It should always be the aim of woman to rise from the degrading position assigned her in the age of bestial ignorance and brute power.
Henrietta Dugdale (1827–1918) was a passionate, confident, and assertive feminist who was one of the pioneers of Victoria, Australia’s feminist movement.
She founded the Victorian Women’s Suffrage Society, the first of its kind in Australasia, and lived to see Australian women attain the vote in 1902, due in part to her relentless campaigning.
Henrietta was born Henrietta Augusta Worrell on May 14, 1827 in London, and named after her mother, Henrietta Ann.
She sewed her own clothes and was a skilled chess player, and early on became interested in public affairs. In 1852, she moved to Australia with her husband, a merchant navy officer named J. A. Davies. He died soon after, and she remarried the ship’s captain William Dugdale in 1853.
After over 15 years of marriage, Henrietta separated from William Dugdale and moved to Camberwell (a suburb of Melbourne), where she was to live for the rest of her long life.
Henrietta’s involvement in campaigning for women’s rights began in earnest when she wrote a letter to Melbourne’s Argus Newspaper that was published in April 1869. Using the psuedonym of Ada, she wrote about the Married Women’s Property Bill and spoke out in favor of equal justice for all women:
Along with suffrage for women, she campaigned for women’s dress reform, admission of women to the universities, education of the working class and more equal wealth distribution, and an eight-hour work day.
Along with Annie Lowe, Henrietta founded the Victorian Women’s Suffrage Society in 1884 with the goal of obtaining “the same political privileges for women as now possessed my male voters”.
The former transport union official Frederick Blake, recalled: “When the Dagenham girls came down to see Barbara Castle [then employment minister] in 1968 I was asked to sit in a separate room because she wanted to see them on their own, which is fair enough.”
Mr Blake was described by newspapers at the time of the strike as “the leader of the new suffragettes”.
“Although I was in charge of the union for the Ford factory I stayed in the background because I didn’t want people to think that a man was leading the women,” he added. “I was asked by the bosses to tell them to go back to work so we could keep negotiating, but I wouldn’t do that until we had a good settlement because there were men doing the same job and getting paid far more. It wasn’t fair.”
Mr Blake explained that he was an advocate of women’s rights long before the 1968 strike that made history: “When I came home after fighting in Burma in the Second World War and saw the damage that the bombs had done to the country, I thought,
‘Why don’t the women get medals for what they’ve had to put up with, too?’ That’s what first made me think about equality.”
Image: A scene from the 2010 movie “Made in Dagenham”
.When women machinists at Ford’s Dagenham plant downed tools in 1968 in protest at the fact that they were classed as unskilled workers, while male colleagues doing the same job were thought to be skilled and paid much more for their efforts, they couldn’t have imagined the ramifications.
The three-week strike brought production at the factory – which was the focus of the UK car industry at the time – to a standstill, and the dispute was resolved only when Barbara Castle was brought in to negotiate a settlement.
The Ford machinists went back to work after agreeing to be paid 92 per cent of male machinists’ wages, and the strike speeded up the introduction of the Equal Pay Act of 1970, which made it illegal to have different pay scales for men and women.
The women on the picket line in 1968 endured jeers when a photographer snapped one of their banners declaring “We Want Sexual Equality” partly unfurled, so that it read “We Want Sex”.
The machinists were also supported by the union representative Bernie Passingham, and many had the backing of husbands who worked in the factory.
At the time the practice of women being paid less than men for the same jobs was widespread – a tradition that hasn’t entirely died out
Jayaben Desai, one of the mostly British-Asian women out on strike at the Grunwick factory in 1977, pictured on the picket line.
Image Credt: Photograph by Getty Images.
It was in 1857, that on 8 March in New York City, garments workers went on strike. Suffering horrific conditions, endless hours and low pay, they took to the streets demanding better money and working conditions.
Dispersed after being attacked by police, the women continued to fight and from their movement the first women’s labour unions were established.
In the early 20th century, their movement blossomed. New York City’s streets again saw women march demanding shorter hours, better pay, an end to child labour and the right to vote in 1908. Leading labour organisers sought to strengthen the movement internationally.
At the Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen in 1910, Clara Zetkin asked over 100 women from 17 countries – representing unions, socialist parties and women’s working clubs – to pass a motion for an International Working Women’s Day.
They did so, unanimously, and the so International Women’s Day was born.
Zetkin, in conjunction with other well-known women from the movement including Rosa Luxembourg and Theresa Malkiel focussed on the conditions that dictated women’s lives.
They organised with women working in inhumane conditions for long hours and no pay.
Women who also went home to complete their “second shift” – cleaning, cooking, childrearing and household managing; women who were the engine keeping families, communities, companies and countries running, but whose work received little pay and even less recognition.
As International Women’s Day is celebrated around the globe, we look back at the woman who organised the first one in 1911.
The 8 March marks International Women’s Day, a day with over a century of history and change behind it.
Originally known as International Working Women’s Day, its roots lie in the socialist, rather than feminist, struggle of the early 20th century.
Although national days had been celebrated prior to 1911, the 18 March of that year marked the first International day, following a proposal from German communist Clara Zetkin.Zetkin who had been involved with the socialist movement in Germany since the 1870’s.
She was also a fervent campaigner for women’s rights and universal suffrage. Zetkin believed socialism was the only movement that ‘could truly serve the needs of working-class women.’
Zetkin was renowned throughout her career for her passionate oratory skills. She represented the German Communist Party in the Reichstag from 1920 until 1933 (when the party was banned by Hitler).
Her election to the Reichstag in 1932 made her its oldest member, and tradition dictated she opened the parliamentary session. She did so with a 40 minute attack on Hitler and the Nazi party.
Zetkin died in 1933. In her obituary the Manchester Guardian referred to her as the ‘grandmother of communism,’ yet the legacy of International Women’s Day, and her contribution to it, should also be recognised, and celebrated.
The women’s history project has been absolutely brilliant in opening our eyes to such a significant (but mainly unspoken) part of our country’s (and the world’s) history.
Our perceptions on the role of women in history is primarily based on stereotypes and uneducated inferences that women have been merely passive witnesses in the building of our current society, and it was only men who really made any impact.
A lot of us aim to excuse this by relying on the idea that women had limited opportunity.
However, the project has taught us that although this is partly true, women did a lot more than we first assumed.
These false assumptions can be argued to be a result of how women are represented on the curriculum, with us knowing lots about influential kings, prime ministers, archbishops, male scientists and authors etc. but little about not only influential women as individuals (e.g. Mary Seacole, Marie Curie etc.), but of the gender as a whole.
We were extremely surprised to learn of the Georgian political protesters, as the only thing we are taught about the role of women in politics is the movement of women’s suffrage in the early 1900s, and even then this topic is separated and highlighted as an exception and is only about their fight for equality, not the influence they have had throughout history and how they helped shape society into what it is today.