Pioneer Girls and Flappers: Women’s Work and Community in early 20th century Footscray

Wednesday, March 09, 2022 at 06:30 PM


Melbourne, VIC
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Natasha Cantwell

Public Record Office Victoria is celebrating International Women's Day 2022 with a free online talk, open to everyone!

Pioneer Girls and Flappers: Women’s Work and Community in early 20th century Footscray

From the 1890s through to World War Two, thousands of young women found employment at the Colonial Ammunition Company works on the banks of the Maribyrnong River in Footscray. The site was chosen in part to be close to a large population of working class women to supply the factory with labour. This unusual workforce was intimately connected to the local community, through family, sport, charity, trade union and political ties. The five decades were a whirlwind of disaster, war, strikes, organisation and, in the end, wholesale dismissal. In line with the 2022 IWD campaign theme #BreakTheBias, this talk will explore the transformational and often surprising ways in which these women and their work broke through the bias.


Katie Wood is a PhD Candidate in history at La Trobe University. Her thesis explores the history of women’s work in the metal trades, from the 1880s onwards, as part of a broader ARC project, 'Breaking Down Tradition: Women in male-dominated work, 1840-2000'. She is also a Senior Archivist at the University of Melbourne Archives.

Peter Haffenden is a project manager and former Director at Melbourne’s Living Museum of the West in the City of Maribyrnong. The Museum began its work in the 1980s with a focus on the history of industry in the area and paid special attention to women in industry. During this work and research the Museum developed a unique archive which has interviews with women working in a number of industries, including the munitions industries.

Tickets are free but registration is essential. Register here.

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The History Council of Victoria acknowledges the State Library of Victoria and the Public Record Office Victoria for supply of the archival images that appear on this website.

We acknowledge the National Film and Sound Archive for the right to use of the video footage on the home page, titled "Melbourne: Life in Australia (1966)".

Image credits

  • Italian sailors on ship at Port Melbourne 1938, Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria
  • Chinese procession in Collins near Elizabeth Street 1901, Harvie & Sutcliffe, photographers, State Library of Victoria
  • People’s homes, Aboriginal station Coranderrk 1878, Fred Kruger Photographer, State Library of Victoria
  • Chinese nurses at Children’s Hospital under scholarship 1947, Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria
  • Ladies physical culture class VRI Melbourne c1931, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12903/P0001, 011/02
  • Melbourne Cup, Derby and Oaks Day, Flemington Racecourse 1936, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12903/P0001/4802, 372/30
  • Flinders Street viaduct at foot of Market Street with advertisement for McRobertson’s Chocolate on bridge, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12800/P0003, ADV 1342