Publication Date

2-5-2008

Abstract

Gender historians of late nineteenth-century Australia have conventionally said a great deal about masculinity in the bush and inner-city bohemia. In both sites, we hear, a rugged ‘mateship ethos’ predominated, often identifying itself as working-class. But not all historians have restricted themselves to this mateship ethos: witness recent work by Marilyn Lake and Martin Crotty, both of which explore the ideal of manliness to be found in progressive institutions at the end of the century, or in middle-class suburbs and schools. In this paper, I contribute to this rising interest in Australian manliness, but shift the focus to the provincial town – particularly the Victorian goldfield towns. Using the labour leader William Guthrie Spence as a case-study, I show that provincial men from a middling social strata nurtured a distinctive gender ethos, perhaps best described as the manliness of civic sentiment. Highly devoted to civic service, sympathetic to the labour struggle, committed to family values and a sentimental style of address, this form of manliness played an important role in turn-of-the-twentieth century Australian politics and culture. It should thus figure more prominently in understandings of Australian manhood in this period.

Document Type

Journal Article

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