Mind the gap cont.

''We've had two historic equal-pay cases, in 1969 and 1972, but there is still a persistent gap, partly because the jobs women do are still undervalued,'' said Fran Hayes, the National Pay Equity Coalition's spokeswoman.

Seventeen years after the first meetings and rallies for International Women's Day took place in European cities in 1911, the five Sydney women took to the soapbox and, without the benefit of a microphone or a loudspeaker, helped launch a new era.

Edna Ryan, nee Nelson, was 23; Hetty Ross, 28; Jean Thompson, 22 and Joy Barrington only 18. With Mary Lamm and Annie Isaacs, they kept the rally going for two hours. They eschewed hats, gloves, probably smoked and swore, and were the forerunners of the radical women's liberationists of the 1970s, says Edna's daughter, the historian Lyndall Ryan. ''They were inspirational,'' she said.

They were members of the Militant Women's Group, an offshoot of the Communist Party, that believed women needed to assert their own agenda for equal pay, childcare and shorter working hours.

''Women, if you want equality, don't wait for men to win it for you,'' Edna wrote in the Worker's Weekly in 1927.

Professor Ryan, who will address a symposium organised by the History Council of NSW at the State Library on Tuesday, said her mother was a tireless worker for equal pay.

Aged 68 she presented the key submission in the 1974 national wage case that extended the adult minimum wage to include full-time women workers. ''Women have taken great strides since 1928 but there's still a long way to go,'' Professor Ryan said.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/mind-the-gap-a-century-on-women-still-fight-for-equality-20110304-1bi3j.html#ixzz1sMdn4OA8