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18 December 1894 Votes for Women


18 December 1894     Votes for Women

Women gained the right to vote in South Australia, on the eighth attempt, when the Constitution Amendment Act was passed on the 18 December 1894. By changing the word ‘man’ to ‘person’ in relation to both Houses of Parliament the franchise and the ability to stand for election to parliament were extended to women. This came after some years of effort by many women and men who believed that ‘it is the foundation of all political liberty that those who obey the law should have a voice in choosing those who make the law’. The main advocate for this legislation was the Women’s Suffrage League, which was strongly backed by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Among the men who supported the movement were Dr Edward Stirling, a university lecturer and Dr John Cockburn, Minister for Education. In June 1893 Charles Kingston became Premier. He had previously opposed proposals for women’s suffrage but finally gave in to his colleagues’ arguments, probably because he also saw an advantage for Labor in having women voters in city electorates, and in July the Attorney-General John Gordon introduced an unencumbered Bill to the Legislative Council. There were lengthy debates in both houses and many members spoke on the Bill, but eventually the supporters of women’s suffrage won out and the bill was passed. South Australia was the first Australian colony to grant this right and one of the first in the world.

Helen Jones, ‘South Australian women and politics’, in Dean Jaensch (Ed), The Flinders History of South Australia Political History, 1986, pp.414-48.

Tags: women's franchise