On 31 March, 1965, Merle Thornton and Rosalie Bogner chained themselves to the Regatta Hotel bar rail in Brisbane to protest for women's rights. The two protestors were both mothers of two and married to university lecturers.
They wanted to liberate public bars from being men-only. The hotel publican faced a fine of £10-£20 if he served them with liquor. They were refused service but were bought a beer by sympathetic male patrons.
Their action became the starting point for women's liberation in Brisbane. It is now recognised as one of the defining moments of the feminist movement in Australia.
A post-graduate student in Philosophy at the University of Queensland, Merle went on to establish the Equal Opportunities for Women Association in April 1965. She also introduced the teaching of Women's Studies in Australia in 1973 and was the special guest of the Queensland Government and speaker at the 70th celebration of International Women's Day in 1999.
Besides her academic writing, Merle has also written episodes for the television drama series Prisoner and has written and produced documentaries. Her stage play Playing Mothers and Fathers had a successful season at the Carlton Courthouse Theatre (Victoria) in 1990. Merle Thornton, the mother of well-known actor Sigrid Thornton, returned to the Regatta Hotel, that now has a room named after her, for the launch of her first novel After Moonlight in 2004.
Hear an audio interview recorded with Merle in October 1974 (39 minutes)
Read a full transcript of this interview (128KB)