The book documents one woman's version of her experiences of the Great Depression, highlighting her battle to maintain her respectability while ensuring she can support her children.
At the time, Australian bars were segregated on gender lines, so the barmaid was the only female present in the main bar. As a result, barmaids had a bad name because a woman working in such conditions was regarded as morally suspect, perhaps luring men into spending their money in bars, perhaps soliciting commercial sex. Indeed, Caddie makes reference to the numerous sexual advances made towards her, both in her role as barmaid and in situations where it would benefit her, such as from the teacher at her children's school. She shows how she remained morally respectable in this regard, and shows how her other illegal activities - SP bookmaking, signing up for multiple welfare payments - were for the benefit of her family and friends.
The story makes reference to the six o'clock swill, written at a time shortly after the war when it was presumed that the reader would be familiar with the phenomenon. In an effort to minimise alcohol consumption, the Australian government legislated that bars were to close at 6pm. The result was an extreme rush between 5pm and 6pm.
Cusack notes how Caddie was reluctant to give any signs of complaint, but to take everything in her stride in order to meet the needs of her children. Cusack had Caddie rewrite the book several times in order to give more detail of the difficulties she faced and her feelings about them. The stoic strength of an Australian single woman "battler" is an underlying theme to the story.
Read more about this topic: Caddie, The Story Of A Barmaid
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