Emma Miller – remembering a union hero

 

Today we remember the legendary union activist and leader Emma Miller, who was born on the 26th of June 1839.

Emma was originally from Derbyshire in England, but emigrated to Brisbane in 1879

She worked as a shirtmaker, and as skilled as she was at that, she was an even more talented union organiser.

She set herself to organising a union for the trade, mainly representing women textile workers.

Her skills as an organiser were soon recognised. She was the first woman to organise the western stretches of Queensland for the Australian Workers’ Union and became a life member of the Brisbane Workers’ Political Association.

She was a champion of gender equity for working women, and a lifelong advocate for equal pay.

She also founded the Woman’s Equal Franchise Association which campaigned for women’s right to vote.

In one of the most famous incidents of her lifetime Emma led a contingent of women protestors in the 1912 Brisbane general strike.

The strike had been prompted by an anti-union campaign in the tramways, and Emma was always there to support her fellow workers.

The protest she had organised was attacked by the police, but Emma was undeterred. She was well-loved in the union movement for her refusal to be intimidated, and her determination to show solidarity with her fellow workers.

In 1916, just a few months before her death, she organised actions against conscription.

When she died Emma was known in the movement as ‘Mother Miller’ and flags on union buildings across the state flew at half-mast.

We are proud to remember her still!

 

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