Cover image for Barmaids : a history of womenʼs work in pubs
Barmaids : a history of womenʼs work in pubs
Kirkby, Diane Elizabeth.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, [1997]

Physical Description:
xii, 244 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TX950.59.A8 K57 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Popular imagination has made the pub an enduring cultural icon in Australian life. Since colonisation the pub has played a quintessential part in Australian life, both socially and economically. In this mixture of labour history and cultural history, first published in 1997, Diane Kirkby explores the central figure of the barmaid. Now a dying breed, she once played the combined roles of mate, confidante, surrogate-mother and sexual object. Drawing on previously unused archives, documentary sources and oral history, Barmaids traces the sexualisation of the industry and the feminist and temperance debates about it. It covers women's demands for equal pay and drinking rights in the post-war period and concludes in the mid-1990s with the labour market changes and drinking customs which saw the end of the old pub culture and the place of barmaids within it.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Kirkby's study intertwines the histories of women's work; the state and politics; gender, sexual, and racial ideologies; and national identity and culture in Australia in the last two centuries. Discussions of shifting "bar culture," changes in attitudes toward and the symbolism of the "barmaid," and the ways in which bar work for women both resembled and differed from other female service occupations are especially interesting. Kirkby begins the story with pubkeeping in England and Ireland in the premodern era, traces the unique stamp of Australian colonial experience on the institution, and concludes in the 1970s and '80s with differing feminist and nationalist views of the barmaid. Throughout the story Kirkby presents the voices and the often difficult work experiences of the women employed in these establishments. In this history a picture is worth a thousand words. In addition to a wide range of written sources, Kirkby carefully interprets photographs to show not only the bar environment and working conditions, but to help the reader see in the pub a "spatial arrangement of sexual difference" and its reflection of broader social concerns and attitudes. Overall, the breadth of interpretation and material make this work of use to a variety of students and scholars. General readers; upper-division undergraduates and above. M. J. Slaughter; University of New Mexico

Table of Contents

1 `No place for a woman?': pub-keeping in colonial times
2 `The photographer and the barmaid': narrating women's work 1850s-1910s
3 `The problem of the barmaids': urbanisation and legislative reform 1870s-80s
4 `Wanted, a beautiful barmaid...': temperance and the language of desire
5 `White slaves behind the bar': the WCTU, the nation, and `the barmaid'
6 `When men wore hats': gender, unions, and equal pay 1908-1949
7 `Beer, glorious beer': pub culture and the six o'clock swill 1920-50s
8 `In praise of splendid gels': sex, work and drinking culture 1960s-90s