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Votes for Women

What obstacles did women face?

Read Australia's Democracy pages 91–4 and 98–9. You should be able to see that a great many external issues affected the views that people held, for and against women's suffrage. Very few campaigners (male or female) thought about the issue solely as a democratic right.

  • Make one list of some of the changes that women hoped to achieve through gaining the vote, and another list of the fears that some men held about extending the franchise to women. In addition to the pages of Australia's Democracy, you may also refer to Sources 1 to 4.
  • Read the speech of Henry Wrixon to the Victorian Legislative Council (p 93). Explain the assumptions that he makes in this speech. Do you accept the argument that he is offering? What other possible motive might he have for opposing votes for women?
  • Explain the connection between the nature of the legislative councils in each Colony/State and the passing of women's suffrage legislation.

In 1894 in South Australia, women gained the right to vote and the right to sit in Parliament; in 1901 under the federal Constitution, women could only vote if they already had the vote in their own States. Read page 98 and pages 106–7 and comment on what these decisions tell us about the ways in which the issue of women's suffrage was viewed.

Construct a timeline

Read pages 98–9 and construct a timeline of the achievement of votes for women in the Australian Colonies/States.

Introduction | When did the struggle begin? | What was the political and social background? | What obstacles did women face? | What were the links between the suffrage and the temperance movements? | How and when did women achieve participation in the political process? | Assessment tasks and Additional resources