I stand for Motherhood, Australia, and a Hot Lunch for Orphans...

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: VIDA JANE MARY GOLDSTEIN (13 April 1869–15 August 1949) was an Australian suffragette and social reformer. She was one of four female candidates at the 1903 federal election, the first at which women were eligible to stand. Women were enfranchised under the Federal Electoral Act on 9 April 1902, becoming the first women of the world to win the right to vote for a national parliament – women in New Zealand won the right to vote in colonial elections in 1893 (that’s embarrassing – the kiwis beat us again) Could we share their prime minister please? (Photo of Vida Goldstein at or around the age of 35, circa 1905. P.D.)


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Edward Pulsford (NSW, Free Trade)

‘Both my heart and brain act together in antagonism to the principle of women's suffrage. I am not prepared to describe women's suffrage as a blessing. I would rather describe it as an attempt to throw a portion of the white man's burden upon the white woman. I do not think that the interests of the States or of the people will be promoted in any shape or form by the change which is suggested.’ Senate, 9 April 1902, p. 11464.

‘I believe that if we now decide to go in for womanhood suffrage it will tend to the vulgarization of women, and that none of us desires.’ Senate, 9 April 1902, p. 11466.

Thomas Glassey (Queensland, Protectionist Party)

‘Only yesterday I heard a woman say that she did not think it would be safe to confer this right on women, because very dire things were likely to follow. It is also alleged that women would be influenced by the clergy, by good-looking candidates, and by young men.’ Senate, 9 April 1902, p.11474.

‘Another reason which is sometimes advanced against women's suffrage is that women do not understand political questions. That argument presupposes that all men understand political questions.

‘The old argument has been used that the extension of the suffrage to women would take away their beauty and their charm, and cause them to neglect their domestic affairs. It has been said that it would be a shame to invite women to go to the polling booth, because sometimes there is a good deal of rowdyism there.’ Senate, 9 April 1902, p.11475.

For more ‘mansplaining’ about what is wrong with women having the vote, go to


‘In 1902, the newly federated Commonwealth of Australia led the world by its provision for women to vote and to stand for election to the Commonwealth Parliament on a universal and equal basis with men.

That year, VIDA GOLDSTEIN, an Australian suffragist, was the Australian and New Zealand delegate to the International Women's Suffrage Conference in Washington. Carrie Catt, the President of the American Suffrage League, with the disarming frankness of the Americans, told Vida that Americans associated Australia with being ‘the abode of strange beasts and barbarians’. Catt thought it remarkable that this exotic land should have supplied a delegate who was so up to date and fully cognisant of the rights of her sex.

Such was the novelty of Australia's treatment of women that Vida Goldstein was fêted as something of a celebrity throughout her trip to the United States. Before leaving, she had an audience in the Oval Office with President Theodore Roosevelt who told her that Australia's experiment in equality was ‘a great object lesson.’

Within a few years, Vida Goldstein, like fellow pioneering feminist, Rose Scott, had come to see the vote as, if not a hollow victory, certainly a victory that was far from securing women equality with men.

Their economic dependence, exclusion from public office and subjugation by a double-standard in matters of sexual morality put women well behind the eight ball. The laws that perpetuated this inequality were largely those enacted by State legislatures and, while women could stand for election to the Commonwealth Parliament, they were ineligible to be returned to either house of the New South Wales Parliament.’

Excerpt from ‘By the Skin of Our Teeth – The Passing of the Women’s Legal Status Act 1918’ – the Francis Forbes Lecture given on 30 May 2018 by Virginia Bell AC.


EMMA MILLER (1839–1917), seamstress, early member of the trade union movement, suffragette: president of Women’s Equal Franchise Association, president of the Women Workers Political Union, and pacifist, was born on 26 June 1839 at Chesterfield, Debyshire, England. At the age of 18 she eloped with a bookkeeper and they had four children whom she was eventually forced to support in Manchester by sewing twelve hours a day for six days a week.

After her husband died Emma married again, and with her children the couple migrated to Brisbane, arriving in March 1879. Not one to give up, there was yet a third marriage, this time to widower Andrew Miller at the Brisbane Registry Office on 21 October 1886.

Emma worked as a shirtmaker, and in 1890 she helped to form a female workers' Union, mainly comprised of tailoresses. In 1891 she gave evidence to the royal commission into shops, factories and workshops and marched with shearers' strike prisoners when they were released. She was not universally popular and was a perpetual thorn in the side of the establishment.

On the day later known as 'Black Friday' of the1912 strike, Mrs Miller led a large contingent of women to Parliament House through Brisbane Streets to support striking tram workers. They were confronted by armed police but, at the age of 72, she braved the batons of foot and mounted police, who repeatedly tried to run the protestors down.

At the height of the riot, Emma reputedly stuck a hatpin into the horse of Police Commissioner Cahill, who was thrown from his horse and injured (rumour had it that it was not the horse she stabbed with a hatpin – but either way, the Commissioner walked with a limp for the rest of his life). Emma walked away unhurt. The Worker newspaper of 12 February 1912 condemned the behaviour of the police who were accused of brutality in dealing with the workers’ protests.

