Articles, Blog

UP & DOING! A Re-enactment of the 1894 Suffrage Debates: Act II – The House of Assembly

February 14, 2020


“Votes for women!” they cried, “for
our future, our lives “And no tax without representation” Although the Bill has its first reading in
the House of Assembly that same day, it is over two months before the second reading
debate commences in November. It is impossible to predict how some of the
Members will vote. Edward Hawker is worth watching. His father, George, presented the
petition in favour of votes for women, and is a staunch supporter. Edward, however, is
more conservative and almost always votes against Kingston’s policies. But he supported
the second reading of last year’s suffrage Bill, and even argued that if women could
vote they should also be allowed to sit. He voted against the third reading, but only,
he said, because it included a referendum. The hardest to predict is Sir John Downer.
He opposes much of Kingston’s legislation but has always advocated for women’s suffrage. On the day the second reading debate begins,
George Riddoch presents a petition signed by 2,000 women against women’s suffrage. Honourable members, Mr Speaker. The Minister of Education, Mr Speaker, it is now over 10 years since
this measure first came before the House. Upon this question there is no doubt even
in the minds of opponents as to what the settlement of this question must eventually be. The only
point is as to how long it should be delayed. The time is undoubtedly right for this great
reform, and women should no longer be denied the privilege sought. Wherever the suffrage has been granted it
has proved to be beneficial. In Wyoming it has been tried for a quarter of a century,
and generally has been most beneficial. Then let us look at New Zealand, which has recently
granted the franchise to women. The election was a very interesting one. Female voters
were in no way molested, and canvassing was carried on by the female electors with considerable
energy in many places. The results which have been gained in New Zealand should encourage
us to adopt the system here. Mr Speaker, we have had various petitions
before us for and against the Bill. The largest was that presented by the Honourable G. C.
Hawker, which has 11,000 signatures, and is in favour of the suffrage. Most of the petitions
on the other side have comparatively fewer signatories, the largest being that presented
by Mr Riddoch today, which bears 2000 signatures. Order! The Honourable Member is entitled to
be heard in silence. Thank you, Mr Speaker. The first reason given against the Bill is
‘because the suffrage is to be regarded not as a privilege to be enjoyed, but as a
duty to be performed, which duty we do not want thrust upon us.’ Is it seriously contended
that a majority of the women in South Australia do not wish to perform their duty? Surely
this is not the case. The second reason given is ‘because the
household, not the individual, is the unit of the State, and the vast majority of women
are represented by household suffrage.’ Even if the vast majority of women are represented
by household suffrage, why should not all have such liberty? The petition goes on to say, ‘Because the
energies of women are engrossed by their present duties and interests from which men cannot
relieve them.’ It was never contemplated that women should leave her present interests
and duties. She can exercise the franchise without doing so. It is not intended that
women should leave their household duties, their cradle and kitchen, and plunge into
politics any more than it is necessary for men to abandon their farm or business because
they record their vote. The petition also says, ‘Because political
equality will deprive women of special privileges hitherto enjoyed by their sex.’ This is
the common threat that men would withdraw their chivalry if women went to the polls.
It would be a good thing if such cheap and false chivalry were abolished. Then it says, ‘Because suffrage logically
involves the holding of public office, which is inconsistent with the duties of most women.’
