Thursday, July 10, 2014

Gender Discrimination

There's almost no end to the number of stories we could post about New Zealand's liquor laws. We'll start with a simple one. While it's common to lament the farce that was 6pm closing, we don't talk so much about another legal constraint that covered much the same period - the ban on female bar staff. Or as they were known in the 20th century, barmaids.

It was brought in in 1910. Women already working in bars were allowed to stay on and apparently a register of state-recognised barmaids existed so women could work without fear of sudden arrest. But no new female staff could be recruited, so it must have been weird for a woman in a profession knowing that her retirement or death was a pre-requisite for the law to take full effect.

Before anyone from Australia scoffs at this one, it should be pointed out that Victoria and South Australia had similar bans.

The ban stayed in place longer than you might think. We'd had colour TV for three years before it was finally lifted in 1976, after a period of 15 years while it was relaxed to allow women over 25 to work in a bar.

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