Gender and Urban Experience in Nineteenth-Century Australasian Towns
A chronological account of urban growth and change in Australasia across the whole of the nineteenth century would provide little insight into the tensions of gender. This chapter offers a broader analysis of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a period of acute gender tension in which the pace of urban and suburban growth played an important, if ambiguous, role. Australasian cities were like Australasian women: integral to the development and character of society, yet strangely invisible in emerging national cultures. Towns and cities grew and populations clustered disproportionately in them, while national identity in Australia and New Zealand was persistently imagined as rural. Gender was formed, experienced and invested with meaning in the physical and imaginative spaces of Australasian colonial cities. The history of Australasian colonial towns, then, comprises an extraordinary range of experience: from the poor who huddled in the slums of Sydney and Melbourne to the wealthy residents of their more salubrious suburbs.