Beyond the Ladies Lounge: Australia's female publicans
MUP, $34.95 pb, 240 pp
Clare Wright’s Beyond the Ladies Lounge, a history of Australia’s female publicans, has been engulfed in a haze of marketing. Rarely has a thesis-turned-book attracted so much publicity. This book has been brilliantly promoted and has excited media attention.
Female publicans: it’s a great subject. Wright turns the spotlight on Australian pub culture and discovers women not just serving behind the bars but running the hotels. Apparently, this has always been the case. Her research reveals that as many as thirty per cent of Melbourne’s city and suburban hotels were licensed to women by 1889, and more than half a few decades later. Her work, therefore, upends both the view of the pub as a male stronghold and the contention that in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries women had almost no self-employment opportunities. It also complicates the notion of separate spheres deployed by many gender historians as an analytical tool, where women are confined to the private sphere while men venture into the public domain.