RIP Margaret Long

We are saddened to hear today of the passing of Margaret Long.

Margaret Long (Brand)We are saddened to hear today of the passing of Margaret Long (nee Brand). Margaret was a leading activist in the equal pay campaign in the 1950s, which resulted in the Government Service Equal Pay Act 1960. A life member of the PSA, she made immense contributions to the union movement and to women’s equality in the workplace.

Margaret Long, nee Brand. Called 'Firebrand' because of her campaigning for equal pay.

The PSA adopted the principle of equal pay in 1914 but made no progress until the 1950s. Women civil servants were regularly passed over for promotion and salary increases in favour of younger male staff with little or no experience. The Public Service Commission defended this practice by arguing that men were paid a ‘social wage’ that recognised their role as the family breadwinner. This attitude ignored the reality that growing numbers of women supported themselves financially, and often their families as well.

Headlines opposing equal pay were commonplace. “Equal Pay for Women is Injustice for Men” ran in Wellington newspaper The Evening Post. In a case where a Dunedin woman was demoted in 1956, a National MP is quoted having said “She won’t mind, she is young, attractive and has a husband.”

Margaret, a Department of Statistics clerical worker, joined the PSA Women’s subcommittee in 1952. She became known to her rueful opponents as ‘Firebrand’, for her relentless determination to equal pay.

PSA womens conference 1955

PSA Women's conference 1955. Margaret is in the front row, second from the right

Margaret Brand was actively involved in the equal pay movement and took a leading role in applying political pressure applied to both major parties. After nearly a decade of campaigning the Public Sector Equal Pay Act was passed just before the 1960 election.

Equal Pay poster

Equal Pay poster from 1961