End to Temperance’s six o’clock pubs closing symbolises change in post-Playford 1960s

Second wave of South Australian feminism in 1960s sweeps away Temperance’s 6 o’clock pub closing.

The reforms brought in by premier Don Dunstan in the 1960s/70s would given Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) members mixed feelings.

The 19th Century Nonconformist middle-class women of the WCTU were front and centre in the struggle for women’s right to vote in state elections.

Alcoholism was the WCTU’s prime target because it led to poverty violence against women and children. But the organisation had much wider social concerns, including Aboriginal rights and work conditions. The union helped form the South Australian Joint Committee for Equal Pay (1940–72).

The WCTU would have generally applauded Dunstan laws against discriminating on the grounds of sex or race, leading to equal opportunity.

But the biggest blow to the WCTU came in September 1967 when six o’clock closing, and its swill, ended. New South Wales was the first state to extend hotel opening hours in 1955; South Australia, gaining the reputation as the “wowser state”, was the last.

Six o’clock closing, introduced in 1915 after a plebiscite held with a state election, remained in place for 50 years, with the WCTU challenging any moves to unwind it. In 1936, members demonstrated to retain 6 o’clock closing with a famous suitcase parade and again in 1938 with an umbrella parade, when women had placard messages on their cases, handbags or umbrellas.

Symbolically, the waning of WCTU’s influence in the 1960s saw it leave its headquarters at Willard Hall in Wakefield Street to Hutt Street and later to suburban Cowandilla.

A second wave of Adelaide feminism had begun.

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