Who is she?
Merle had lobbied the government to try and have the laws changed prohibiting women, to no avail. So when she and Rosalie were refused a drink the following day, they chained themselves to the bar. It took police hours to finally remove the pair.
Merle went on to found Equal Opportunities Association for Women, which lobbied for issues such as paid maternity leave, married women keeping their jobs in the public service and access to childcare. She also helped set up the women’s studies course at the University of Queensland.
Why should we thank her?
Merle’s wonderful protest was a landmark event for the women’s rights movement in Australia. It was one of the kick-starters of the second wave of feminism in Australia.
“It was extremely irritating that it was called the public bar because clearly that was universally understood that it meant women weren’t members of public society, they were only members of domestic society and that was really the core of the complaint but also, just to top it off, it was actually illegal for women to be served with liquor in the bar.”
Merle is actress Sigrid Thornton’s mum. And the Regatta Bar in Brisbane has since named a bar after Merle.