Marriage: Love and Law exhibition catalogue - Page 69

The 1920s brought some relief as society began to recover from the trauma
of the Great War and the 1919 ‘Spanish’ flu epidemic. People could dare to hope
for a future of greater freedom and prosperity. The movement for women’s
equality was reinvigorated. The strict social and gender-based conventions that
had defined the Victorian era were gone. Young men and women socialised
more and experimented with alcohol and drugs—which were more readily
available than in the past—and sex. Marriage was increasingly at the centre
of peoples emotional lives.
The short period of growth and social freedom that Australians enjoyed during
the ‘Roaring Twenties’ ended with the Great Depression. Preference was
given to men over women in the labour market and the concept of the male
breadwinner became further entrenched in society. The Second World War
put a temporary end to these arrangements. Women took on jobs that
were previously the domain of men, and for many, this was their first taste
of paid work.

49 Department of Immigration,
Central Office
Wedding of German
migrants Gisela Stahl and
Alfred Andre at Australia’s
highest settlement,
31 May 1958
Black and white negative
National Archives of Australia,
NAA: A12111, 1/1958/13/15

48 Sam Hood collection
Unidentified wedding
Black and white glass
ca. 1927–1930
50 Department of Railways
Departure of Australian
brides from Central,
8 September 1945
Black and white acetate
Afterwards, however, women were expected to give up newly found
independence and return to their pre-war lives. As these readjustments took
hold, many marriages experienced great strain. While divorce rates escalated
in the years immediately following the War, to legally end a marriage remained
almost impossible for many.
Wartime offered a different kind of opportunity for thousands of young
Australian women: more than 12,000 emigrated to the US to join their
American husbands who they’d married in Sydney, Brisbane and
elsewhere (50).
Australia provided a safe haven for thousands of people displaced by the
Second World War. In remaking their lives in a new country, many post-war
migrants thrived. Married life and family provided a sense of peace and purpose
for some, while others struggled to readjust to civilian life.
NSW State Archives,
NRS 21573 PR315
State Library of NSW,
Home and Away – 6060


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