Masters Thesis Abstract: Gendered spaces, Public places

Gender-exclusive organisations are ubiquitous in the Australian social landscape, coming in all forms, shapes and sizes. The potential for such organisations, however, to inform us about past gender roles and attitudes has not been addressed within the Australian context. The aim of this thesis, therefore, is to investigate what the buildings of such organisations can reveal about the roles of men and women in the past.

Buildings belonging to the Freemasons and the Country Women’s Association in rural South Australia formed the basis for this investigation. Archaeological research was carried out to record the social, geographic, physical and functional attributes of buildings in order to identify trends occurring between and amongst buildings used exclusively by men and women. Attributes included street type, building size, visibility, decorative features, internal layout, alterations and use.

While CWA buildings remained relatively unchanged throughout the study period (1836-2010), the results for Masonic buildings showed that there were significant changes occurring, particularly regarding the use of external decorative features and the presence of amenities. Style, as a form of non-verbal communication, is used to reflect and reinforce prevailing ideology. The changing style of Masonic and CWA buildings suggest a shift in gender roles and attitudes, from the ‘traditional’ separate spheres ideology of pre-WWII, to the more ‘egalitarian’ worldview post-war. This thesis concludes that social changes occurring as a result of World War II are reflected in the design, location and construction of gender-exclusive buildings, most notably those belonging to the Freemasons.

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