10 Questions About Women’s History

To end Women’s History Month I thought it might be fun to have a Women’s History quiz. Good luck with these! Answers to come.

  1. What does the acronym WRANS stand for?
  2. How many children did Queen Victoria have?
  3. The 2017 Battle of the Sexes movie is based on the 1973 tennis match between which two tennis players?
  4. Which country had the first democratically elected female president?
  5. What were the colours of the suffragette movement?
  6. In which city was the Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory fire?
  7. What was the first country to grant national voting rights to women?
  8. In what decade did the Anglican Church of Australia approve legislation allowing for women to be ordained into the priesthood?
  9. In 1984 Joan Benoit became the first gold medallist in which Olympic event?
  10. In what year were Australian indigenous women (and men) granted national voting rights?


download (3)

Bible study group at a Melbourne Church of England, about 1915 to 1918


Women’s history, suffragettes near and far

Centenary of the Representation of the People Act

This year is a special year in Women’s history. The 6 February 2018 was the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, the change in the law that gave some women in the United Kingdom (UK) the right to vote for the first time.

The Representation of the People Act gave the vote to women over 30 who owned property or were graduates voting in a university constituency. It also gave the vote to more men — their voting age was lowered to 21 and the property qualification was abolished. Women would get the same voting rights as men, ten years later in 1928 with the passage of the The Equal Franchise Act.

British women’s right to vote came after a bitter struggle between activists and authorities. The suffragette movement ran a radical and militant campaign that included property damage, hunger striking and the death of Emily Davison at the 1913 Epsom Derby. Authorities responded with surveillance, imprisonment and force-feeding. The film Suffragette is worth watching if you want to start understanding the suffragette cause.

If  you are interested in finding out more here are some resources:

Women’s history at the National Library of Australia

In 1902 Australia became the first country in the world to give most women the right to vote and the right to stand for election to a national parliament. Indigenous women and men would not be provided with national voting rights until 1962.

Having secured the right to vote in Australia for most women, Australian female activists used their success to support women in the UK and the United States to get the right to vote. If you want to know more about this a really interesting essay to read is Birth of a Nation? by Clare Wright.

Bessie Rischbieth was one of these women. In London, in 1913, during the height of the suffragette movement, she found their cause deeply inspiring. This would drive her own campaigns for women’s rights in Australia. Bessie also built up a large collection of suffragette items that were bequeathed to the National Library of Australia (NLA). Deeds Not Words is an NLA exhibition based on Bessie’s collection. It opened on the 6 February and ends on the 19 August 2018. I am really looking forward to seeing this.

Muriel Matters

Muriel Matters was an Australian woman who joined the suffragette cause in a big way. Her commitment included in 1908 chaining herself to an iron grille in the ladies’ gallery of the House of Commons, which resulted in a month’s imprisonment in Holloway Prison; and in 1909 flying over London in an airship inscribed ‘Votes for Women’ and scattering handbills over the city.

Here are some resources about Muriel Matters if you want to know more:

If you are interested in the suffragette movement I hope this information helps you do some further exploring. I think there are some really fascinating stories to discover here.


download (2)

Muriel Matters in prison dress


The power of thought is a heavy curse

I am afflicted with the power of thought, which is a heavy curse. The less a person thinks and inquires regarding the why and the wherefore and the justice of things, when dragging along through life, the happier it is for him, and doubly, trebly so, for her.
— Miles Franklin

Agree or disagree?


download (1)

Miles Franklin, possibly 1900


Women in the Australian Dictionary of Biography

This month, Women’s History Month, I have been looking into what resources are available if you want to find out more about Australian history from a women’s history point of view.

One resource to remember is People Australia. This contains stand-alone biographies. It also searches (and will show results for) all of the National Centre of Biography’s biographical websites Australian Dictionary of Biography, Obituaries Australia, Women Australia, Indigenous Australia and Labour Australia.

The National Centre of Biography recommends that you start your search with People Australia as it will search all the biographical websites. If you search on one of the other biographical websites, for example the Australian Dictionary of Biography, it will only search within its own database.

History, this time its personal! explained how you can use the faceted browse in these biographical websites to unearth some different Australian history perspectives. This function is also useful to survey particular groups, such as women, included in the biographical websites.

As covered in History, where are the women? gender imbalance is an issue with these biographical websites. The National Centre of Biography is planning to address this by expanding the Australian Dictionary of Biography with 1,500 entries covering women of Colonial Australia. The first step for this work is compiling a list of possible candidates for inclusion. If you have a nomination for this list you can provide it to the National Centre of Biography advisory group for consideration. Read here if this is of interest.

Do you have a nomination for the Australian Dictionary of Biography? Do you know of a woman who lived in colonial Australia who should be documented in the Australian Dictionary of Biography? It would be great if you had a nomination in Women’s History Month.


Three sisters, 1896



More Australian women’s history resources

The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) promotes the achievements of women through the Women’s Archives Project and raises the awareness of women’s history in schools through the National History Challenge.

The Women’s Archives Project is a collaboration between staff from the NFAW and the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies and eScholarship Research Centre at the University of Melbourne.

The Australian Women’s Register is the centrepiece of the Women’s Archives Project. Starting in 2000, the Register has grown into a valuable, searchable-on-line source of biographical information about Australian women and their organisations. Entries include hyper-links to archival repositories and libraries where records are held and to other sources of information.

You can find on the Register 6646 entries with references to 3764 archival resources, 8230 published resources and 1213 digital resources. Here are some examples of the digital exhibitions — to give you a feel for what you can find on the Australian Women’s Register:

Happy exploring!

download (45)

Group of women study, 1910-1930