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The Amazons First Ladies Fire Brigade, Australia

Published: Thursday, 04 April 2013
By: Merilyn Childs

Captain Minnie Webb, first (and only) Captain of the Amazons, First Ladies Fire Brigade, Armidale NSW Australia, demonstrating evacuating a burning building by leaping into the sheet held by citizens, c 1901. Not to be copied without permission.

"What shall we do with our girls" is a personal narrative that tells a little of the journey that emerged as a result of uncovering "The Amazons" and subsequent images. The photographs were generative of other creative works. []. As a result of the photographs, I collaborated with costumier Gracie Matthews to reproduce the operational and dress uniforms of The Amazons. These were then paraded by contemporary female fire fighters as part of my key note address to the Australasian Women in Fire Fighting Conference, Sydney Australia, June 2006.

Copyright. HRCP1594  Womens Fire Brigade 8

This is a work in progress - I hope during 2013 to reconsider and rewrite my personal narrative as an article. 

I'm interested in the possibilities offered by digital documentary story-telling.

IMG_9393View the project at FlickrThe Flickr slideshow also show reproduced uniforms of the Women's Fire Auxiliary (WFA), NSW 1941-1945. I've also included a link below to a slideshare presentation (Childs, 2012) re visual representations of women and firefighting. I'm keen to hear from others who have an interest in reclaiming the story of early female firefighters. I'm also interesting in the the way the social imagination is shaped by images. Cultural understandings and expressions of "firefighter" promote heroic, masculinist, sexy iconography. Sometimes female firefighters attempt to compete with this iconography - eg through female firefighter calendars. Stereotypes contribute to a complex cultural story. One way of understanding firefighting labour may be through equity and diversity research and campaigns (which I've been involved in) but another is through visual studies.

Comments (1)

  • regine wagner

    regine wagner

    19 April 2013 at 11:16 |
    This is project is a very interesting approach to labour as a sociological category and in particular to shifting views on gendered labour, including the layers and layers of female work from fire fighting to costume making and modelling to academic research.

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