Women's Suffrage Australia

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Figure 1: Women's suffrage picket demonstrating for the freedom of Alice Paul, 1917. Assumed English; source unknown. Figure 1: Women's suffrage picket demonstrating for the freedom of Alice Paul, 1917. Assumed English; source unknown. Women’s Suffrage

The fight for equal rights of women is thought to have begun with the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). As male suffrage extended in many countries, women became increasingly active in the pursuit for their suffrage. However it was not until 1893, in New Zealand, that women achieved suffrage on a national level. Australia followed in 1902, but American, British and Canadian women did not gain the same rights until the aftermath of World War I. “Suffragettes” was a term used around the world to describe all women who campaigned for the right to vote in elections (Big Black Dog Communications Pty Ltd australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/austn-suffragettes, 5th March 2010). Each Australian state had at least one suffrage society during the 1880s and 1890s that published leaflets; organised debates, public meetings and letter-writing campaigns and arranging deputations to members of their colonial parliaments. In 1891, suffragettes gathered 30, 000 women’s signatures and presented them as a petition to the Victorian Parliament. Another petition was presented to the South Australian and Northern Territory government in 1894. It was argued by the suffragettes that women should be able to vote and stand for election not only because they thought the wishes of women should be reflected in parliament but because they were tax payers. They argued that a government “by the people” should include women, since laws affected women as much as men. Figure 2: Headquarters of the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage 1911. Library of Congress. Figure 2: Headquarters of the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage 1911. Library of Congress.

During the...
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