Freedom and Rights of Women

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Women in Australia before WWII
The evolution of the rights of women in Australia owes much to successive waves of feminism, or the women's movement. The first of these took place in the late 19th Century and was concerned largely with gaining the right to vote and to stand for election into parliament. The second wave, which took place in the 1960s and 1970s, focused on gaining equality with men in other areas such as work, the law and general social standing. The second wave, because it targeted so many different aspects of life, presented a broader challenge to traditional ideas of women's rights. It therefore led to more fundamental changes in the daily lives of mainstream Australian women. This chapter focuses on how things were for women in Australia before these changes, brought on by the second wave of feminism, took place. It summarises the nature of Australian women's lives and therefore does not discuss the specific circumstances of Aboriginal women, migrant women or those from other defined minority groups. Politics

At the beginning of the 20th Century the Commonwealth of Australia had just been created through Federation, bringing with it the right to vote for Australian women. Some women could not vote in state elections, but because the new federal constitution allowed them to vote in federal elections, the States soon followed suit. By 1910 most Australian women over 21 could vote in both State and federal elections. Many of the women's groups that had campaigned for women's suffrage had done so out of a desire to improve the lot of women and children. They felt that only through political representation could they really change laws that affected women and children. Some sought to do this by supporting sympathetic male parliamentarians with their vote. Others hoped to get women themselves into parliament in order to affect change. The latter group would have had cause to be disappointed for a long time. No woman was elected to an...
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