But I wouldn't want my wife to work there! a history of women's work in the hotel industry

Higgs, Bronwyn (1991) But I wouldn't want my wife to work there! a history of women's work in the hotel industry. Australian Feminist Studies, 14 (1). ISSN 0816-4649


Historians have tended to view legislation that discriminated against women hotel workers as a result of the efforts of the temperance movement which became popular in the latter part of latter part of the nineteenth century. This paper argues that the proponents of the moral suasion explanation oversimplify the complex issue of women's status in the hotel industry. Two distinct types of legislation are identified and the paper argues that they both had very different agendas. Legislation controlling barmaids was imposed from above on a reluctant hotel industry. It was primarily concerned with the measurement and control of the numbers of barmaids. In contrast, the question of women's right to hold a license dealt with qualitative considerations. Consequently it was more concerned with marital status, age and professional experience of female license applicants. Unlike the barmaid debate, the impetus to restrict women licensees came from within the industry itself. This paper argues that barmaid control was primarily a social issue while the control of women licensees was primarily a labour issue. The prohibition on women becoming employers in the hotel industry has important implications for the relationship between gender and social class. In spite of the oppressive structural and legal barriers, women have shown remarkable resilience and have been able to preserve their place in an industry which is well suited to their skills.

Additional Information

Awarded the Beryl Henderson Essay Prize in 1991 and subsequently published in AFS

Item type Article
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/882
Subjects Historical > RFCD Classification > 220000 Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts-General
Historical > RFCD Classification > 350000 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
Historical > RFCD Classification > 370000 Studies in Human Society
Keywords barmaids, women's issues, hotel industry, feminism, gender, social history, Australia
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