Getting to the point


Inspector White: “Just the facts, Ma’am”

While British women were being imprisoned for demanding the vote, the fair sex in Western Australia was subject to an even more sinister form of control. We refer, of course, to the notorious anti-hatpin crusade of 1912-13.

It all started in March 1912 in Melbourne, when the Australian Women’s National League resolved to start the crusade. If you were to believe the press (although we never do) numerous people were being blinded by the awful hatpins, and even one case of death where the pin pierced the brain of an innocent man walking by.

Sydney responded immediately with a ban on unprotected hatpins, with a fine of £10 for each offence. By May, Boulder had drafted similar laws. After Perth outlawed these dangerous weapons in August, one Perth drapery firm sold thousands of hatpin protectors in a single week.

And Perth City Council wasn’t joking, officers were appointed to walk the streets and take down the names of offenders for prosecution. In one day in February 1913, forty indignant women were charged with having broken the most serious of all laws.

These Perth women were indignant, claiming that the council was oppressing their freedom to dress as they wished. Sometimes they claimed they didn’t know about the law, which led (male) newspaper journalists to bemoan that the feminine members of the community limit their newspaper reading to the births, deaths, and marriages column and social notes.

A huge sweep was undertaken by Inspector White on 27 March 1913, when seventeen ladies were dragged before the magistrate for having worn unprotected hatpins on Hay and Barrack streets.

One of the ladies successfully argued that her pin was too short to protrude from the edge of her hat, even though the good Inspector White gave evidence to the contrary.

Another defendant, Eliza Tuxford, explained that the protector had fallen off her hatpin, so was fined only five shillings. The remaining fifteen were each ordered to pay ten shillings, and warned to never endanger the lives of the public again.

Most Australian cities dropped the laws quickly after this, leading to the end of this oppression. But Inspector White was determined to press on regardless. He was still bringing cases in 1919, leading to allegations he was on a bonus scheme for increasing the council’s revenue. But that could never be true, could it? Like parking inspectors today, he worked for love, not to aid budget lines.

Progress is not for everyone


Now available in other colours

What has the opening of the Town Hall on Barrack Street got to do with feminism? Give up? Well, let Dodgy Perth mansplain it to you then.

Everyone needs to tell stories, about themselves, their family and their community. For most of the last two centuries, the (white) people of Western Australia have told their history using one word: ‘progress’. And every new building, no matter how boring or ugly, was welcomed as yet another sign of the progress of this great state.

So it should come as no surprise to find that on the official opening of the Town Hall in 1870, a huge banner was put across Barrack Street with the word PROGRESS on it, for people to march under on their way to the new building.

But there’s a problem with this word. It doesn’t just apply to new buildings, but also to society. Little things like women’s rights, for example. If the fair sex keep hearing about how we’re progressive, they might decide they would like a little of this progress too.

At the Town Hall ceremony, there wasn’t much sign of this progress. The hall itself was filled only with the important men of Perth while the womenfolk were consigned to the gallery. The men feasted and drank the booze, while their wives simply looked on without even a sandwich.

But still, this whole progress thing had to be dealt with, and it fell to the Colonial Secretary, Frederick Barlee, to spell it out. Proposing a toast to the health of the ladies, like every misogynist before and since, he announced that no one could be more devoted to women.

As a lover of ladies, Fred continued, he well knew the power and influence they had over men. (Even if this did not extend to getting anything to eat or drink.) Recently he had been reading about something called “women’s rights and female suffrage”, and worse about women entering professions and becoming scientists. Not, of course, in Perth, but elsewhere in the world.

But, said Fred, addressing the gallery, none of the good and true women here would wish to see any such nonsense brought about. After all, they already knew how much power they had without needing legal rights. Nor did women need the vote, since all men did was vote the way they were told by their wives anyway.

The Colonial Secretary then called upon all present to drink to the health of the ladies by gulping down nine large mouthfuls of booze. Well, not all could drink of course. Some were in the gallery.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was what 1870 called progress.

School’s out forever

Dodgy Perth's favourite small bar

Dodgy Perth’s favourite small bar

You’d imagine turning a school into a pub would be controversial, but the PICA Bar is too cool for anyone to object. When the government became liable for education, they needed a central Boys’ and Girls’ School, so the Public Works Department built them one in 1897.

The school had 500 boys on the ground floor and 500 girls upstairs. When it closed in 1958, Perth Technical College moved in. Its heir—TAFE—left the building in 1988 and Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA), complete with trendy bar, took over.

