Picture of the Month

RHSV_I-087_Female-ConfectioFemale Confectioners’ Union, Victorian Branch: Eight Hour Day Float (Eight Hour Day Procession, Melbourne), c. 1925. Photographer unknown [RHSV Collection: I-087]

The Female Confectioners’ Union was at the forefront of organized women’s labour in Melbourne. These members are probably employees of Sir Macpherson Robertson, the ‘Old Gold’ chocolate king. Dressed immaculately in white, Robertson presided over his ‘Great White City’ at Fitzroy, a complex of white-painted factories with several thousand white-uniformed employees. His delivery trucks, drawn by prize grey draughthorses, were readily lent for public processions and often driven by himself on Eight Hour Day. Robertson looked benignly on unionism, encouraged the Female Confectioners’ Union, and observed the closed shop from 1919. His assiduous promotion of the romanticized tale of his business, A Young Man and a Nail Can (1921), gave Melbourne an equivalent of the Dick Whittington legend.

On 21 April 1856, following negotiations between building tradesmen and contractors, and with the approval of the colonial government, an eight hour day was introduced into the building trades in Melbourne. The movement was led by the stonemasons who argued that eight hours a day was appropriate in the Australian heat. It would also give them time to improve their ‘social and moral condition’. As other unions gained an eight-hour working day, this was celebrated by the labour movement with processions, and at the later public holiday (declared 1879) known as Eight-Hour Day or Labour Day (from 1934). A Labour Day procession by trade unionists along Swanston Street, Melbourne lasted until 1951. The Melbourne Moomba Festival, one of Australia’s largest and longest running outdoor festivals, took over the public holiday from 1954.

SOME E-RESOURCES

Female Confectioners’ Union : http://archives.unimelb.edu.au/explore/exhibitions/past/primary_sources_50_years_of_the_archives/the_stories/no_sweet_life_for_female_confectioners

Macpherson Robertson (Sir): http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/robertson-sir-macpherson-8237

Eight Hour Day :

http://www.8hourday.org.au/history.asp

http://ergo.slv.vic.gov.au/explore-history/fight-rights/workers-rights/origins-8-hour-day

Moomba :

http://www.emelbourne.net.au/biogs/EM01000b.htm

http://museumvictoria.com.au/collections/themes/2871/moomba-festival