CHAPTER 2 - Who were the Suffragists?
I am human and nothing human is beyond my sphere
Vida Goldstein in Woman's Sphere
1880 General Election State Library of Victoria mp004354
At a Women's Rally in Melbourne on 28/11/33 Alice Henry read: 'There were a few women in Victoria who advocated the Parliamentary franchise and equality of citizenship for women in the early part of 1890, such as Mrs Smyth, Mrs Dugdale, Miss Lowe; but the three outstanding women who definitely set the movement going were Mrs Goldstein, Mrs Bear-Crawford and Dr Constance Stone, all natives of this state. It was a brave step to take in those days, when there was strong opposition, not only from a significant majority of women, but from all but a few men.
Mrs Goldstein was the mother of Vida Goldstein (who later became the leader of the woman suffrage movement in Victoria); and she, with her friends Mrs Bear-Crawford and Dr Constance Stone, helped to found the United Council for Woman Suffrage, a Council consisting of representatives of societies whose aims were for the welfare of women and children. Mrs Goldstein was an earnest worker with strong convictions, who championed the cause of women and who devoted much time and thought to the movement, being ever ready to help and advise.' Royal Historical Society of Victoria
Alice also explained in her article in the Centenary Gift Book that in the last two decades of the century:
'Some persistent women battlers, to mention a few, were Mrs Crutchfield, Mrs Elliot, Miss Mary Fullerton, Miss Miriam Geach, Mrs and Miss Goldstein, Mrs Evelyn Gough, Mrs Bella Lavender Halloran, Sister Hannah, Miss Selina Hooper, Mrs Anna B Howie, Mrs Laura Howie, Miss A Hume, Mrs Emily Jackson, Miss Judd, Mrs Langdale, Miss Lillian Locke, Miss Simmons, Mrs Lowe, Miss H McGowan, Miss Janet Michie, Miss Hilda Moody, Mrs E M Nimmo, Mrs O'Dowd, Mrs Pymm, Miss Rapier, Mrs Greenwich, Mrs Smyth, Mrs Steele, Miss C H Thomson, Mrs Catherine P Wallace (wife of the American Consul), Miss Clara Weekes, Mrs Lister Watson. Aid came through visitors from other colonies, Miss Rose Scott, Miss Catherine Spence, Mrs Harrison Lee, Mrs E W Nicholls.'
In Victoria, some of these 'persistent women battlers' (including herself) were -
1...HENRIETTA DUGDALE (1827-1918)
Founder of the Victorian Women's Suffrage Society, fighter for social justice, 'rational' dresser and freethinker -
Henrietta Dugdale: ''It is time to throw aside artificial modesty, all of you. I tell you, woman, that it is woman's duty to try to help and raise women ...' Janice N Brownfoot: Women's Organisations & the Woman Movement in Victoria Hon thesis Melbourne Uni 1968
Henrietta claimed to be the first female suffragist, beginning agitating in 1859 -
Audrey Oldfield: 'I was the first - for sixteen years previous to the formation of our Victorian Women's Suffrage Society - and only woman who publicly advocated the moral right of women to her share in political power; also, to other human rights. University learning, and possession of her property after marriage.' p 134 Woman Suffrage in Australia: A Gift or a Struggle? Camabridge University Press 1992,
In a note to Vida Goldstein, Henrietta said -
'I always consider my greatest work was during the previous sixteen years, paving the way, cutting a track through a dense scrub of ignorance and prejudice, publicly and privately. I never missed an opportunity for advocating woman's moral right to the franchise, admission to University honours, practice of the professions, and power over her own property. Oh! the asinine and insulting replies to my protests against the legal injustice to women in all these matters.' Women Movement in Australia Royal Historical Society of Victoria
The historian Janice Brownfoot described her position -
'(Henrietta thought) 'the weapon of emancipation was the suffrage, whereby women could achieve equal social, legal and political privileges with men; a more equitable distribution of wealth; the eight hour day ...' Janice Brownfoot Rebels and Radicals ed Eric Fry 1983 Ch.9
Other historians contributed -
Audrey Oldfield: 'A "freethinker" who was a member of the Australian Secular Society, she placed much of the blame for women's subjection on the Christian Church and what she called "man's ignorance" ... She married for the first time when she was 14, threw away her corsets as soon as she turned twenty one, in protest at the restrictions of women's clothes, and made her own clothes - tunic over loose pants - practical and comfortable ... She exhorted women to throw off their chains, discard their apathy and learn self respect.' p 135 Audrey Oldfield Woman Suffrage in Australia University of Cambridge 1992