It does not involve anything of the sort, and it does not mean that they would take
a seat in the Legislature. Although the Bill places women on entirely the same footing
as man, Members have no cause to fear for their monopoly in this respect. What reason have you to keep them from here? No reason, except that they do not want to
come. All they want is to have a voice in electing those who make the laws by which
they are governed equally with men. Mr Speaker, It has been urged that a large
number of women do not desire the right to vote, but it is not a question of that number
or this number requiring it. It is a question of the requirements of the State. And in order
to ascertain whether the requirements of the State demand this, I hope you will excuse
me if I mention two or three salient points in temperament and mental characteristics
in which women differ from men. Women are not given to philosophic speculation. Women
are impressed by immediate facts and are always disposed towards a wholesome realism, and
do not indulge in abstract theories. None of these points disqualify women from exercising
the franchise, but if anything it presents them in a favourable light, because legislators
have to deal with actual fact, and not with abstract disquisitions. There is another respect in which men and
women differ constitutionally. In man’s nature there is a greater variability. In some. I was speaking of man as a sex, and not as
an individual. Men are more erratic. For this reason, genius is more frequently met with
among men. But though this variability sometimes leads to brilliant and startling results,
it also leads to innumerable worthless and harmful deviations. Neither genius or idiosyncrasy
are necessary in the exercise of the franchise, and the more equable and common-sense disposition
of women subjects them to no disadvantage in this respect. Then we are told that it is not the province
of women. It is frequently said that home is the only province and sphere of woman.
Our laws surround the home with a network which has an intimate influence upon it, and
it is therefore of no use saying that home is a woman’s sphere if we deny her a voice
in saying what should be the conditions surrounding and vitally affecting the home. Mr Speaker, I ask Members to look through
various matters which come before this House and to note how many things there are which
essentially concern woman, and in which she would be just as qualified to pronounce a
sound judgment as man. I can call to mind several cases in which women are proprietors,
in some instances managers, of factories, and have a number of employees under them.
It does seem ridiculous that the owner – the mistress of an establishment – should have
no voice in matters concerning her so deeply, whilst every adult male working for her, whose
interest is not so great, can go and record his vote. There is not an argument which can be advanced
in favour of representative government which does not apply with equal force to the extension
of the franchise to women. How can it be said that the people are self-governed if about
half of the whole adult population are excluded from having a voice in the affairs of the
State? I hold in my hand a circular in which several reasons are given for supporting a
measure of this description. They are as follows: 1. Because it is the foundation of all political
liberty that those who obey the law should be able to have a voice in choosing those
who make the law. 2. Because Parliament should be a reflection
of the wishes of the people. 3. Because Parliament cannot fully reflect
the wishes of the people, when the wishes of women are without any direct representation. 4. Because a Government of the people, by
the people, and for the people, should mean all the people and not one half. 5. Because most of the laws affect women as
much as men. These are all self-evident propositions. It
is one of the most fundamental principles that in a free country where people govern
themselves, it is absolutely necessary that no portion of the adult population should
be withheld from the exercise of the franchise. What are the qualities necessary for the exercise
of the franchise? Common sense. That is not the prerogative of man alone. Some knowledge of affairs. Woman has more knowledge than man about active
affairs. Men are very fond of talking and are better at fighting, but the real administration
of affairs cannot be said to be outside the function of woman. Does not the honourable
member know that no Frenchman takes any important step without consulting the women of his household,
especially his mother. Or his mother-in-law. Oh, let us have our mothers in the House at
once. It might sound ridiculous to honourable members,
but it is a fact nonetheless. Suppose he hasn’t got a mother? Perhaps he goes to someone else’s mother. In this matter South Australia does not, as
she has done in other matters, lead the way, but she might well follow a good example.
