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Memento : Issue 20
Comptometer operators tallying the accounts for the Federal Capital Commission, Canberra, 1926. Married women in the public service, desperate to keep their jobs for personal and economic reasons, were prepared to conceal their married status to do so. Lifting A Documentary History, Eve Harris says that she knew 'women in similar circumstances to hers who chose to "live in sin" against their better judgment as they couldn't afford to give up their jobs'. And Julia Harris was one of many women in the public service who lived two lives: she would get on a train to go to work a married woman and get off a single woman. The Marriage Bar reflected and maintained certain attitudes about women in the public service. For example, it allowed a senior diplomat to argue against appointing single women trade commissioners --- he noted that 'If we engaged single graduates as trainees, most of them would probably marry within five years'. Our collection contains records from as early as 1915 that give fascinating insights into the conditions for women employed in the public service. You'll find records on the employment of married women in the public service, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women's resolution on women in the public service, and the employment of women as motor drivers. To start your search, simply enter the terms Women Public Service or Female Public Service on our database RecordSearch. The Australian Public Service last year celebrated 100 years of history. This year marks a century since most women in Australia won the right to vote and to stand for federal parliament. It may come as a surprise then that, until 1968, some women in the Australian Public Service had to 'live in sin' to continue their career. Married women in the public service, desperate to keep their jobs for personal and economic reasons, were prepared to conceal their married status to do so. Under the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902, women had to resign from the public service when they married. Known as the Marriage Bar, the Act implied that a woman's role was in the home. Although the Marriage Bar was repealed in England during World War II, in Australia the participation of married women in the public service was only encouraged when there was a shortage of labour. In Marion Sawer's book called Removal of the Commonwealth Marriage Bar: NAA: A3560, 2290 Public servants in the Prime Minister's Department, West Block, Canberra, 1927. NAA: A3560, 7557 Lifting the bar may 2002 memento 3 the bar