Bal-Maidens and Cousin Jenny: The Paradox of Women in Australia's Historic Mining Communities

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Among the early migrants to the newly proclaimed colony of South Australia were two female mineworkers from Cornwall—bal-maidens—and shortly after women were observed at work grading ore at Wheal Gawler in the Adelaide Hills, Australia’s first metalliferous mine. However, despite this early visibility, women were subsequently excluded from employment in the Australian mining industry. Nonetheless, women asserted their ‘civilising’ role in frontier mining communities, and on occasion female agency played a decisive part in community action, such as the direct intervention by women in strikes on the Yorke Peninsula and at Broken Hill. Yet despite this prominence, the trade unions that emerged continued to press for women’s confinement to the domestic sphere and to clearly delineated areas of ‘women’s work’ outside the mining industry.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAustralia, Migration and Empire
Subtitle of host publicationImmigrants in a Globalised World
EditorsPhilip Payton, Andrekos Varnava
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-22389-2
ISBN (Print)978303022885
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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