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Signatures on Page One

first six signatures

Six signatures were pasted beneath the preamble on to the front page of the petiton when it was assembled in a roll to present to the parliament. Information about five of the ladies is provided below.

Mrs William McLean

Margaret Arnot was born on 7 April 1845 in Scotland. Her family migrated to Australia and settled in East Melbourne. Margaret became a school teacher teaching at a number of schools until she married William McLean in 1869. Margaret and William both became active members of the Collins Street Baptist Church.

Margaret's father was treasurer of the Melbourne Total Abstinence Society and Magaret also became actively involved in temperance organisations. Margaret was a founding member of the WCTU in Victoria and was president of the Melbourne branch. In 1891 she was acting president of the WCTU and was president 1892-1893 and 1899-1907.

Margaret was actively involved in the woman suffrage campaigns writing two of the pamphlets used to explain the cause, Womanhood Suffrage and More About Womanhood Suffrage and helped organise the Woman's Petition in 1891.

Margaret's huband, William was a businessman running a succesful hardware empire until the economic depression of the 1890s. They had eleven children. Margaret died on 14 February 1923 and was buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery.




Further information

McLean, Margaret (1845 - 1923) - article from Australian Dictionary of Biography online edition
McLean, William (1845 - 1905) - article from Australian Dictionary of Biography online edition

Mrs James Munro

Jane Macdonald was born in Scotland c1833. In 1853 she married James Munro, a printer. In 1858 the Munro opened the Victorian Permanent Investment Company and became a successful businessman until the economic depresion of the 1890s. The family lived in Armadale for a time and then in Toorak.They were members of the Presbyterian Church.

James joined the total abstinence movement in Scotland and in Melbourne continued his involvement in temperance groups including the Melbourne Total Abstinence Society and the Permissive Bill Association which became the victorian Alliance. Margaret supported his interest in the temperance cause.

James became a member of parliament and in 1891 was Premier of Victoria. He received the deputation on woman suffrage in May 1891 and suggested that the women should demonstrate that women wanted the vote. In September 1891 he presented the subsequent Woman's Petiton to the Legislative Assembly.

Jane and James had eight children. Jane died in 1904 and was buried at St Kilda Cemetery

Further information

Munro, James (1832 - 1908) - article from Australian Dictionary of Biography online edition




Marie E Kirk

Maria Elizabeth Sutton was born in London in 1855. In 1878 Marie married Frank Kirk an ironmonger who later became a bootmaker. Marie was a Quaker and worked as a missionary in the slums of London. She was an active member of the British Temperance Union and in 1886 attended a meeting in Toronto, Canada, to organise the World Woman's Christian Union. The Kirks migrated to Australia in 1886 and lived in Warragul before settling in Camberwell in 1888.

Marie Kirk was one of the founders of the WCTU of Victoria in 1887. Marie was secretary of the WCTU from 1888 to 1913 and was the first editor of the WCTU publication, The White Ribbon Signal, first published in 1892. She was also secretary of the WCTU of Australia.

Marie was instrumental in the co-ordination of the collection of signatures for the for the Woman's Petition in 1891 and in 1894 continued her involvement in the suffrage movement as one of the founders of the Victorian Women's Suffrage League in 1894.

The need for kindergartens in Melburne was another concern and in 1909 she founded the WCTU Kindergarten in Jesse Street, Richmond, later named the Marie E Kirk Kindergarten.

Marie Kirk died on 14 January 1928 and was buried at Box Hill Cemetery

Further information

Kirk, Maria Elizabeth (1855? - 1928) - article from Australian Dictionary of Biography online edition
Kirk, Maria (Marie) Elizabeth (1855 - 1928) Australian Women
A tribute to influential Australian Christians - Maria Elizabeth Kirk. - Australian Christian Lobby - Voice for Values




Margaret Higinbotham

On 30 September 1854 Margaret Foreman married George Higinbotham, a lawyer and journalist who had migrated to Australia from Ireland earlier that year. In 1856 George became editor of the Argus newspaper, a position he held for three years. He returned to work as a barrister and then in May 1861 was elected to parliament for the seat of Brighton. One of his platforms was universal suffrage. He resigned from politics in the 1870s and returned to the law. In 1880 he became a Supreme Court Judge and in 1886 became Chief Justice.

Margaret and George has two sons and three daughters. George Higinbotham died on 31 December 1892. He was buried at Brighton Cemetery.

Further information

Higinbotham, George (1826-1892) Dictionary of Australian Biography - Percival Searle
Higinbotham, George (1826 - 1892) - article from Australian Dictionary of Biography online edition




Bessie Lee (Mrs Harrison Lee)

Betsy Vickery was born at Daylesford in Victoria on 10 June 1860. Bessie had no formal education but became an avid reader. In 1880 she married Harrison Lee, a shiftworker with the railways. The Lees lived in Richmond. Harrison Lee did not approve with his wife's concern for the depressed in the community.

In 1883 Bessie began a career as a public speaker. A pioneer member of the WCTU of Victoria Jessie resigned from the WCTU Executive to work for the Victorian Alliance from 1890 to 1896. Speaking at meetings, taking pledges writing articles for the daily press and temperance publications, Bessie travelled throughout the country promoting the temperance message and became known as the 'Queen of Temperance'. Financially she survived with support from temperance supporters.

Harrison Lee died in 1908 and later that year Bessie married Andrew Cowie on the understanding that she could continue her work with the temperance movement throughout the world.

Bessie Cowie died in the United States of America on 18 April 1850.

Further information

Lee, Betsy (Bessie) (1860 - 1950) - article from Australian Dictionary of Biography online edition

One of Australia's Daughters: an autobiography by Mrs Harrison Lee. London: Ideal Publishing Union, 1900.




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