn’t matter.’

Jean Arnot’s salary was pegged below lesser qualified men. When as acting head librarian she was passed over, she gained a consolation prize: a UN Geneva conference of library indexers. Like Graham admired and acclaimed by her employer, Arnot was ‘it’ when the NSW State Library required a woman to publicly shine. Never did adulation bring equal remuneration.

Women built on the ramparts created long before, when women throughout the 19th century and earlier agitated, went on strike, boycotted firms and corporations refusing to employ women in ‘men’s jobs’. The equal pay struggle exists still and has existed for centuries. Despite legislation and industrial pronouncements declaratory of equal pay, women still don’t have it. It will take the strength and power of women standing on the shoulders of those going before us to bring to fruition the long struggle for equal pay and pay equity.

Jocelynne A. Scutt (c) February 2005


The Hon. Dr Jocelynne A. Scutt is Visiting Professor at Buckingham University, UK and Penn State U – The Dickinson Law School, US. This is an extract from her forthcoming book Wage Rage – The Long, Long Struggle for Pay Equity and Equal Pay.



[1] Quoted in Kay Keasey, ‘Jessie Street – Salute to “A Class Traitor”’, Australian Women’s Weekly, Sydney, NSW, 1970 (5 August 1970)


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Entertaining the Harvey Girls … A New Documentary Experience

 - by whnadmin



Beginning in the 1870s, a pioneering British immigrant and entrepreneur named Fred Harvey created fine-dining restaurants throughout the Western United States, all along the Atchison, Topeka, Santa Fe Railroad.  While Harvey set a new standard in the Wild West’s fledgling hospitality business - which was not renowned for its cuisine - his achievements extended beyond the culinary realm.  From 1883, Harvey hired women to be “Harvey Girls”.  These waitresses introduced Westerners to high standards of customer service and showed that women could be independent.

Until this moment, there had been very few job opportunities for single women in the American West.  Most wait-staff in the West were in fact African American men who did not get along well with their cowboy clientele, many of whom had fought on the confederate side of the Civil War.  The Fred Harvey Company, in reaction to growing tensions between staff and customers, decided to bring out women from the East and Midwest to stay in dormitories and work in their restaurants on an initial 6-month contract.  The Harvey Girls were an instant hit, and many women stayed on, requesting further employment and marrying locals. Ultimately, this workforce spanned almost 100 years and involved over 100,000 women.



In 1946, MGM released the motion picture “The Harvey Girls” starring Judy Garland, which until recently was the only film to immortalize them. Now, however, the Harvey Girls are the subject of a new documentary film called “The Harvey Girls: Opportunity Bound”. This documentary makes a strong case for their historical importance and includes rare interviews with the few remaining Harvey Girls and author and expert on Fred Harvey, Stephen Fried. The film also explores the life of Fred Harvey and his company which left its mark across the American West by not only providing work opportunities for women, but by being among the first companies to promote cultural diversity in the workplace by hiring Hispanic and Native American women to be waitresses along with their Anglo peers.



Through the Harvey Girls’ stories, the documentary visits and brings to life many of the Fred Harvey Company’s most prominent restaurants and buildings which were designed by their chief building designer, Mary Colter.  Colter was way ahead of her time, not only in her chosen profession, but also in her unique aesthetic which fused Native American and Hispanic Southwestern traditions.  Colter’s work is still in evidence at The Grand Canyon in Arizona, La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona and at Union Station in Los Angeles, California.

Katrina Parks (c) March 2014

  “The Harvey Girls: Opportunity Bound” is being distributed for broadcast by American Public Television.  DVDs are also available for museum and classroom use and home video presentation through contacting Katrina Parks, Producer / Director: katrinaparks@mac.com.




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On the Strength of Invisible Hands

 - by whnadmin



The struggle for equal pay dates from way before the nineteenth century. Women have campaigned rarely knowing of the women who have gone before. The identities of many are lost in the past, although reinstatement has sometimes come through the persistence of women activists.

The ages of women activists span decades. Some have worked with one another. Some have known of one another from afar. Some have not known the others existed, or of their struggles. So it was that although they did not know it at the time, in appearing in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for WLM in the 1970s, Zelda D’Aprano and Sylvie Shaw had their forerunners. In 1950s Melbourne, Cathleen (‘Kath’) Williams of the Liquor Trades Union joined the struggle, bringing enlightenment to men of the trade union movement wherever she could.[1] She was spurred into action by reports from the ACTU Congress, held in Sydney in 1953, where the call went up for equal pay legislation:

‘That this Congress calls on the Federal and State Governments to legislate for the provision of equal pay for the sexes in all occupations and, in the first instance, to grant equal pay to their own employees.  We call upon the ACTU to establish Equal Pay Committees to undertake the task of campaigning for legislation and to arouse the interest of male and female workers in the demand for equal pay;  such committees to be co-ordinated on a national basis by the Executive of the ACTU.’



Yet in turn, Kath Williams did not know the story behind the motion: that, spurred on by the activism and agitation of women within and without the trade union movement, women in the NSW FCU had drafted it, then ferried it through the FCU to have it put to the Congress. Nor did she know that on the first day of the Congress, Albert Monk, ACTU president, had been approached by Della Elliot to say she had the motion and wished to move it. Under Congress rules, delegates had stand in the aisle to await the call from the president, signifying by waving a hand that they had a motion to put, then moving to the microphone. For four long days, Della Elliott leapt into the aisle at every opportunity, raising her hand and waiting for the president’s call. Then, on the last day, minutes before closing of the Congress, it came. She was at the microphone in a flash, the motion was called and seconded by a male right-winger from the Clerks. Then it was through. [2]

Neither did Kath Williams and her fellow unionists, women and the men who worked with them to ensure that the motion was implemented, know of the stringent dressing down Della Elliot suffered after it went through. She had beaten another Congress delegate, Jack McPhillips, to the call. Seeing her as having usurped his place, he roundly chastised her. Why should his resolution on a matter of international importance take second place to hers – a woman’s issue?



Yet the impact of the motion resonated around Australia. Activist women members like Kath Williams persuaded all state Trades and Labour Councils to follow through by setting up Equal Pay Committees. Dominated by men, sometimes the activism of women was subverted, but nonetheless the Committees were there. They gave the women a platform and room to demand action and change.

That platform built on the work of women before them, and provided a base for women of the 1960s and 1970s to make their demands for equal pay. When women of the 1980s came forward to take their place in the struggle, they stood on the shoulders of women going before. The activism and intelligence of the 1980s struggle would not have been possible without the activism and intelligence of past decades. The named and unnamed went into the 1980s with a continuing demand for equal pay.

Jocelynne A. Scutt (c) March 2005

Dr Jocelynne A. Scutt is Visiting Professor, University of Buckingham, UK and Penn State U (Dickinson Law School), and a Councillor on the Cambridgeshire County Council. She is a member of the Victorian Bar and Inner Temple, London. This is an extract from her forthcoming book, Wage Rage – The Long, Long Struggle for Equal Pay.

[1] See Zelda D’Aprano, Kath Williams …, 2001.

[2] Condella (‘Della’) Elliot, Personal Communication, Sydney, NSW, 1994 (June 1994). Kath Williams’ biography, Zelda D’Aprano, Kath Williams …, 2001, confirms this lack of knowledge about the resolution’s origin and passage.

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