Suffrage 125

The Centre of Democracy is marking 125 years of women’s suffrage in the State by coordinating a series of programs and events throughout 2019.

In December 1894, after decades of activism, legislation was passed in South Australia making South Australia’s colonial parliament the first one in Australia to extend to women, including Aboriginal women, the right to vote and stand for election. This decision later helped to secure votes for women after the Australian colonies federated.

We will be exploring the history, the legacy, and the contemporary relevance of Suffrage 125 through public talks, family activities, exhibitions, online activities, and more.

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Follow the hashtag #Suffrage125 on our Facebook @CentreofDemocracy and Twitter @CentreDemocracy pages too.

The Office for Women are putting together a great program of events to celebrate this history. Find out more here.

Resources created by Centre of Democracy

Women In South Australia is our History Pin collection of significant sites identified because of their relation to women and women’s history in SA. The initial list of sites was collated and suggested by Social Museum, a Facebook Group dedicated to exploring issues of women’s citizenship as part of the Suffrage 125 anniversary. You can add new entries, edit and add to others too – help us create a uniquely South Australian historical resource.

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Search the Women’s Suffrage Petition (1894)

In 1894 a mammoth petition was presented to South Australian Parliament advocating for the right for women to vote. Search the petition and discover who signed their name to this important document.


Current and upcoming Suffrage 125 events & programs

Suffrage 125 Blog

Against her better judgement?

On 18 December 1894 the South Australian Parliament passed the Adult Suffrage Bill which granted women the right to vote and to stand for election. Since this required a change to the Constitution of the Parliament of South Australia, royal assent was required. The Bill was enacted two months after...

Guest post

Representing Women’s Suffrage Activism and Legal Change Across Literary Form

  Suffrage activism by women in South Australia took place in a global discussion about women’s rights that was legal, political, and cultural.[1] In this post I want to consider two novels, Anno Domini 2000; or, Woman’s Destiny,[2] by Julius Vogel, and Nellie McClung’s Purple Springs [3] These works examine...

Suffrage 125: The Great Miscalculation (or how South Australian women gained the right to stand for Parliament)

  Women’s suffrage was raised in seven separate (unsuccessful) Bills in the South Australian Parliament between 1886 and 1894. During this time, public meetings, lectures, letters to the press, deputations and petitions punctuated public life and slowly turned the tide of public and parliamentary opinion. A driving force behind the...

Resisting the Triumph of Women’s Rights – Anti-Suffrage Anti-Utopias

Suffrage 125: Resisting The Triumph of Women’s Rights – Anti-Suffrage Anti-Utopias**   Utopian fiction of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries became one literary space in which writers interested in social reform, including women’s suffrage and broader gender equality, found an outlet for imagining what a different world might look...

Guest post

Imagining utopia in Catherine Helen Spence’s ‘A Week in the Future’

In her introduction to the Griffith Review volume “State of Hope”, Julianne Schultz writes of South Australia as “born of reform”,[1] and with “hope in its DNA”.[2] While Schultz notes an equally prominent history of conservatism and complacency, her characterisation of South Australia as reformist is one that echoes with...

Suffrage 125: The Petition

What is a petition? In a democracy a petition is a call to action. Petitions and petitioning were core strategies for the women’s suffrage movement in South Australia. The South Australian Parliament explains that “Petitioning Parliament is a long established fundamental right of all citizens. It allows any individual or...

Suffrage 125: No voice in parliament

Imagine campaigning for legislative change without a representative voice in parliament. Can you grasp the challenges? During the campaign for women’s suffrage in South Australia women had no voice in parliament. The political rights afforded to men, and not to women, were what the Women’s Suffrage League and others were...

Suffrage 125: The First Executive

Last month we learned about the formation and role of the Women’s Suffrage League, but who were the key players? This month we explore the lives of a few key individuals from the Women’s Suffrage League, specifically those who were part of the first executive committee – that is the...

Suffrage 125: Women’s Suffrage League

When resistance occurs citizens in a democracy organise to effect change. When Dr Edward Stirling  advocated the extension of the franchise to women, the House of Assembly passed his motion affirming the desirability of recognising women’s political rights; but when the Bill was introduced to give effect to the motion,...

Suffrage 125 Objects

Treasures from a range of collections are on display in the Centre of Democracy.

View the objects