The reform is inevitable. Let us invite the future by embarking boldly on this course,
not waiting till we are overwhelmed by the advancing tide of public opinion, and if we
seek for other reward than the consciousness of right action it would be something to live
in the grateful memory of the women of South Australia. Mr Gilbert. Mr Speaker, woman in her sphere is the noblest
of human beings, but I object to any attempt to remove her from her sphere. The influence
of woman on the home life is very great. It has well been admitted that in the family
their influence is greatest. We should therefore be very careful lest we do anything that would
destroy the family. Upon the home life the welfare of the nation depends. Man and woman
are made one by marriage, but now it is proposed to make two of them. They are not to be one,
but two in social and political matters, and is that right? Certainly not. Mr Speaker, the vote should not be entrusted
to those who are imperfectly educated on political questions. If it is necessary for men to look
at political subjects carefully before exercising their vote, surely it is needful for women
to have some political training before such a privilege is granted to them. Can she afford
that time which is necessary to read and cultivate an acquaintance with politics and at the same
time do justice to her home duties? They read the papers. I know they do at my
home. When they have such a beautiful condition
of things I suppose Mr Price would stay home to nurse the baby and Mrs Price would come
to the House. It appears to me that we cannot stop at simply giving women the franchise,
because if she has all the grand qualifications ascribed to her by the Minister we must work
it out to a logical sequence and give her a seat in the Legislature. Would the Minister
support the Bill in its entirety and give her a place? She does not want to come here, but no bar
should be placed in her way if she wishes to. Is it not the extremists who are making all
the fuss about adult suffrage? That argument was used against manhood suffrage. Another point is that the Minister has given
no facts or data by which the necessity of the thing is proved. He has not shown what
existing difficulties or abuses it would remedy. It would be a mistake to go in for such a
remedy till its necessity has arisen. We have one of the most liberal constitutions in the
world, and what need is there for this fad, which would only destroy the peace and prosperity
of the State. The House will come to Order and I call on
Mr Butler. Thank you, Mr Speaker. I regard this question
as one of supreme importance and worthy of our most earnest consideration, for it is
not a question of mushroom growth, but one which has been gaining in strength during
the last century. No reform has been asked for so quietly and so persistently. No other
reform has been urged on such just and reasonable grounds, and no reform would prove so widespread
and beneficial in its effects. It must strike every fair thinking man that
the arguments of the opponents of this measure are – when not purely sentimental – purely
selfish, and are based on the belief that absolute might means absolute right. There is great difference of opinion as to
whether women really desire the franchise, but that a large number do desire it we have
evidence in the large petitions, numbering some thousands, asking for it; and we also
have evidence by petition that some do not desire it. My reply to them is, ‘Do not
use it. It is not compulsory.’ But supposing for the sake of argument the majority were
indifferent – though if this Bill is carried I have no doubt that would prove incorrect
– surely that would not be a fair reason for not extending the franchise to them, or
a good reason for not giving the same liberty of action to one half of the community which
is extended to the other. The chief difficulties in the way of the extension
of the franchise to women are not arguments based on logical reasoning, but grounds of
popular sentiment, which more than anything else relegate her to the absurd and unjust
position she has occupied in the past, and has tended to retard the development of her
mental faculties and prevent her taking the position which she could justly claim, and
which I am persuaded she will soon receive. Mr Speaker. ideas with regard to woman and
her sphere have gradually changed during the century, and are still changing, as is seen
in the trend of modern thought, the outcome of which in the near future will make us wonder
at our ignorance and short-sightedness in the day when we thought her unworthy to share
our deliberations, and asked her quietly to take a back seat in every matter but bringing
children into the world, which we kindly allowed her to do, not being desirous to undertake
it ourselves. I would like to ask opponents which they think
more likely to disturb the harmony of domestic life – woman’s vote, or men’s vice?
Surely arguments which dwell upon the preservation of woman’s purity and delicacy and refinement
are rather an anomaly seeing that men and not voting deprive her of these every day. It is absurd to argue that the vote will be
antagonistic to men. Women are not going to band themselves together to legislate for
men or in opposition to men, and relegate men to the position in which we have unjustly
kept women. Rather she would join with men in helping to a juster and fuller legislation;
a legislation which can never be complete while one half of the community forces the
other into acquiescence with its will. Mr Speaker, I think, looking carefully at
the moral, social, and financial position of the world at large, and South Australia
in particular, that we must admit there is nothing so brilliant in the present state
of affairs that we may justly conclude that we have been working constitutionally on the
only sound and possible foundation, or that all the wisdom is confined to the sex who
have hitherto had the governing power. This contemplation ought to make us seriously consider
whether the unsolved social problems, the extremes of wealth and poverty, the misery,
the sin, the want, the discontent, the spirit of anarchy which meets us on every hand, might
have some root in the fact that men have had the monopoly in legislation; that half the
nation have been forced to silence. For the sake of our sons and daughters, for the sake
of the great social fabric of the world, for the sake of justice and right, let us break
this silence and frankly admit when we see our political life lifted to a higher elevation
and loftier standard and our whole social environment purified and raised, that we have
only swept away an injustice too long existing, and crave the pardon of womankind that not
until 1894 had we placed her in her true and right position. Mr Poynton Mr Speaker, I cannot conceive of anything
more selfish or positively mean than to make woman subject and amenable to all the laws
that bigoted man has made, and yet refuse her the right of having some say in
the selection of those who are to make and administer the laws under which she has to
live. I have no sympathy for the oft-repeated cant
that if we grant the vote to woman it would result in her household duties being neglected.
