Securing the man: Narratives of gender and nation in the verdicts of henry bournes higgins

Mark Hearn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Historians have long debated the significance of the decisions of Justice Henry Bournes Higgins as President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court (1907-21), and his marginalisation of women in the paid workforce. Higgins' motivations have been less thoroughly explored. Gender demarcation clarified the role of the working class in nation-building. Women were relegated, as much as possible, to the domestic sphere, to fulfil their motherhood role on behalf of the nation and clear the way for the establishment of the disciplined workplace functions of the male breadwinner. The verdicts and transcripts of Higgins' decisions reflect the complex exchange between the liberal architect and the governed as he regulated state-sponsored freedom to bargain and organisealbeit in the name of law and order. On behalf of the development of the young Commonwealth Higgins regulated working-class manhood by suppressing industrial militancy, upholding managerial prerogativethe right of management to rule their workplacesand marginalising the participation of women in the workforce.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalAustralian Historical Studies
Issue number127
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


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