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Our Chains: Rear View Reflections

  • Merle Thornton


On 31 March 1965, Ro Bogner and I went into the public bar of the Regatta Hotel in Brisbane's Coronation Drive and tried to order a lemonade each. Because we were women, we were refused and ordered out, but we did not leave. We chained ourselves to the bar rail instead. The barman, then the publican, then police — first uniformed then plain-clothes — tried hard to get us to leave without force. When they failed, they unexpectedly left us to it. At once there followed a storm of publicity, even extending overseas, and public response ranging from passionate support to hostile opposition right through to threats of violence and even death.

Forty-one years later, in the Museum of Brisbane in the City Hall, I saw photos, press clippings and texts about this first, and subsequent, demonstrations in the campaign to admit women to public bars in Queensland. The context was the recent Taking to the Streets Exhibition, an extensive and well-researched showing of the radical movements in Brisbane in 1965–85. Looking back, how do I now view the Regatta demonstration and the subsequent campaigns for change for women in which I was involved? Where do they stand in relation to changes since? Do they still have relevance to goals for women now?


Our Chains: Rear View Reflections

  • Merle Thornton


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