• Entry type: Person
  • Entry ID: AWE0613

Thornton, Merle Estelle

(1930 – )
  • Born 1 January, 1930
  • Occupation Academic, Author, Feminist


On 31 March 1965 Merle Thornton and Rosalie Bogner chained themselves to the Regatta Hotel bar rail to protest for women’s rights. They wanted to liberate public bars from being men-only. The two protestors were both mothers of two and married to university lecturers. They were refused service, the publican faced a fine of £10-£20 if he served them with liquor, but were bought a beer by sympathetic male patrons. Their action became the starting point for women’s liberation in Brisbane in the late twentieth century. It is now recognised as one of the defining moments of second wave feminism in Australia.

A post-graduate student in Philosophy at the University of Queensland, Thornton went on to establish the Equal Opportunities for Women Association in April 1965. She also introduced the teaching of Women’s Studies in Australia in 1973 and was the special guest of the Queensland Government and speaker at the 70th celebration of International Women’s Day in 1999. Besides her academic writing Thornton has also written episodes for the television drama series Prisoner and has written and produced documentaries. Her stage play Playing Mothers and Fathers had a successful season at the Carlton Courthouse Theatre (Victoria) in 1990. Merle Thornton, the mother of actor Sigrid, returned to the Regatta Hotel, that now has a room named after her, for the launch of her first novel After Moonlight in 2004.


  • 2015 - 2015

    Appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) ‘for significant service to the community as an advocate for women, and Indigenous rights, and to the arts as a writer and director’

Published resources

  • Newspaper Article
    • Forty Years Later, No Bar to Women?, Mathewson, Catriona
    • Here's to pub's history of brave women, Wilson, Ashleigh
  • Book Section
    • Sex equality is not enough for feminism, Thornton, Merle, 1986
  • Book
    • After moonlight, Thornton, Merle, 1930-, 2004
  • Resource
    • Trove

Archival resources

  • National Library of Australia
    • [Biographical cuttings on Merle Thornton, academic, writer and playwright, containing one or more cuttings from newspapers or journals]

Related entries

  • Related Organisations
    • Fort Street Girls' High School (1911 - 1975)