Hairdressers organised into societies and unions in the 1870s and 1880s. As for most trades, the eight-hour day was far from being realised, and early meetings focused on the reduction of working hours and days. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on meetings of Sydney hairdressers at the Cosmopolitan hotel in 1869, who then petitioned for a bill to prevent Sunday trade.
News reports show that societies were attentive to the activities of similar groups in other cities, and communicated to share information. On 8 June 1878 the Melbourne Leader stated:
The first general meeting of members of the Victorian Hairdressers’ Society was held on June 6, at Stutt’s Hotel; Mr. Lewis in the chair. The secretary, after explaining the objects sought to be attained by the society, read a draft copy of the regulations under which it is proposed to incorporate the association. Mr. Teerly, the treasurer, read a letter from the secretary of the Associated Hairdressers of New South Wales, enclosing copies of the rules and regulations and the last annual report of that society. Several speakers advocated the abolishing of Sunday trading, and a resolution was unanimously carried, “That in the opinion of this meeting it is desirable to discontinue Sunday trading, with a view to shorten the hours of labor and to improve the social position of the trade.”
The Age reported on a meeting of the Victoria Journeymen Hairdressers’ Union in March 1883, where those present ‘pledged to agitate themselves for 10 hours per day’.
On Friday 23 June 1882 The Ballarat Star told that ‘It is understood that should the observance of the weekly half-holiday be unanimous among the local knights of the comb and scissors a hairdressers’ union will be formed in Ballarat. Such a society exists, we believe, in Melbourne, and has been found to be very advantageous to the members of the trade in question. Should the formation of a hairdressers’ union be agreed upon, a number of the Melbourne society rules will be adopted.’
Based on these early unions, the Australian Hairdressers Wigmakers and Hairworkers Employees' Federation was formed, and registered with the Conciliation and Arbitration Court on 1 June 1911. The Union amalgamated with the Mannequins' & Models' Guild of Australia and the Shop Distributive & Allied Employees' Association in 1991 to form a new Shop Distributive & Allied Employees' Association.
The Noel Butlin Archives Centre holds two deposits of Australian Hairdressers Wigmakers and Hairworkers Employees' Union records, one each from the South Australian and New South Wales branches, covering the period 1902–1977. They contain minutes, membership records, petitions, contribution books, photographs and printed material.
"FRIDAY." The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) 30 January 1869: 5. Web. 25 Oct 2018 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13179898.
"Advertising" The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) 25 January 1869: 1. Web. 25 Oct 2018 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13186680.
"NEWS AND NOTES." The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924) 23 June 1882: 2. Web. 25 Oct 2018 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article202123314.
"THE HAIRDRESSERS' UNION." The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954) 14 March 1883: 5. Web. 25 Oct 2018 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article190594588.