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21 February 1850 Elizabeth Webb Nicholls

 21 February 1850   Elizabeth Webb Nicholls

Elizabeth Webb, eldest daughter of Samuel Bakewell, a grocer, was born in Rundle Street on 21 February 1850. In August 1870 she married Alfred Nicholls, a warehouseman, and raised five children as well as two orphaned relatives. Both parents were devout Methodists and active in teaching Sunday School.

Elizabeth made her first public speaking debut at a Methodist women's conference in 1885. Inspired by the American temperance worker, Frances Willard, she became a founding member of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in 1886, and in 1891 was one of the first women admitted to the Temperance Alliance. She was president of the WCTU from 1889 to 1897 when she resigned because of the demands of her position as Australasian President from 1894-1903, but was State president again from 1898-1904. She attended conferences in Paris, London and Edinburgh in 1906.

Elizabeth was also involved in the women's suffrage movement which resulted in the granting of the vote to women in South Australia in 1894. From 1909 she was a member of the Women's Non-Party Political Association and was its president in 1911. Later she became vice-president of the League of Women Voters and in 1920 attended the 10th World Convention of the International Women's Suffrage Alliance at Geneva. 

She was a strong advocate of female appointments as jurors and Justices of the Peace, and, following legislation in 1915 allowing women to be JPs, she appeared often in the Children's Court in this capacity. She was also a member of the Adelaide Hospital Board from 1895-1922. Her major concern and interest was always the WCTU which had its greatest success in the referendum of 1915 which resulted in the closing of hotel bars at 6 p.m. After her husband died in 1920 she lived for years at Willard House, the headquarters of the WCTU. She died in North Adelaide on 3 August 1943.

Geoffrey Serle (ed), Australian Dictionary of Biography , Volume 11,
p. 22.

Tags: Nicholls Elizabeth Webb, , WCTU, Women's Non-Party Political Association

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