On Monday, Queensland workers will enjoy their seventh public holiday for 2018. Some people may even know the reason for this public holiday, Labour Day. I have a confession, I’ve only ever been to one Labour Day parade in my entire life. Perhaps that is because I’ve reaped the rewards of the dedication of Emma Miller.
Born in Derbyshire, England in 1839, the eldest daughter of Daniel and Martha Holmes, Emma Miller was introduced to politics by her chartist father. In 1857 she eloped with Jabez Silcock. They had four children. Jabez died in 1873 and Emma supported her four children working as a seamstress. She remarried in 1874 to William Calderwood and the couple migrated to Brisbane in 1879 with Emma’s children. Calderwood died in 1880 and Emma was again left to support her family. She married her third husband, Andrew Miller in 1886.
Working as a shirt maker, in 1890 Emma helped form a female workers’ union. In 1891 she participated in the “Shearers Strike” which would eventually lead to the formation of the Labor Party. From there she became an activist for women in the workforce, equality for women in the workforce, women’s right to vote in federal elections, women’s right to stand for federal Parliament, workers’ rights, the right to free speech and protested conscription during the First World War as president of the Queensland branch of the Women’s Peace Army. Emma was the first woman to travel west for the Australian Workers’ Union, the first female member of the Brisbane Workers Political Organisation, one of only two women to attend a Commonwealth Labour conference in 1908 and was a delegate to the Australian Peace Alliance Conference in Melbourne in 1916. She was an active member and a founding member of multiple civil rights organisations, taking on a leadership role in many of them.
Emma Miller was known as “Mother Miller” and “the grand old labour woman of Queensland”. She believed the labour movement was of equal importance to both men and women. She gave her final speech in Queens Park, Toowoomba, where there now stands a plaque to commemorate her contribution to civil liberties and the Australian labour movement. She died in Toowoomba just a few days later on January 22, 1917. She was survived by one son.
This Weekend in Toowoomba
The Labour Day March commences at 11am on Saturday, on the corner of Margaret and Station Streets and will be followed by a family fun day at the Irish Club. “This Is My Heritage” exhibition is on at the Cobb & Co., and Toowoomba Croquet Club has a free come and try day to celebrate World Croquet Day on 5 May from 9am to 11am.
On a side note, I had dinner at the Irish Club last Saturday night, the food was delicious, and nobody went home hungry.
Adb.anu.edu.au. (2018). Biography - Emma Miller - Australian Dictionary of Biography. [online] Available at: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/miller-emma-7583 [Accessed 2 May 2018].