I'm going back to graft (1890)

A Poem by Edmund Fisher 

I'm going back to graft, it's true because I guess we're done
And see no sense in keeping on the battle just for fun;
There's the wife to be considered—she's a sticker-up for rights',
But a mother can't help thinking of the children's appetites …

I've argued out the question with my conscience and my wife
And I can't perceive no prospect of an ending to the strife
Big strikes of unskilled labour—meaning men like me and you—
Are "marked" by hungry beggars who will jump at work to do…

What's the good of talking—for the moment we are done;
There ain't no sense in fighting losing battles just for fun
I may be cursed and swore at, and I'm certain to be chaffed
But the kids are short of tucker, so I'm going back to graft."


From Bruce Scates – Gender Household and Community Politics p. 45.
In the 1992 collection 'The Maritime Strike: A Centennial Retrospective'

p. 37
The Strike was phenomenally large by ninteenth century standards, 50,000 Australian workers were involved and perhaps as many as 10,000 New Zealanders. Its title suggests a misnomer. Though the Strike began in the Maritime unions, it spread to include shearers, miners, labourers, carters, storemen and railway workers. The issues in dispute were as daunting as this range suggests. New Zealanders joined the strike believing an attempt was being made 'to crush out unionism in Australia'. Their participation was a testimony to the strengthening federation of Australasian labour, a federation that embraced both sides of the Tasman...

p. 45
If women followed their husbands, it was not without question: their support for the Strike was qualified, critical, and informed by separate interests of their own." Labour leaders were well aware of this and cultivated women's support almost as carefully as they did that of the men. Arguably, these domestic politics, complex and contested that they were, informed the public politics of the Strike as well. The decision 'to fight or to fall' is invariably portrayed as an act of male solidarity: the men strike at the call of their leaders, their dependents are not consulted nor any consideration given to their needs. But for many working-class families the home was as much a forum of the strike as the union, 'husband and wife' weighed loyalty to the union against the hardships of their children, short-term suffering against long-term gain. Edmund Fisher's poem, written as the strike drew painfully to a close, highlights the private conflict a thousand families faced and resolved.

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