Joan Gamble

Joan Gamble studied Arts and Design at East Sydney Technical College. In 1946/7 she had a job interview at Crown Crystal that seemed to last a ‘lifetime,’ where they asked about religion, her family, and if she was going to get married. She got the job, and worked for the company for 29 years, making glassware designs and eventually taking on a role as forewoman.

In the 1950s she recalls wages and costs started to rise, and as a result the company changed the production process to maintain economical viability. Staff lost their jobs, they fired glass once instead of three times, used cheaper materials, and did more screen printing.

She describes the Glassworkers Union favourably, saying they were strong but conciliatory. She never witnessed a strike in the Glassworkers union. By comparison, she says that the metal workers union was much more militant and inclined towards strikes.

In the second half of the interview, Joan reflects on being a woman working in a male dominated workplace. She received just over half a man’s pay for many years, and says that at work she had to behave as if she was a man in order to survive.

JG:  everything in those days, not like today, they were all painted by hand. So that like first of all you’d have to do the design yourself and it would have to be approved and see how many, and then you would have to do little detailed drawings so that the girls would be able to draw from this and paint the glasses because, you know, if you’re going to do a water set you have to have six glasses that look the same as the jug, so in those days the girls virtually – one might do the jugs and maybe they do a dozen jugs and the amount of tumblers so that they would match up because otherwise they’d all be different because everybody had a little different touch with it.

JG:  My personality changed at Crown Crystal, I used to be a very soft, timid person but I found that I couldn’t be soft and timid.

GW: Had to be assertive.

JG: I had to because all these men…

GW: Otherwise you wouldn’t have survived.

JG: I couldn’t have survived in a man’s world unless I put a few tantrums on. But I found that I couldn’t have tears, that was the one thing I could never have because I was working in a man’s world and you can’t work in a man’s world and ever hope to be a female. While I worked at work and I mean I’d say I wanted to be treated like a male. We’d go for the door, I didn’t want them to step aside to go through, that’s how you have to be. If there’s a job –

GW: You wanted to be treated equally.

JG: You’ve got to be treated equally, but the moment I’d walked out of there and it was 4 o’clock, I then wanted to be treated like a female.

Geoff Weary
Sam Hood: photographic collection, 1916-ca.1955 - State Library of NSW