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Transcript of Australian Suffragettes
Suffrage (the right to vote), is something that Australians, mainly women, have not always been able to do. In 1902, Australia was the first country in the world to give women both the right to vote in federal elections and also the right to be elected to parliament on a national basis. New Zealand granted women the right to vote in 1893.
The Commonwealth suffrage
Commonwealth women's suffrage in Australia reflected the rights of women to seek election in South Australia and to vote in Western Australia, rights granted in 1895 and 1899 respectively. Indigenous people as a group were not granted suffrage in federal elections until 1962, although South Australia granted suffrage to Aboriginal women as early as 1894, and the Commonwealth Constitution stated that anyone with a state vote was entitled to a Commonwealth vote.
Politics and Australian women in the 19th century
In the 19th century, a woman's place was still very firmly in the home. Although small numbers of women were attending university and seeking a career for themselves, most women's lives were restricted to the home and the exhausting physical work of maintaining a house and raising a family.The thought that a woman was capable of focusing her attention on matters such as politics was incomprehensible to many men, and some women, who opposed the fight for female suffrage. They portrayed women as emotional, weak and unable to make decisions as well as being consumed with domestic and trivial matters.
Arguments by the WCTU...
Australian women were vocal and forceful in delivering their message. The Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) of South Australia printed a leaflet in September 1895 entitled Sixteen Reasons for Supporting Women's Suffrage that was circulated around the community.
Its arguments included:
•Because Parliament should be a reflection of the wishes of the people.
•Because a Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, should mean all the people and not one half.
•Because most laws affect women as much as men.
The final point made on the leaflet was simple: 'Because, to sum up all reasons in one – it is just.'
'Suffragettes' was a term used around the world to describe all women who campaigned for the right to vote in elections. From the 1880s and through the 1890s each Australian colony had at least one suffragette society. These societies published leaflets; organised debates, public meetings and letter-writing campaigns; and arranged deputations to members of their colonial parliaments. In 1891, suffragettes including Vida Goldstein gathered 30,000 women's signatures and presented them as a petition to the Victorian Parliament. In 1894, Mary Lee and others presented a petition from 11,600 women in South Australia and the Northern Territory.
The suffragettes argued that women should be able to vote and stand for election because the wishes of women should be reflected in parliament. They argued that a government 'by the people' should include government by women, because laws affect women as much as they do men.
women seeking the right to vote through authorized protesting