It is surely a transparent and glaring libel upon the intelligence of woman to say that
in order to fit her for the intelligent recording of her vote once in three years it would necessitate
her neglecting her household duties. Has she not proved herself to be equal to man in many
respects? Physically she is the weaker of the two, but morally and intellectually she
is man’s equal. In deeds of heroism and self-sacrifice has she not won laurels which
will always remain green in the history of the world? In household economy her equal
is not to be found in man, and in political economy, which after all is only an extension
of the household economy, she will yet make her mark. Mr Wood Thank you, Mr Speaker Circumstances have forced
women to enter into competition with men. We know that there is a class who encourage
women to take the place of men at half a man’s wages. For this reason alone they should have
a vote, and I am sure they would only pledge themselves to such men as would suppress such
a state of affairs. Mr Gilbert stated that women would have to
be politically educated before they could exercise the franchise. I do not know what
the case might be in other families, but in my own the women read the newspapers and take
a lively interest in politics. The supporters of the Bill were described
as extremists and faddists, but I think it is altogether the other way round. Our present civilisation demands the recognition
of the equal rights of both sexes, especially with regard to the franchise, and I think
all honour is due to those faddists who have worked so hard in the cause of adult suffrage.
It is time the political chain which has enslaved women in the past is broken. Mr Caldwell Mr Speaker, hitherto women have been fairly
well represented by their husbands, brothers, and friends, but that is not true representation.
Although many women have expressed themselves in favour of the franchise the majority are
half-hearted, but it is felt by myself and others that women who are made the subjects
of direct taxation should at least enjoy the same representation that is accorded to them
under local government. I do not recognise that public opinion has grown in assertiveness
on the question since 1885, when Dr Stirling introduced the first Woman’s Suffrage Bill;
indeed, during the last four or five years there has been a falling off in interest.
I have received remonstrances from women whose opinion I respect against advocating female
franchise. I am, however, as much in favour of the extension of the franchise to women,
and I will vote for it. Mr McPherson Mr Speaker, until Mr Caldwell sat down I was
doubtful whether he would support the Bill or not. I am glad that he at length saw daylight,
and is prepared to mete out a measure of justice to women. Women should have the franchise because they
are entitled to it. They have not asked for it. I am sure Mr Johnson is a diligent reader
of the newspapers, and he must be aware that during the past few years hardly a paper has
been issued without some reference to the matter. I have noticed that of late a great
many meetings have been held to consider the matter, and the women not only in the city
but in the country are alive to its importance. I do not think it can be argued for a moment
that women have not taken sufficient interest in the matter. Mr Caldwell said that they
have a great deal to learn with regard to politics. I grant that, but has there been
any incentive to women to make a study of politics? From their point of view the study
of politics would be simply a pastime as they have no means of giving practical effect to
their views. Mr Price Mr Speaker, I have carefully read up the agitation
which preceded the attainment of manhood suffrage, and I found that the identical arguments used
now against extending the franchise to women were used against men being granted what is
essentially their birthright. In all movements for an extension of freedom to the masses
in contradistinction to the classes similar arguments have been advanced. Every great
reform had in its initial stages been characterised by the privileged classes as dangerous. Women do not desire to leave their homes for
the atmosphere of the workshop or the factory, but it is the industrial conditions surrounding
them which force them to do it. They have now entered so considerably into our industrial
life that they have undergone a thoroughly sound preparation for the exercise of the
franchise. Men speak of women as weak creatures, with
no will, but my experience is that although I might fancy I get my own way at home I don’t.
