Image Women unionists marching on Black Friday during the Brisbane General Strike, 1912

TLF ID R7999

This is a black-and-white photograph of an orderly procession of women walking four or five abreast past Brisbane's Treasury Building in the city centre on 2 February 1912, a day that became known as 'Black Friday'. The majority of the women appear to be dressed in their best and wearing hats for the occasion. Several horsedrawn carriages have been held up by the marchers. There are male and female onlookers on the footpaths, as well as a policeman, but there appears to be no attempt as yet to restrict the women's movements.



Educational details

Educational value
  • This march by some 600 women unionists, many from the Clothing Trades Union, was one of the daily processions held in support of the Brisbane General Strike but unlike preceding processions, this march ended in violence. On this particular day, the police commissioner had refused organisers their usual permit to march but nonetheless the procession went ahead with the women led by local labour campaigner 73-year-old Emma Miller,
  • The women marched from Turbot Street to Parliament House and while returning became caught up in an unprecedented morning of violence when they were baton charged by police. The violence had spilled out from a nearby central square where a rally of some 15,000 people was charged by armed police and special constables, mounted and on foot. The brutality of the baton charges was widely condemned, with Black Friday initially known as 'Baton Friday'.
  • The General Strike of 1912 was sparked by a dispute in the local unit of the Australian Tramway Employees' Association, begun when their employer, J S Badger, fired 480 employees for wearing union badges. The Brisbane tramway men, newly federally unionised, were seeking improved wages and conditions, and the right to wear union badges became an issue of importance, signifying their support for union principles and personal rights.
  • Believing that Badger's action was part of a broader attack on unionism that the state Liberal government and other employers were encouraging, the more militant union delegates called for a general strike at a combined unions' meeting. Work ceased on 30 January 1912 and an estimated 20,000 men and women went on strike. Brisbane was brought to a standstill for almost a week.
  • As a result of the General Strike, the Queensland Government mobilised resources to enforce its rule. Three thousand local citizens were sworn in as special constables to support the regular police and arrangements were made to ensure delivery of essential food to the population, with the promise of police protection during its delivery. The Liberal Qld premier requested Australian Government troops from the prime minister and a warship from the British Government.
  • The unsuccessful General Strike ended on 6 March 1912. The Brisbane unions had not planned well beforehand and some strikers had been without pay for almost a fortnight, processions were prohibited and non-unionists were being used in some jobs. The federal Arbitration Court eventually judged Badger's regulations refusing employees the right to wear union badges to be unauthorised and unreasonable.
Year level

5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • history;
  • studies of society and environment
Strand
  • History/Historical knowledge and understandings
  • Studies of society and environment/Time, continuity and change

Other details

Contributors
  • Publisher
  • Date of contribution: 06 Sep 2013
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL: http://www.esa.edu.au
  • Copyright holder
  • Organisation: State Library of Queensland
  • Address: Brisbane QLD 4000 Australia
  • Remarks: Reproduced courtesy of State Library of Queensland
  • Content provider
  • Author
  • Date of contribution: 1912
  • Organisation: The Queenslander
  • Remarks: publisher
Access profile
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Learning resource type
  • Image
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Rights
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and State Library of Queensland, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements