Well the Federal election is over - thank goodness. But this is an opportune time for all women to reflect on the extraordinary work of the suffragettes who ensured that we were able to vote in the election! It is almost unthinkable to imagine not having a voice.
111 years ago this month Australian women won the right to vote federally. (My home state of South Australia was the first to grant the right for women to vote in 1894 - while Victoria was the last state to grant the right!). In 1902 Australia was the first country to give women both the right to vote in Federal elections and also the right to be elected to Parliament on a national basis. The Indigenous population was only given their right to vote federally in - 1962.
Suffragettes was a worldwide term used to describe all women who campaigned for the right to vote in elections (the famed British political activist and suffragette Emmeline (Emily) Pankhurst comes to mind). 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. (I wonder how many still think this!)
|Thank you Vida Goldstein|
The first petition sought that 'Women should Vote on Equal terms with Men', and was gathered during 1891 when a few dedicated women including Marie Kirk, Vida Goldstein and Annette Bear-Crawford, literally went from door to door, eventually gathering almost 30,000 signatures from women all over Victoria and from all walks of life. It was presented to Parliament in September 1891.
Now one of Victoria's archival treasures and UNESCO listed, the document is known as the Monster Petition because of its size. It comprised fabric-backed sheets of paper glued together and rolled onto a cardboard spindle. It bears the statements ‘that government of the People, by the People and for the People should mean all the People, not half’, and ‘that all Adult Persons should have a voice in Making the Laws which they are required to obey’.
|The Unesco listed Monster Petition|
At 260 metres long it takes three people three hours to unroll it from one spool to another. Although this petition did not have an immediate effect on the voting rights of women in Victoria, it was an early and important stepping stone towards women's participation in politics, not just in Victoria but for all of Australia. (wikipedia and Public Record Office Victoria).
|Beautifully located, beautifully simple|
One of my favourite outdoor sculptures can be found in Burston Reserve/St Andrews Place (near the Park Hyatt Hotel and St Patrick's Cathedral) on the very edge of the city (off Spring Street!). The Great Petition was installed in 2008. I think it is beautiful.
|I wonder if the young man climbing it stopped to read the history of the sculpture|
Have you seen the sculpture? If you haven't do drop by when you are in the area. We take so much for granted these days. Did you know the history of the Australian suffragette movement?
Bowen Cottage client comment: The 'girls' (rather appropriate in this post!) give the thumbs up for my choice of the Cottage. Thank you for allowing us to stay.