Alliance Record 30 May 1891 page 130

Womanhood Suffrage Meeting

Part of the W.C.T.U. conference 1891

In the evening a public meeting on womanhood suffrage was held in the Lecture Hall of the Baptist Church, which was well filled. Mrs. Brentnall (Queensland) presided, and was supported by Mrs. Lake, Mrs. Bussell, Mrs. Roberts, Mrs. Henderson and Mrs. Wright (South Australia), Mrs. Pottie and Mrs. Bowes (N.S.W.), Mrs. Nolan, Mr. Williams (Queensland), Mrs. Love, Mrs. Lee, Mrs. Kirk, Victoria.

The Hymn, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus” having been sung, Mrs. Bowes and Mrs. Love engaged in prayer, after which the president said she thought the time had come when the women should have the right of franchise. She felt very strongly on this question, and hoped soon to see the time when by their votes they would be able to grasp the serpent of intemperance by the throat and kill it. They wanted the vote in the interest of Temperance.

Mrs. Lake said she was thankful to be there that evening, for when coming to this colony from South Australia the delegates knew they were coming into a country where, to a certain extent, the women assisted the men. They received their idea of equal suffrage from the Bible; if they had not, they knew it could not have been got from any other source. There were unlearned and ignorant people who said they were running against the Bible; but that was not true. The great verdict was, “It is not good for man to be alone.” It was well known that when man was alone he was a poor, miserable, creature. (Laughter.) He ran into mischief, and was not capable of taking care of himself. (Laughter.) Politically he had a larger family life than was allowed women. The drink traffic was an abomination, a curse, and a defilement to all with whom it came into contact. It would never have been that if the woman had any power to stop it. Men had dominion and were sitting on a great throne; they had power over the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field, and they gave a woman a three-penny bit when they saw she wanted a shilling. (Laughter). Some gentlemen said they did not want equal rights, but in her opinion they did. In South Australia their Legislatures knew they wanted it. They assailed Parliament with petitions, and the result was a Bill, having for its object the extension of the franchise to women, was carried triumphantly through the Lower House, but was lost by one vote in the Upper, and that was only due to a few members on their side being absent. It was lost by the skin of its teeth, but they would have the skin with it next time. (Laughter.) Womanhood, wherever they were, sought after that privilege, and they would have it. Then, again, men said they had no brains. It would be very sad, if true: but she had a great deal to learn if all men who voted distinguished themselves for their brains. When woman is able to record her vote, it will be found that she has brains. Women, men said, had no right to the ballot-box and they would not fight in order to gain their wish, but they would have it for all that. It was not their desire to scratch a man’s eyes out, but they should settle the difficulty by using their reason and tongue in the right direction. Two of the departments of the W.C.T.U. were Peace and Arbitration, and they believed in the federation of the whole world. They held war to be brutal, and a curse, and the time was coming, helped by their Union, when there would be no fighting. The sterner sex also stated they had no right to meddle with politics. Why should not they? They were taxed when they had money, and taxation without representation was tyranny; therefore they had a right to the ballot-box. It was said that women did not know anything and were ignorant; but she was perfectly acquainted with the leaders of women throughout the world who were working for that great movement. There were no nobler people than those anywhere. Again it was said, if women had the suffrage they would neglect their duties. Then have the gentlemen no other duties, or do they neglect them all for the ballot? They said women would unsex themselves, but she wished to state that men were not so anxious for that to be avoided as women were themselves. The heart of womanhood was true, and they wanted to run in the line God designed for them. They were able to exercise their own judgment, but there were some people who thought they could not act except in imitation of men. The men seemed to think they would go to the ballot-room, and perch on the fences with a dirty black pipe in their mouths – (laughter) – but she wished to say they would not use their vote in that way, but simply as women and ladies. They did not want to get into Parliament as it was said they did, but at the same time she was of the opinion that many of the debates indulged in might be improved upon. There was a good deal of spurious sentiment and twaddle spoken in the House and outside; but it seemed to her that women had all the argument on their side, as they had the people. Give them the franchise and they would use it for God, home, morality, and humanity, in every respect and particular. (Applause). It was only the empty-headed and vicious men who were afraid of their influence; but the honorable and pure were in favour of them. If they had any influence there would not be any drunkards or vicious men. There would be such an improvement and revolution under those conditions as had never been known before. If the member of the legislature in these times were to take his Bible into his house as well as his Hansard, he would be greeted with ridicule and derision, but men would do that yet, sent to the Parliament by the suffrages of the women.

