Whether it is treated as an issue for consternation or celebration, a propensity for drunkenness has long been represented as an essential trait of the Australian character. The image of the Australian drinker has remained distinctly masculine, with drinking canonised as a male pastime by Russel Ward's The Australian Legend (Ward 1958: 2). While Australian histories of inebriation have recognised the gendered nature of alcohol use, they have assumed implicitly that because drinking typically has been considered a masculine prerogative, the primary significance of liquor consumption to gender studies lies in the role it played in the construction of masculine identity. The assumption has been that because women's drinking was not conducted on the same scale as men's, the excessive drinking indulged in by a minority of females is unimportant to larger understandings of femininity. This has inhibited investigation of female drunkenness, the responses it provoked and the critical expression of power relations constituted by these reactions.
Alana Piper is a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland, currently researching a thesis on female criminal subcultures in late nineteenth and early twentieth century urban Australia. She has previously published work in the Journal of Australian Studies, Crossroads and the Queensland History Journal.