December 18 2019 marks the 125th anniversary of the passing of the Women's Suffrage Act in South Australia. South Australia was the first Australian colony to…
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Women In History
Mary Lee was a vital element in South Australia's auspicious honour in 1894 to grant women the vote AND to be elected to parliament! From Scotland she came out to nurse her sick son. On his death, not having the means to return to Scotland She became instrumental in the cause that we now take for granted.
1894: Legislation introducing women’s suffrage, South Australia - On 18 December 1894, the South Australian Parliament passed the Constitutional Amendment (Adult Suffrage) Bill. The legislation not only granted women in the colony the right to vote, it also allowed them to stand for parliament, and so was the first in the world to give equal political rights to both men and women.
On 13 April 1869, Dugdale became the first Australian woman to publicly call for women’s equality with a letter published in Melbourne’s Argus newspaper.Dugdale also attacked Victoria’s court system for failing to take action on violence against women. She was credited as one of the women who led Australia to in 1902 become the second country to grant women the right to vote.
In an address to the WCTU, Elizabeth Webb Nicholls states that the outcomes feared by some as being reasons to forego women's suffrage didn't ever come to pass.
This exhibit details a 'Strawberry Fete' which was used to raise money for the Women's Suffrage League. Part of an exhibition at Adelaide Town Hall to celebrate 120 years of South Australian women's suffrage.
Also on display at the Adelaide Town Hall are a series of extracts from letters to the editor of various newspapers around the time the vote was granted. These letters illustrate the range of views that were popular at the time. On display at the Adelaide Town Hall as part of the 120th anniversary of suffrage celebrations.
Here is a cartoon depicting Elizabeth Webb Nicholls as a lion tamer, keeping the lion (the Premier at the time, Premier Kingston) in line with the weapon of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). On display at the Adelaide Town Hall as part of the 120th anniversary of South Australian women's suffrage.
Mary Colton was another of the key suffragists in South Australia. She was a founder of the Adelaide Children's Hospital and remained on the board for the extent of her life. She was President of the Women's Suffrage League when suffrage was achieved in South Australia and also became known as the founder of the YWCA of Adelaide. Photo courtesy of the YWCA of Adelaide.
Rosetta (Rose) Birks was the Treasurer of the Women’s Suffrage League and first woman to vote in Glenelg. She was one of the key suffragists in South Australia. State Library of South Australia SRG 534 Box 4
This image depicts Elizabeth Webb Nicholls, then President of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of South Australia (WCTU). Mrs Nicholls is shown ‘tilting at windmills’, a phrase taken from the novel Don Quixote in which the titular character begins fighting windmills he imagines to be giants. The cartoon therefore shows Mrs Nicholls fighting what the cartoonist sees as the false enemies or ‘windmills’ of tobacco and alcohol. State Library of South Australia D 8309 (Misc) 12A
This is a picture of women working in a factory circa 1890. The conditions in these factories were often hot, dangerous and inadequate, with substandard facilities. One of the areas in which suffragists worked for change was in improving working conditions for women, and creating women's trade unions. State Library of South Australia B 72444
An article that mentions a feature in a magazine called Review of Reviews, in which there are photographs of suffragists prompting the author to state that they "may perhaps assist in removing a popular misconception as to the personal appearance of the "Women's Rights" advocate". Brisbane Courier, 9 Feb 1895
A picture of the election day crowd checking results at one of the first elections in which South Australian Women participated.
The Woman's Christian Temperance Union of New Zealand produced this leaflet, however as you can see this one was printed in Adelaide. State Library of South Australia b1963229.
The Woman's Christian Temperance Union were another organisation critical to the fight for women's suffrage in South Australia. Here a cartoon depicts them in various ways. 'W.C.T.U.-ities', C. A. Marquet. Published in Quiz and lantern, 28 September 1899, p. 9. State Library of South Australia b2163660
The Women's Suffrage League led the charge in the quest for women's votes. Here is a certificate of membership to the league. State Library of South Australia b2195733
Cartoons such as this one sought to discredit suffrage and its supporters by poking fun at them - in this case, making them look unattractive and therefore making the prospect of suffrage unattractive. 'Question of Propriety', Ambrose Dyson, published in the Critic, 26 August 1899, p. 16. State Library of South Australia b2038436
http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/22697949 'Enfranchised!' Drawing from 1902 by Herbert Cotton, courtesy of the National Library of Australia
Letters to the editor were a popular way of expressing one's opinion, such as this "working man's" view of women's suffrage as a "dangerous fad".
Elizabeth Webb Nicholls is credited with gaining 8,268 of the 11,600 signatures on a huge petition submitted to Parliament demanding suffrage for South Australian women. Read more of her story here:http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/nicholls-elizabeth-webb-7839
http://adelaidia.sa.gov.au/people/mary-lee Mary Lee was an outspoken and determined woman, who dedicated herself to the achievement of the vote for women in South Australia. The link above has a comprehensive and fascinating biography of this inspiring woman.
http://adelaidia.sa.gov.au/things/mary-lee-bust This bust of Mary Lee was unveiled on 18 December 1994, on the 100th anniversary of the gaining of women's suffrage in South Australia. It stands in the Prince Henry Gardens on North Terrace, Adelaide.
http://adelaidia.sa.gov.au/things/catherine-helen-spence-statue This statue of Catherine Helen Spence, noted social reformer and key women's suffragist, stands in Light Square, Adelaide and was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II on 10 March 1986.