Lois Young: '(She) had been forced to wear a corset at the age of fifteen, but had gradually broken and removed the whalebone in it and reduced it in size until ... she had given it up altogether. When fifty-seven, she claimed that she could still run and jump, and had none of the back-ache, chest-ache, headache or indigestion so common to women who wore corsets'. p 137 Lois Young, unpublished thesis Ed Fac Monash 1984 Feminism and the Physical Sex Education, Physical Education and Dress Reform in Aust. 1880-1930
Women's Fashion State library of Victoria mp007717 Mrs Dugdale Table Talk October 20 1899 p 6 Lois Young's MA thesis Monash 1984
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Henrietta Dugdale: 'The laws for offences against property were very severe, but for brutal offences against women they were not ... Women, all, shake off the dangerous apathy into which man's ignorance has thrown you! Teach them, or the earth will again have to treasure away for future learners relics of another fallen nation - teach them no whole can exist if only one half of it be cared for! It is time man's suicidal oppression should cease.' Mrs H A Dugdale A Few Hours in a Far-Off Age 1883 p35
A Few Hours in a Far-Off Age State Library of Victoria
A Few Hours in a Far-Off Age by Mrs H A Dugdale: 'To Mr Justice Higinbotham (Judge of the Supreme Court in the Colony of Victoria) 'I very gratefully dedicate this little book; in earnest admiration for the brave attacks made by that gentleman upon what has been, during all known ages, the greatest obstacle to human advancement; the most irrational, fiercest and most powerful of our world's monsters - the only devil - MALE IGNORANCE.'
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2...ANNIE LOWE (1834-1910)
Annie Lowe believed in reason, that women should be respected and not controlled, and she was particularly concerned about male violence. 'Henrietta Dugdale and Annie Lowe ... led a number of women who were victims of abuse from their husbands, or who simply believed that women should be respected and not controlled.' http://www.skwirk.com.au/
Audrey Oldfield: '(Annie) gave her father the credit for her social and political landscape: 'He discussed politics before his boys and girls. We imbibed his broad and liberal views. Boys and girls, we were trained equally. We girls were taught that what was good for the boys was good for us to know'. In a suffrage speech at the Melbourne Town Hal she described her position as:
'I applied my father's arguments for manhood suffrage to the women's cause. I say that not the most chivalrous deference or the most constant attention should usurp the place of truth and justice.' Woman Suffrage in Australia Audrey Oldfield CUB 1992
Audrey Oldfield: 'Annette was a friend and collaborator of Henrietta Dugdale - both noted speakers. They both emphasised that women needed the vote to gain greater protection from violence. With Henrietta and Vida Goldstein she was involved in 1884 in establishing the Victorian Women's Suffrage Society. Its object was, according to Annette, 'To obtain the same political privileges for women as are now possessed by male voters; equal privileges in marriage and divorce' ...
(She) was to work actively for woman suffrage, as an office holder in societies and as one of the movement's most valuable speakers, until 1908, two years before her death at 76. She has been overshadowed by (Vida) Goldstein's spectacular participation in the last years of the campaign, but she should be put in her rightful place as one of the most important and committed women of the Australian movement.' p 135-136 Woman Suffrage in Australia Audrey Oldfield CUB 1992
State Library of Victoria mp016706
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3...ISABELLA GOLDSTEIN (nee Hawkins, 1840-1916)
Suffragist, feminist, worker for social reform, lecturer, researcher, lobbyist and activist. Mrs Goldstein 'had as a child "pondered the inequalities of life ...". p 2 Janette Bomford That Dangerous and Persuasive Woman, Melbourne University Press 1993
In 1891, she, together with the Rev Charles Strong and Vida began an anti-slum campaign in Collingwood, Melbourne after taking Dr Strong to see: '... house after house which ought to be condemned as unfit for human habitation ... cases where as many as fourteen people occupied a small house with a case of typhoid amongst them ... the slavery endured by the majority of the struggling women to keep their bodies and souls together'. The Herald 30 April 1891
Leslie M Henderson: 'Rent, she wrote, was a continuing nightmare to poor tenants - to charwomen an sweated finishers in particular. The rent took two or three days earnings each week ... landlords of small, ill-drained houses got 6/- to 8/- a week for two rooms. A charwoman got about 4/- a day and was not in constant work.