Women can do business, and many men cannot. I have known a man die, and his wife take
up the business and conduct it better than ever he did. I have heard some honourable members say they
would get into Parliament on their good looks, but they wouldn’t. The women know better,
and if some of them got into Parliament they would be better than many of the old women
here now. It is now December. A number of members whose
votes are needed for the success of the Bill are out sick. Supporters of the Bill make very long speeches,
stonewalling to prevent a vote being taken while they don’t have the numbers for a
majority. Mr Brooker Mr Speaker, I have heard no substantial reasons
advanced why the right to vote should not be extended to women. This is accounted for
by the fact that the experiment in New Zealand has completely wiped out all the old arguments
which were wont to be used against the proposal to give suffrage to women. I have often heard it said, ‘Why would you
give a vote to our common street-walkers?’ But nothing is ever mentioned about denying
the right to vote to those so-called men who are the cause of our street-walkers. They
were given the vote and no questions were asked. Where is the logic of the thing? It is frequently said that woman is the weaker
vessel, and is not able to fight the battle of life so well as man. I have, however, known
women – when men have failed either through accident or misfortune – to step into the
line of duty and fight the battle of life splendidly. When we consider how women do
this work why should men say that their helpmeets shall only help in a certain direction? They
would be the very best helpmeets in politics. With Mr Caldwell this is apparently only a
question of business, but with me a question of humanity comes in. I do not regard it as
a question of property. You do me a wrong. I listened to the honourable member’s speech,
and if ever there was a speech of a man sitting on a rail it was that speech. To me it is a question of right or wrong,
and looking at it in every way we should say that this blot on our escutcheon shall exist
no longer. We should no longer say that woman is unfit to exercise the franchise. I will
not discuss the question of whether woman should sit in the House, but I will say that
if by any intellectual power or force of character a woman receives the support of any constituency
she should have a perfect right to sit in the House. Mr McLachlan Thank you, Mr Speaker. Some say it is unfair
woman should not have a voice in politics, but I believe she has already such a voice.
Every man has his soft side, and the women of South Australia are clever enough to find
it. I believe in the truth of the saying that man rules the world and that the woman rules
the man. My own experience has shown me that, and undoubtedly women exercise a very considerable
influence on their husbands in political matters. If women were to have the franchise the peace
of our homes would be injured by the introduction of political disagreements, and therefore
I trust that the measure will not pass. The Premier supports this measure, but I have
been married for a longer period, and know more about home life than Mr Kingston. It
is much to be regretted that the young men of South Australia do not get married sooner. They cannot afford it. That is not the case in many instances. I
would suggest, as a means of raising revenue and of relieving girls from the need to work
in factories, that unmarried men over the age of 25 years in South Australia should
be taxed. Mr Hooper Mr Speaker, I know that a number of the wealthier
women of the community have petitioned against the Bill, but there are many others who, although
they might not be so rich, yet are as fully entitled to respect. It is an insult to these
women to say that the sex as a whole does not desire the franchise. Those who do not
want the Bill need not vote went the opportunity presents itself, but they should not seek
to deprive others of the right of doing so. Mr Burgoyne Mr Speaker, I have been listening throughout
the debate for some substantial argument against giving this measure of right and justice to
the sex whom we all so admire and esteem. Mr Gilbert said that a vote should not be
given to women because they are imperfectly educated in political matters. On that principle
we should deny the right to a large number of our own sex, and possibly some of the Members
of Parliament are imperfectly educated in political matters. Opportunities must be given
to women to educate themselves, and the best opportunity is the performance of the duties
which would devolve upon them through having the right to vote. Some member said that a majority of women
have not asked for the privilege. We claim to have advanced in our views during the last
30 or 40 years, but Mr Gilbert in this respect has not advanced as far as the founders of
the colony, who in its constitution provided for manhood suffrage. At that time a large
majority were silent on the matter, but because even a few asked for it, it was given.
