Written by: Merv Webster

Too, the wives of shearers, drovers and the teamsters of the day 
fought the months of isolation while their husbands were away. 
Still they kept the home-fires burning and would do the many chores, 
just to keep at bay the hunger that came knocking at their doors. 
Scalpers, miners, railway wives who lived their lives in canvas tents; 
wives of pearlers, fishermen who feared the seas’ cruel elements; 
nuns and missionaries’ wives – a source of comfort to lost souls; 
and no mothers in suburban streets played rudimentary roles. 
Social stigma thrived: saw all these tasks as simply ‘women’s work’, 
till the feminist reformers bargained freedom from such murk.  
Working women formed trade unions in the clothing industry 
and their wages and conditions were put under scrutiny. 
Nursing women rose to prominence, establishing their worth, 
seen by many in the nation as God’s angels here on earth. 
Women took on roles as teachers and in offices as well, 
filled the posts of budding journalists, then proved they could excel ! 
With the growth of towns and cities came more opportunities: 
shop assistants and pub workers were now women employees. 
But indigenous black women found it hard to understand 
why the white boss took their children and had cast them off their land. 
Some would serve the boss’s missus as domestics, shy and coy, 
or perhaps wet-nurse her suckling child or be the drover’s ‘boy’. 
And indentured women slaved long hours with children in the fields, 
clearing scrub and trees with men-folk to increase the sugar yields. 

The Victorian moral codes kept women in subjective roles, 
dressed in clothes from neck to toe as modesty would guard their souls. 
Movements like the suffragettes sought out the right to gain the vote 
and one by one the states succumbed;  a turning point of note. 
When the nation lost its young men to the call of two world wars, 
many women took the challenge on to do the country’s chores; 
whether it was on the land or back in city factories 
proudly they performed the work for all our lads gone overseas.