Female Confectioners’ Union Victorian Branch

Female Confectioners’ Union Victorian Branch: Eight Hours Day Float (Eight Hours Day Procession Melbourne), c.1925

The eight-hour day was achieved by stonemasons working on the University of Melbourne quadrangle in April 1856.

As other unions gained an eight-hour working day, this was celebrated by the labour movement each May with processions and at the later public holiday known as Eight Hour Day or Labour Day.

The Female Confectioners’ Union was at the forefront of organised women’s labour in Melbourne. These members in the photograph are employees of Sir Macpherson Robertson, the ‘Old Gold’ chocolate king.

Dressed immaculately in white, Robertson presided over his Great White City at Fitzroy, a complex of white-painted factories with several thousand white-uniformed employees. His delivery trucks drawn by prize grey draught horses, were readily lent for public processions and driven by himself on Eight Hours Day.

Robertson looked benignly on unionism, encouraged by Female Confectioners’ Union, and observed the closed shop from 1919.

Robertson carefully managed his image and his publication A Young Man and a Nail Can (1921) gave Melbourne an equivalent of the Dick Whittington legend.

Currently on display at the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, 239 A’Beckett St is a comprehensive exhibition about the life, business and philanthropic interests of Macpherson Robertson.  Examples of original packaging, information about his sponsorship the Great Air Race and of course the Nail Can are on display.

The RHSV is open Monday to Thursday 10am-4pm and on Fridays 10am-3pm.

Further information: www.historyvictoria.org.au

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