Labour History

‘Prove First You’re a Male’: A Farmhand’s Claim for Wages in 1929 Australia

Labour History (2006), 90, (1), 1–21.

Abstract

‘Prove first you’re a male’ considers the case of a farmhand’s claim for wages through the civil legal system in 1929 Australia, in which the claimant, William Smith, was exposed to be ‘female’. The article examines the court case and the press coverage, and considers the treatment of William Smith by the legal system, the press, the medical profession and rural communities. Smith’s gender-crossing challenged a legal, wages and arbitration system based on divisions between male and female. Once defined as biologically female, Smith posed the threat of trespassing on the domain of male labour and receiving male wages. The article analyses why Smith was glorified in the press as an Australian rural battler and heroine, when other ‘men-women’ at this time faced severe condemnation. The article contends that rural nationalism and settler colonialism enabled Smith to be recast into a national legend which glorified hard work, courage and refusing convention.

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Author details

Ford, Ruth

Table of Contents

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