Dora B. Montefiore, New Age July 1904

Women’s Interests

Political Women in Australia

Source: New Age, p. 460-461, 21 July 1904;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

The Nineteenth Century Review for the current month contains an article bearing the above title. The writer is Miss Vida Goldstein, of Victoria, one of the defeated women candidates for the Australian Federal Senate. The other women candidates for the Senate were Mrs. Martell and Mrs. Moore, of New South Wales, whilst Miss Selina Anderson ran for the House of Representatives of the same colony. There are some defeats which are greater than victories, as the Labour party, both here and elsewhere has proved over and over again for they are the educative and propagandist medium which secures in the end the full and. sweeping triumph. Vida Goldstein tells us how, “in spite of the opposition of the powerful dailies, and the prejudice that a pioneer always has to encounter,” she succeeded in polling 51,497 votes – the successful candidate polling 85,387. This is a most encouraging beginning, and one at which women all over the world will rejoice, for our movement is as international as is the Labour movement, and a victory scored, or an encouragement received by women in any country is recorded and rejoiced over by women all over the world. The recently-formed International Franchise Society, in which ten nationalities are pledged to fight for the political emancipation of women will strengthen and increase this Internationalism, whilst it will knit ever closer and firmer the bonds of sisterhood between women all over the world.

A Resonant Note in Vida Goldstein’s Article.

I desire to give the prominence it deserves to a vibrating note struck by Vida Goldstein in the article to which I am alluding: Let it be remembered that she, as it were, is voicing the thought and aspiration of the women of Victoria, for she was nominated as their candidate by the Women’s Federal Political Association of Victoria, of which she is President; and she accepted the call, believing in its educational value. She writes, therefore, with more reserve force at the back of her than would an ordinary writer of a political article, and she says: “That many women, not pledged supporters of the Labour party, voted for some, if not all, of the Labour candidates is strongly deprecated by the other rival parties. It would have been strange had they done otherwise, considering that it is primarily due to the Labour party that Woman Suffrage is such a live question in Australia. ... The Labour party, in each State, whether Protectionist or Free Trade, placed Woman Suffrage first; it fought hard for it in and out of Parliament; consequently, owing nothing to the other political parties, we are not likely to forget the party through which Woman Suffrage has been made a question of practical politics throughout Australia. .... I do not believe that Woman Suffrage will ever become a vital question in other countries until it is made a fighting plank of the Labour party’s platform.” Comment on my part is unnecessary, but I would beg Labour men and Labour women who desire to see Labour taking its fair share in the Legislative and Administrative Councils of England to inscribe upon the political tablets of their hearts the last paragraph of the quotation, and to remember, when they are speaking, writing, and propaganding, that the Labour party in Australia when at the same work “placed Woman Suffrage first”; and that it is now reaping its reward.

The American Woman Speaks.

I have told in a former article how that wonderful pioneer woman, Susan B. Anthony, travelled over at the age of 85 from America, to take part in the proceedings of the recent Berlin Congress. With her are the Reverent Anna Shaw and Mrs. Chapman Catt, both prominent and leading workers in the United States in the cause of women. They are now on a visit to England, and some of us had the privilege of hearing them speak last Saturday at a gathering held in the open air under the friendly shade of some trees in a garden on Campden Hill. “Aunt Susan’s” voice (a marvel of strength considering her age) rang out as clearly in the open air as it rang a few weeks back in Berlin, giving the same message of hope and encouragement and of sisterly love as it has been giving for the last sixty years. Mrs. Chapman Catt the President of the. newly-formed International Franchise Society, was as logical, as incisive and as luminous in her exposition of the world that lies before us as she was when telling her audiences at Berlin of the work that had been done, and of the way in which it had been done. When laying stress on the solidarity of interest between women of all countries, she pointed out that we had one and the same enemy to fight in every land, and that enemy was not Man but the accumulated tradition of every country, which tradition held that woman should take and keep a subordinate position, because Providence, or some other mysterious man-made Power, had so ordained it. “Let us not forget,” she continued, “that no woman will be really free until every woman is free.” And Miss Anna Shaw enlarged most nobly on this thought by adding in her speech “I venture to say that no man will be really free until every woman is freed; for nothing so destroys individual and national liberty so much as the traditional and conscious subjection of the liberty of others.” This is an answer to those who write and talk about the recent Congress at Berlin, and the Woman Suffrage Movement here and elsewhere, as being “a movement of ‘ladies,’ and not of women”; or who announce as their private opinion that “women are not subjects.” The woman movement is as deep down Democratic as any movement; is as far removed from “feminism” as the North Pole is removed from the South; and is rooted in the principle that “No man will be really free until all women are freed.”