Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mary Sophia Axup chair of the WPL 1913


March is Women's History Month.

The Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office for this year 2013 at Flickr has featured an album of Founding Women and a page on women's suffrage at the State Library of Tasmania.

Thomas Nevin's sister-in-law Mary Sophia Axup nee Day, chaired a meeting in 1913 of the Tasmanian Workers' Political League, the forerunner of the Australian Labor Party, seeking nominations for Labor candidates to stand for the seat of Bass in the forthcoming Federal election:

The Mercury 22 August 1913

Bass Divisional Council of the T.W.P.L. [Tasmanian Workers' Political League] met last week at the A.W.C. office, Launceston, Mrs Axup being in the chair. It was decided to invite nominations for Bass of those willing to stand in the Labour interests in the Federal campaign which may shortly be entered upon. The secretary Mr. J. Mooney was also instructed to advise all country branches to be in readiness for the campaign.

Mary Sophia Axup ca, 1940
Photo (detail) courtesy of © John Davis and Axup descendants 2007 ARR.

If these women in army and police uniform one hundred years ago  had something to blow their bugles about, it certainly wasn't about plain sailing towards leadership in the Services, let alone leadership of the Labor Party, or - dared they even contemplate it - leadership of the Nation as Prime Minister and Governor-General.

Title:Two women in army and police uniforms ca. 1912
Source:Archives Office of Tasmania

Extract from The Companion to Tasmanian History
... A different segment of the middle-class provided the most effective challenge to landed power in Tasmania. In the 1880s a new generation of politicians, mostly lawyers and businessmen hostile to notions of landed privilege and critical of what they (and earlier criticis) deemed class legislation, established a reformist political class that reshaped the political landscape and hence class relations in Tasmania by replacing landed power with parliamentary democracy and centralised executive power.

Class relations were further rewritten after the west coast mining industry was established in the early 1880s. A Trades and Labor Council was formed in 1883. The rise of unions was a challenge to capital, pointed to distinct class interests, and was a focal point for collective identities based on work. The movement for reform was aided by the devastating impact of the 1891 Depression. Disputes in the shipping, pastoral and mining industries dispelled the liberal belief that labour and capital had shared interests, hastened working-class organisation, and ushered in a period of class conflict. The Tasmanian Workers' Political League, the Tasmanian forerunner to the Australian Labor Party, was formed in 1901 and represented workers' interests at a political level....

On board the "City of Hobart" 31st January 1872