Emma Miller’s steadfast position as a Labor agitator earned her the titles of 'Mother Miller' and 'the grand old labor woman of Queensland'. She believed that the basis of the labour movement was industrial and stressed that it was of equal importance to women and men.

When she died at Toowoomba on 22 January 1917, survived by one son, the flag on the Brisbane Trades Hall flew at half mast and the Australian Meat Employees' Union conference was adjourned. Emma was buried at Toowong cemetery.

On 25 January 1917, The Worker newspaper described Emma Miller thusly: ‘She was only a little handful – so frail in body – but she had the courage of a lion and her energy was marvellous… Her keen intellect, her magnetic personality and above all her wonderful devotion to the cause were a continual source of inspiration … as a champion of the rights of women she was without equal…’

On 22 October 1922 a publicly funded marble bust of her was unveiled in the Trades Hall. For more about this remarkable woman, visit the website at


MARGARET OGG (1863–1953), affectionately known as the ‘Old Battle Axe’, was a journalist and a leader in the suffrage campaign in Queensland, where she also aligned herself with temperance reform.

Born in Brisbane in 1863, the fifth of ten children of a Presbyterian minister and his wife, she joined the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and served as its missions' superintendent, with a special concern for seamen; as an outcome, she founded the Brisbane Mission to Seamen as a separate organisation.

Ogg worked as the sub-editor of the Presbyterian Austral Star and became an advocate for the suffrage. In her reminiscences she recounted how she travelled around the outback on speaking tours on the suffrage. If refused the use of the public halls, she would speak outside them standing on the top of her sulky, persisting despite being told by a heckler to 'go home and cook your husband's dinner.'

In 1903 following the federal franchise she became secretary of the Queensland Women's Electoral League, a position she held for 30 years; politically she maintained an anti-socialist stance.

After the vote passed in Queensland in 1905 she fought for many causes, including for legislation to raise the age of consent and to ensure widows' entitlement to a share of their husbands' estate. Her biographer details the many causes which owed much to Ogg's energetic activism: the Women's Progressive Club, the National Council of Women, the Lyceum Club (Brisbane), the women's central committee of the Queensland Deaf and Dumb Mission, and the Queensland Bush Book Club.

In these various arenas Ogg served in positions (often inaugural) as secretary or president in an honorary capacity. She remained an active citizen in many areas until her death on 19 May 1953 at Clayfield in Brisbane. A memorial fund to assist women to enter politics was set up in her honour.


In 1984, the Sex Discrimination Act came into force, making sex discrimination and sexual harassment across various parts of public life against the law. The Act, which gives effect to Australia’s international human rights obligations, has played an important role in changing community attitudes and helping advance gender equality in this country.

Despite this progress, women and girls continue to experience inequality and discrimination in many important parts of their lives, which can limit the choices and opportunities available to them. Go to to download the Australian Human Rights Commission report: Download PDF or Download in Word.


FROM ABC NEWS, 6 MARCH 2018: ‘Less than a third of Australian working women feel they are being treated equally, and one in 10 believe they have experienced sexual harassment, according to a landmark national survey.

Researchers at the University of Sydney surveyed more than 2,000 women and 500 men across Australia aged between 16 and 40 for the Women and the Future of Work study into women's attitudes and experiences in the workplace.

The study found just 31 per cent of women surveyed believed men and women were treated equally at work, while 50 per cent of men felt there was equality in the workplace.

When asked about gender inequality in the workplace, one Brisbane-based respondent said: ‘I went and had a meeting with a GP the other day. And as I was walking out, he just said to one of the other doctors, “Oh gosh, she is a tasty little bitch isn't she?” I did feel disrespected by it because I don't think you talk about male colleagues that way.’

A woman in the legal profession in Sydney detailed her experience: ‘I think a lot of people like to pretend they have equality within the legal industry and I think there certainly isn't. I've had experiences at a very basic level where a magistrate said to me, “Prove to me you're more than blonde hair and blue eyes”.’

Read more of Brooke Wylie’s report on



INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: They were as mad as hell, and they weren’t going to take it any more. The women of the 1960s carried the banner for equal rights and equal pay, supported by a very few men. How has that worked out? In 2018, the Australian Human Rights Commission reported that women and girls make up just over half (50.7 per cent) of the Australian population. While women comprise roughly 47 per cent of all employees in Australia, they take home on average $251.20 less than men each week (full-time adult ordinary earnings). The national gender ‘pay gap’ is 15.3 per cent and it has remained stuck between 15 per cent and 19 per cent for the past two decades. Australian women account for 68% of primary carers for older people and people with disability. 95% of primary parental leave (outside of the public-sector) is taken by women, and women spend almost three times as much time taking care of children each day compared to men. In 2017, Australia was ranked 35th on a global index measuring gender equality, slipping from a high point of 15th in 2006. While Australia scores very highly in the area of educational attainment, there is still a lot of progress to be made in the areas of economic participation and opportunity and political empowerment. Did you hear that, Scott Morrison? (From FACE THE FACTS – GENDER EQUALITY 2018: The Australian Human Rights Commission. For more information on the progress of women (or not), go to the website at