After a selection by the Collins-street Baptist Church Brass Band

The Rev D. O’Donnell stated that if he had never believed in women’s suffrage before he would have been convinced that afternoon when hearing the speeches that were delivered at their convention. In the whole of his experience he had never seen business conducted better than it was there, and that showed that they were capable of doing more than they were generally considered able to do. He mentioned the cases of three men whom he had seen that afternoon with bleared eyes and reeling gait. These had votes, and could stand for parliament, and if they were able to command sufficient votes would be returned as law- makers, while competent and capable women were unable to vote for good men. They should extend to women the long – sought privilege. He knew there had been a very great deal of fear and misgiving over the possible results that might follow from admitting ladies into certain walks of society, but at present they rejoiced to know that the Melbourne University Council had allowed women to graduate in that institution, and they always occupied that position or any other in life, with the utmost dignity and honor. Take for instance a young lady who was born in Victoria, and reared in South Australia, passed through the university there, was sent to England, and went right through the medical course, leaving the men far behind in her cleverness and brilliancy. Such a women as the late Miss Knight was a credit to her sex, and if she had had the right of franchise she would have used it to the best advantage, and longer to deprive women of the ballot was more than a wrong, it was a crime. He thought those ladies who had assembled there should be particularly careful how they spoke of man, as by abusing him they put weapons in the hands of the foe. (Laughter) All men who opposed the granting of the suffrage were not vicious. They needed converting, just as he could find ladies by the score who were very dense upon the subject He would ask was it right that while denying the suffrage to woman, men in this colony should seek the assistance of women in getting returned to Parliament; and it was not only here, but in England, where the Primrose League was doing such a work in that direction. Even Mrs Gladstone, he had heard, used her influence in obtaining seats for her party. It was said that woman’s sphere was her home, and who was it that said that? The Editor of the Brewer’s Gazette, yet why did they advertise for barmaids? Woman loved her sphere, the home; but when there were wrongs to be righted she should be enabled to do her duty. The strength of a nation was not in its fiscal policy, the beauties of its land; nor the brilliancy and genius of its Legislatures, but in its domestic happiness and the purity of its firesides. That was how England was so great to-day. It was urged that it would be dangerous to give all women the right to vote, as the pure, noble-minded and virtuous women would not go and records their votes, thus leaving it to the depraved and fallen women. This was an insult to the sex. He was aweary of all this cant. Let them get above fallen women and talk of fallen men. If it were wrong for the former to vote, let no man whose life was impure be allowed to record his vote. There would not be so many fallen women were it not for the blandishments of men. That movement would open a brilliant vista and would soon become one of the great questions of the hour. The women of Wisconsin and the Isle of Man were able to cast the ballot, and they were different to our sisters and wives? Not many hours since millions had sung “God Save the Queen,” who for 54 years had sat under the fierce light that beat upon a throne, with honor to herself and the nation and while we deny woman the suffrage we commit the affairs of the colony to her. They must press and work on, and as sure as the day would dawn tomorrow, their purpose would be accomplished. (Applause)

Mrs Harrison Lee also spoke, and it was thought it was a woman’s duty to try and keep the children from the streets. Intemperance put them there, and that was why they desired to have a vote. They wished to save their enslaved brethren. That women might be equal to man, she was taken from between his ribs and under his arms so that he might defend her, and from next his heart that he might love her. It was their aim to stand side by side with mankind, and gain their assistance in the great work for which they were striving.

Mrs Pottie (New South Wales) considered it was remarkable to note the progress which women are making all over the world. There were hundreds of women who would be able to give their votes in a good cause, and so overcome many of the evils that were prevalent now. At present they were put in the same position as anyone who was insane, and she could not think why they were not allowed the franchise.

After another hymn and prayer the proceedings terminated.