Events Prior to Women's Liberation

Women’s Liberation Movement, also known as the feminist movement was developed as a direct response to the inequity endured by Australian women, who believed that their needs and skills were overlooked by government policies and the Australian society in general. In comparison to the rest of the world, Australia was advanced in the issue of women’s rights. In 1902, Australia became the second nation to grant women the right to vote.

Despite the success of being granted the right to vote, women continued to endure inequality in many aspects of life. During the beginning of the post-war era, society perceived the main role of women to be a wife and a mother. During the period of World War II, women adopted employment in the workforce that had originally belonged to men as they were involved in the war effort and it was expected the women would resume their traditional role once the war was over.

Popular magazines such as the ‘Women’s Weekly’ reinforced the expectation of society through advertising, that women should resume their traditional roles after the war. Media and advertising during the 1950s and 1960s focused on the necessities of women and the home, enforcing the traditional view of the role of women. The education of women promoted the traditional role that society imposed on them, as they were required to study domestic science and it was generally accepted that women would not attend university.

It soon became evident that women were dissatisfied with the restrictions of their traditional role. Many women looked forward to pursuing a career after the war and this was apparent during the 1950s and 1960s as the female workforce increased at a similar rate to the male work place. The issue of discrimination in the workplace became apparent as there was an increase in female employment. In 1950, the female wage was increased to 75% of the male wage and the demand for equal pay emerged by the 1960s.

Women & The Workforce: 1947 - 1961 1947 1954 1961
Male Workers 2 144 700 2 479 300 3 165 900
Female Workers 717 200 845 400 1 059 200

Source: Commonwealth Department of Labour & National Service

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