Votes for Women

What was the political and social background?

Read Australia's Democracy pages 74–91.

  • In the last years of the 19th century there was a strong commitment to the concept of democracy, yet half the adult population was excluded from participating in the democratic process. How do you explain this contradiction?
  • Several factors that would influence the movement for a more genuine democracy emerged in the Colonies in the 1880s. What were some of these factors? Were they distinctively Australian?
  • What were some examples of this more democratic society in the 1880s and 1890s?
  • Against this background, can you understand why the movement for women's votes also emerged at this time? Explain the possible links between the movement for payment of members, the emergence of the Labor Party and the movement for women's votes.

Design a poster

Imagine you are a supporter of votes for women and you read the words of Edward O'Sullivan (p 76) and the manifesto of the Socialist League (p 88).

  • What messages could you take for your campaign?
  • Design a poster that uses some of the actual words in each document (as well as illustrations and words of your own) to support the women's cause.

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