Mrs Goldstein was also a keen advocate of woman suffrage and of women's emancipation in general - a movement which was then in its infancy in Australia. A petition to enfranchise women was presented to the Victorian Parliament in 1891. Mrs Goldstein was one of those who collected the signatures it. In this she had the eager help of her eldest and - I think - her favourite daughter Vida, then aged twenty two. This marked the beginning of Vida's political career. The Goldstein Story Stockland Press Melbourne 1973
Isabella was a committee member of the Anti-Sweating League and started the Queen Victoria Shilling Fund with her daughter Vida and Anette Bear-Crawford. She said she believed you should 'go on your own if you conscientously believe you are right', and she did.
Miles Franklin's 'Book of the Waratah Cup' autograph book
'Hoping that your present undertaking will add to the brilliance of your already brilliant career, & improve that of thousands of our hardworking fellow women in Australia.
Yours sincerely, Vida Goldstein 16 Dec. 1903, Isabella Goldstein 7 April 1904
4...BRETTENA SMYTH (1842-1898)
Brettena Smyth was a campaigner for women's health reform and women's political rights. Here are excerpts from historians -
Kathryn Sutherland: 'On Monday 17 October 1892, the public museum closed early to allow staff to attend a lecture at the North Melbourne Town Hall. The citizens of Melbourne had been anticipating this evening for some time. The local press promised "entertainment ... to eclipse anything hitherto attempted." No, the circus had not come to town; Mrs B Smyth was to perform her "celebrated" lecture on "Love, Courtship and Marriage". Brettena was actively involved in societies directly associated with the women's suffrage movement ... (she) went against the grain, fighting for the improvement of women's status both inside the home and in the political sphere. Her motto was: "Do not ask if it is popular, but is it right?" They Are But Women the road to female suffrage in Victoria University of Melbourne Dep History 2008
Audrey Oldfield: She '... had become convinced that the most pressing inequality found by the great mass of women was not public but private: overwork, economic deprivation and ill-health - all caused by frequent and involuntary child-bearing ... She launched the Australian Women's Suffrage Society, which was to be linked in the public mind with her advocacy of the right of every woman to advice about, and access to, contraceptives ... ' p 137 Audrey Oldfield Woman Suffrage in Australia, Cambridge University Press
North Melbourne Town Hall 'Women Only' lecture State Library of Victoria DSC00107
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5...MARGARET McLEAN (1845-1923) -
Margaret McLean: 'We want laws which will make it easy to do right and difficult to do wrong ...' p 121 Double Time - Women in Victoria - 150 Years ed Marilyn Lake and Farley Kelly Penguin 1985
'... it is a much greater offence in the eyes of the law to steal a coat than to abuse a woman, even to the risk of her life.' p 12 Audrey Oldfield Australian Women and the Vote Cambridge 1994
Margaret wrote two popular leaflets, Womanhood Suffrage (1890) and More about Womanhood Suffrage. A Christian and suffragist, she was inspired to rescue those 'enslaved by drink' and to advocate for votes for women. She was one of the originators of the women's 'Monster' petition. The following is taken from histories -
Anthea Hyslop: 'She saw clearly how the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was itself an agent of women's emancipation, providing a much-needed esprit de corps, developing women's 'minds, faculties, and gifts' and teaching them 'that we are citizens, that we have responsibilities as such, and ought to have privileges corresponding thereto'. http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A100322b.htm
Claire Berry: '... throughout the 1890's the WCTU became active advocates for female enfranchisement, purporting that 'as men and women are alike in having to obey the laws ... they should be equal in electing those who make the laws.' They Are But Women the road to female suffrage in Victoria University of Melbourne Dep History 2008
Margaret read this at the 1890 Colonial Convention -
'That as men and women are alike in having to obey the laws, this meeting declares its conviction that they should also be equal in electing those who make the laws; and, further, that the ballot in the hands of women would be a safeguard to the home, in which the interests of women are paramount, and as what is good for the home is also good for the State, the enfranchisement of women would be conducive to the highest national welfare.' Woman Suffrage in Australia Audrey Oldfield CUB 1992
"In trouble"with alcohol ca. 1870-ca State Library of Victoria 1879 H88 14/36
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6...ANNETTE ELLEN BEAR-CRAWFORD (1853-1899)
At a Women's Rally in Melbourne on 28/11/33 Alice Henry read -
Alice Henry: 'Mrs Bear-Crawford had been educated in England, where she had come in contact with pioneers of the movement there. Her work with a Bishop of London convinced her that woman must take part in public affairs; and she returned to her native land full of enthusiasm for the cause of woman suffrage, for which she worked strenuously, speaking at drawing room meetings and on public platforms and using her influence in private life until her untimely death on a visit to England about 1897.' Royal Historical Society of Victoria
United Council for Woman Suffrage booklet: 'Annette Bear-Crawford was and educationalist and social reformer particularly concerned with the plight of unmarried mothers. She believed: "No husband owns a wife body and soul. It is insulting to call her a dependent considering the work she does." State Library of Victoria
Historian Marilyn Lake: 'Annette helped launch the "Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Women and Children". She formed the lobbying group "The Vigilance Association" with Dr Constance Stone. Together with Vida Goldstein she took a strong role in educating women. She believed "in that most effective instrument for improving the conditions of life, the vote". Getting Equal Marilyn Lake Allen & Unwin 1999 p43
Queen Victoria Hospital history of the shilling fund website: 'Arising from her deep concern for unmarried mothers, with Vida Goldstein and Vida's mother in 1897 she launched the 'willing shilling' drive to build the Queen Victoria Hospital for women and children.' http://www.qvwc.org.au/about/history/history_of_the_shilling_fund
Staff Alfred Hospital 1901 including Edith Hall, later matron of Queen Victoria Hospital State Library of Victoria pi004361
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7...CLARA WEEKES (1855-1937) Teacher and union organiser.
Clara was, according to Danielle Archer, 'A “born teacher”, suffragist and equal pay campaigner, Clara ... worked with hundreds of other women to gain women the right to vote in Victoria. She also agitated for equal pay for women workers and led the Victorian Lady Teachers' Association.' http://www.vthc.org.au/index.cfm?section=5&Category=101&viewmode=content&contentid=210
This is from The Review of Reviews August 1903: 'VICTORIAN LADY TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION: WHY WOMEN TEACHERS SHOULD VOTE FOR MISS GOLDSTEIN:-
l. Miss Goldstein is in favour of equal pay ...
ll. Miss Goldstein is in favour of merit being the only claim for promotion, irrespective of sex.
lll. Miss Goldstein is opposed to any inequalities between the sexes. ...
lV. Miss Goldstein is in favour of properly qualified women being eligible for positions as lecturers ... and inspectors. ...
V. Miss Goldstein, having the interest of the nation at heart, is anxious for the well-being of the children and anything that is for their advantage will be supported by her.
Vl. Miss Goldstein has for some years, both with her pen and on the platform, been an advocate for securing the rights of women ...
PASS THIS ON TO YOUR FRIENDS.' State Library of Victoria
Teacher and class 1885 State Library of Victoria PA001408
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8...ALICE HENRY (1857 - 1943)
Alice Henry was a journalist, unionist and pacifist -
Alice Henry: '... because the mother can no longer oversee her own child all the time, the mothers of all the city should be able to do so. This they can do only through the vote and through their being placed in administrative positions in the legislature, on boards of schools, recreation parks, and as police women and matrons.' from Getting Equal, Marilyn Lake Allen & Unwin 1999 p61
Feminists describe her as -
Kathie Gleeson: 'One of Australia's most outspoken feminist battlers was Alice Henry. Born in 1857 in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond, Victoria, she developed a talent for writing whilst at school and did her first journalistic writing for the Melbourne Argus and its weekly, The Australian. Alice was a journalist who promoted trade unionism (particularly economic justice and working conditions for women and children), peace, women's suffrage, sex education for girls, equal pay, and other social reform.' from Vashti's Voice Summer 74/75, the Jo Phillips papers, Melbourne University
Diane Kirby: 'She took a stand against the Boer War, feeling: 'that war was cruel and that those who brought about wars were sinners' and called it 'something between a picnic, a battle and a fortune hunting expedition'. ' She argued for the need for powerful unions and a labour party as the expression of working-class aspirations coupled with women's rights to political, economic and personal independence'. She believed: ' ... our work is here, and we have to pursue it. Whatever will strengthen the labour movement, or the woman movement, goes to strengthen the world forces of peace. Let us hold fast to that. And conversely, whatever economic or ethical changes will help to ensure a permanent basis for world peace will grant to both the labour movement and the woman movement enlarged opportunity to come into their own'. p 53,2 Alice Henry The Power of Pen and Voice Diane Kirby, CUP
From websites - http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/AWE0086b.htm '(Alice) became a close friend and working associate of leading reformers (including) Vida Goldstein and her family. She was active in women's clubs and the women suffrage campaign, and gained a reputation as a courageous public speaker in support of social change.'
http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/pubs/pops/pop41/caine.pdf 'Alice was best known in the United States and was a good example of the sheer amount of productive work for the cause many suffragists achieved ... Suffragists went to, and were well known at, the United States, England, and elsewhere.'
Published Cambridge University Press 1991
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9...CONSTANCE STONE (1856 - 1902)
Constance Stone grew up wanting to do ' ... useful work in the world ...'
The following is from the 200 Australian Women website -
Monika Wells: 'She studied medicine overseas because, as a woman, she couldn't study it here. Returning, she founded the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital funded by the 'shilling fund' and to be run 'by women for women'. Dr Stone was the first woman to practice medicine in Australia. She was involved in the Vigilance Society, worked at Dr Singleton's clinic in Collingwood and; ... was involved in suffrage work, particularly in the Victorian Women's Franchise League and the United Council for Women's Suffrage; was elected to the committees of the Australian Health Society and the Melbourne Benevolent Asylum; and was associated with a number of social reform organisations including the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Young Women's Christian Association.' http://www.200australianwomen.com/names/054.htm
At a Women's Rally in Melbourne on 28/11/33 Alice Henry read: 'Dr Constance Stone, through her medical practice, had become aware of the numerous disabilities with which women had to contend with owing to having no voice in making laws which they must obey, and she joined with her friends in advocating equality of treatment. Her charming personality and her knowledge were the means of drawing many into the woman suffrage movement.'
Alice Henry: 'Extremely anxious that the poorest women and children should have the opportunity of being attended by women doctors, Dr Constance Stone had been receiving patients at Dr Singleton's Free Dispensary in Collingwood.' p 103 Marching Towards Citizenship in the Centenary Gift Book ed Frances Fraser and Nettie Palmer, pub The Women's Centenary Council Robertson & Mullens Ltd Melbourne 1934
Dr Singleton's Women's Night Shelter, Collingwood State Library of Victoria mp007588
Alice Henry: 'Dr Stone could practice because of her predecessors, Drs Freda Gamble, Janet Lindsay Greig and Jane Greig, who were received as residents in the Melbourne General Hospital in 1896. This appeared in the 'Oriel' April 25 1896 -
"If you'd been on the ramble / And broken your leg /
'Twill be fixed by Miss Gamble / Or set by Miss Greig.
If you're brought down a peg / (in a scuffle or scramble) /
Just creep to Miss Greig, / or else limp to Miss Gamble.' Memoirs of Alice Henry ed Nettie Palmer 1944 MelbourneState Library of Victoria
10..BESSIE HARRISON-LEE (1860-1950)
Bessie realised at a young age '... that a vote really meant power to express an opinion on the burning issues of the day where it would carry most weight and do most good.' In the Alliance Record 11 July 1891 (p171), Mrs Harrison Lee issued A Woman's Plea for the Suffrage and stated her reasons as to why women should be able to vote - "I am a woman working with all the classes and conditions, for the benefit of our people. And knowing now the feelings of a very large number of our women, I plead on their behalf for Womanhood Suffrage. WHY?
