In search of the larrikin girl

12 May

Well, I’ve been very slow indeed since I got back from the whistle-stop conference visit to the UK. Am giving two papers over the next couple of days, though – here’s the latest for the University of Queensland’s history seminar later this week:

In Search of the Larrikin Girl: Rough Femininity and Street Subculture in Australia, 1870-1915.


The culture of young street toughs or ‘larrikins’ in turn-of-the-century Australia was unabashedly masculine in character. It revolved around the performance of a flamboyant machismo; around fighting, taunting authority-figures, and bragging about one’s sexual prowess. As with rough youth subcultures elsewhere, this has meant that the girls and young women who participated in the larrikin milieu have either been rendered invisible or else presented as the sexual dupes of men.

In this paper I discuss my search for the larrikin girl in the historical sources, along with my attempt to come to terms with her relevance to scholarship from cultural studies and sociology on girls and street subcultures. I argue particularly for a focus on the theatricality of the larrikin-girl persona, and consider the ways in which this allows us to understand these rough girls and young women as something more than the auxiliaries of larrikin boys.


3 Responses to “In search of the larrikin girl”

  1. Grace 20 April 2010 at 10:31 pm #

    Do you have a public copy of this paper? The Donah’s is something I have become increasingly intrigued in but have found limited information on. I would love to find out more!
    Thanks Grace

    • Melissa Bellanta 21 April 2010 at 5:02 am #

      Dear Grace

      I’ll send you my just-approved article, ‘The Larrikin Girl’, which will appear in the Journal of Australian Studies later this year. It is also a shortened version of a chapter for my book-in-progress, Brazen Kate and High-Heeled Ned: A Larrikin History.

      Thanks, M

      • LCA 11 November 2011 at 5:32 am #

        I’d love to read it as well if possible!

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