But back to the building’s school days. There is one historical universal: somebody will always worry about what is happening to our young girls. In 1910, people fretted that girls were growing up with only a basic knowledge of cooking and cleaning.

For those marrying farmers, training in practical household duties was considered essential. For those who would marry men who worked in the city, they needed to be proficient enough they could do without servants.

Perth Central School was useless if all it did was provide a ‘bookish’ education. Miss M. Jordan was appointed to the Central Girls’ School to acquaint her pupils with the duties associated with being a wife. A ‘housewifery cottage’ was built in the schoolyard, where the youth could learn to wash, iron, fold and put away.

Here, they also cooked, laid the table in the appropriate fashion—complete with flowers in the middle—as well as scrubbing the floor, blackening the grates, and brightening the silver.

There was concern that the cottage was so well equipped, the poor darlings would struggle in a real household, but these anxieties were dismissed, and the girls kept learning how to be drudges.

The secret to a happy marriage


Darn it!

In the Dodgy Perth household we sometimes wonder if Mrs Dodgy Perth is actually a good housewife. We suspect her claims to be tired after a long day in the office is a way of avoiding knitting blankets for the children, or darning socks.

So it was with delight we found a 1931 Sunday Times article with advice for a happy marriage. For fair sex readers, we present the following for your improvement.

Firstly, a man’s appearance is entirely the responsibility of his missus. If he looks middle-aged before his time, it is the little woman’s fault.

Perhaps he is—shudder!—thinning on top. Avoid this tragedy by purchasing quality hair tonic and massaging his scalp every night.

Is he getting love handles? Instead of nagging him, tactfully suggest a few weight loss remedies.

We know what you’re thinking. If a man wanted his head massaged or attention drawn to his girth, he would ask for it. But no. Men are proud creatures, so the obligation is entirely on ‘er indoors.

Here in the Dodgy Perth offices we shamefully look at our hands and wish we could ask for a way to make them look “less like raw beef”. Of course she knows a solution. But we are never going to ask.

So the trouble and strife must prove her love by manicuring our nails, tending our hands as if they were her own.

An extra burden on top of her fifty-hour week, you say? Nonsense. The conscientious wife will be rewarded a thousand times over by the look of loving gratitude in his eyes. That is all the reward she needs. (Are you listening Mrs Dodgy Perth?)

Marriage is a partnership it turns out. Thanks to the Sunday Times, our suits are sponged, our hair brushes washed, our socks darned, and the cuffs of our shirts turned.

If she has to act as personal valet, it’s only because we men are far too tired in the evening, and women have natural boundless energy.

Lesbian Amazons in Demark



Feminist utopias r us


“An Adamless Eden” ran the headline. “Mere Men to be banned from Utopia”. Clearly some lunatic PC scheme was destroying the very fabric of society. Indeed it appeared to be so in Western Australia as men-hating feminists started taking over our wonderful state.

In 1909 it was reported that the south coast of WA, near Denmark, was to see the birth of a new colony, one where no man would be be allowed to own a foot of land within the settlement, or to hold any kind of office in the new town of Emilliah. Worse still, it appeared to be an industrial town full of lesbian Amazons, and men were even forbidden to step foot in it.

Most of this, as you might have guessed, was #fakenews. But there was some truth behind it. Emily Crawford was president of the Householders’ League, a British suffragette society. Since women still did not have the vote in the UK, the League offered grants to English female entrepreneurs to emigrate to places they were enfranchised. Such as Western Australia. They believed (correctly) that only where women were respected enough to get the vote could female capitalists flourish.

The League also obtained land where their members could set up businesses. So in 1908 Emily Crawford came to WA. Emilliah was going to be a health resort just outside Denmark, at a site now called Ocean Beach. The customers were to be WA residents and families from India. Clearly, being feminist did not stop you being colonially minded.

The Government gifted Emily a beautiful reserve near the mouth of the inlet, much to the disgust of the Denmark Settlers’ Association, who just lost their favourite picnic spot. The project was steaming ahead, when Emily suddenly had some kind of nervous breakdown in Albany. The whole thing ground to a halt, and Emilliah never got off the ground.

Dodgy Perth regrets that Emilliah didn’t work, since it would have been fascinating to see how this unique group settlement turned out. The closest we ever came to it was the ‘back-to-the-land’ movement of  the 1960s and ’70s, where a few feminist communes sprang up in rural areas. Mainly an American phenomenon, there were some in Australia, but none ever approached the scale of Emily Crawford’s vision.