1st - Because it is their right.
2nd - because I feel assured they will use the privilege wisely and well.
3rd - Because they so intensely desire it.
They will use their power to advance public morality, to protect woman's kingdom - Home, to shield the weak, to denounce the wrong, and in every way uplift and ennoble the individual and the nation. They desire it because they are part of the nation, bound by its laws, taxed by its Government, responsible for its welfare. Allowed to share the burdens, yet not allowed the one privilege of voting. They desire it now because they are powerless to protect their homes or children. with the vote they would have a voice in making laws for their own and their family's defence. They desire it because it will place them where God placed them - side by side with woman's noble partner, man. A help-meet indeed."http://184.108.40.206/Petition/WCTU3.html
From her autobiography One of Australia's Daughters Temperance Publishing House, London
She was 'An ardent advocate for temperance and for 'voluntary motherhood', who described how she had come to oppose enforced maternity in her book Marriage and Heredity: I took these quotes from histories -
Patricia Grimshaw: 'My advice to those who cannot afford a family is not to have one. I believe that the woman who works and suffers for her children should have a right to say whether she will have little ones or no. And the man should be early taught that marriage is a better, nobler thing than he is accustomed to think it.' Double Time - Women in Victoria - 150 Years ed Marilyn Lake and Farley Kelly Penguin 1985
Bessie Harrison-Lee : 'The sufferings and patient endurance of numbers of women first forced the matter upon me. One in particular was the case of a woman I attended in a critical illness. Her constitution was utterly undermined with the burden and care of a large family. By the united skill of doctors and nurses she was brought back from the very brink of the grave; but the doctor warned her husband that her life would pay the forfeit of any indiscretion on his part. Three months later our bitter tears fell on the grave of that gentle woman, who had been as surely murdered as any other victim of men's passion.' p 161 Making a Life A People's History of Australia since 1788 ed. Verity Burgmann & Jenny Lee
Catherine McLennan: ... 'Bessie ... sign(ed) a resolution that -
"we do not cease to agitate until that right is allowed us of recording our votes in the interests of home and country, justice and purity." They Are But Women the road to female suffrage in Victoria University of Melbourne Dep History 2008
Operating Room at Melbourne Hospital with woman on table Melbourne 1891 State Library of Victoria mp007558
Many women active in movements such as the workers' movement or Aboriginal movement supported women's suffrage. In the book They are but Women: The road to female suffrage in Victoria, Brienne Callahan takes one street in Fitzroy and looks at the women in that street who signed the 'Monster' suffrage petition in 1891.
Brienne says: 'The Women of Davis Street - Common wisdom has it that women's suffrage was a middle-class movement, that it was a challenge taken on by those with the education and the means to turn their passions into political action. The names of Henrietta Dugdale, Bessie Lee, Vida Goldstein and the like grace the pages of many histories, including this one. Their sacrifices and achievements have warranted honoured places in Australian history.
But what about the other suffragists? Although Jessie Ferguson of 49 Davis Street may have ruled her roost ... she was not among the lofty names of the movement; she was the wife of a bootmaker. And in 1891... she lived in a five-room, rented house on a small North Carlton Street ... the tiny, one-block Davis Street boasted fifteen signatories to the "Monster Petition" (and) ... it was working-class women like Agnes, Eliza, Ellen, Helen, Sarah, Ada and Jessie who formed the basis of the ... petition. The women of Davis Street formed only a tiny proportion of the people that made women's suffrage a reality in Victoria.' They Are But Women the road to female suffrage in Victoria University of Melbourne Dep History 2008
49 Davis Street, Carlton, 2008
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Janice N Brownfoot : 'These suffragists aimed to "work with men side by side in every noble work". They saw that "the professions are opening" and hoped that soon marriage will not be the only market open to women. Women's Organisations and the Woman Movement in Victoria Doctorate Thesis Melbourne University May 1968.
By the turn of the century there was a strong, dedicated, active and mainly harmonious suffrage movement in Victoria, with enthusiastic suffragists working together for the cause.
In the next chapter we will see how they worked to win the vote.
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