Mr McLachlan said that woman has now a voice in the elections because she can advise those
who vote. Let him apply this to his own case. If he was not allowed to vote, but simply
allowed to advise others how they should vote would he be satisfied? I think not, and this
being the case I would recommend the old rule of ‘doing to others what we would like done
to us’. The bachelor tax proposed by Mr MacLachlan
is an outrageous suggestion. I have heard of a tax on wealth and on certain privileges,
but to tax a man on his greatest misfortune seems to me to be an unchristian suggestion. Mr Randell Thank you, Mr Speaker. For some time past
I have been somewhat exercised as to how I will vote on this question, as although I
promised on the hustings that if the measure was introduced I would support it, yet lately
I have received letters from several of my constituents asking me to oppose it to the
best of my power, while many others have urged
me to stick to the promises I made on the hustings. The district of Gumeracha is about
equally divided in opinion on this question, so I see that it is quite out of the question
to please all; so I have made up my mind to stick to my promises, and my intention is
to vote with the Government. Hitherto women so far as exercising the franchise is concerned
are placed in the same category as lunatics, idiots, and criminals, a state of things which
I think would be unmanly and unjust for us to allow to be continued any longer. I see woman working and helping man pretty
well in every employment he is engaged in – in fields, gardens, dairies, factories,
vineyards, shops, telegraph and post offices, and they can find time to attend teafights,
shows, concerts, lectures, theatres, and entertainments of all kinds. Can she not therefore be spared
from home for one hour once in two or three years to record her voice for the choice of
those representatives who are to frame laws under which she is to live and be governed? Mr Speaker, it is true that a large number
of women are indifferent and don’t care much whether they get the vote or not. But
this is not to be wondered at when we consider that by her education and her environments
for generations past she has been led to believe that she could not understand politics, and
that it was unwomanly for her to take any part in such matters. Give women the opportunity
and they would soon wake up to their privileges and responsibilities, and the apathy that
might be apparent at first would speedily pass away. Mr Speaker, regarding the sentimental aspect
of the question I would ask who have been our best friends from the hour of our births
to the present time? Has it not been the kind and good woman? Who have been our trusted
sympathisers and comforters in times of trouble and disaster? Again the kind and good woman.
Yet these are the good creatures to whom the opponents of this measure practically say
– ‘You may do all this and as much more as you like, but you shall not have the vote.’
Is this not ungrateful, selfish, and unjust? The Honourable Mr Archibald Mr Speaker, whenever the question of woman
suffrage is before us there is a tendency on the part of those opposed to the principle
to try and prove that women are angels whilst men are just the reverse. I do not think there
is anything to be gained by that sort of sentimental nonsense, and it would be just as well if
members debated in an intelligent manner and left poetic flights of imagination severely
alone. I am inclined to believe that women are very similar to men. There are good and
bad women and good and bad men. The world will not be turned upside down when the franchise
is granted to women as some people contend. Legislation will be as safe in the hands of
women as it has been in those of their male relations up to the present time. Mr Foster Mr Speaker, the same objections as to extending
the franchise could have been made against giving it to the man over 21; probably the
man over 21 when he first received the suffrage was not as well educated as the woman of today. I do not agree with the statement that woman
is generally without interest in political affairs. Would a mother, the head of a household,
who remembers that the wellbeing of her children depends on the wellbeing of the national life
be indifferent on political matters? If that right were granted which has been so unfairly
denied them, they would soon come forward and take their share of responsibility. Woman
has now come to take her part in the battle of life, and things have changed greatly of
late. New Zealand has led the way, but I hope that South Australia will be second in the
matter. The Treasurer Mr Speaker, we will all be gone shortly, and
who is it that will have most to do with the making of the future? Why those who have most
to do with the moulding of the youth of today, who will be the men and women of the time
shortly to come. If, therefore, that influence when exerted indirectly has been beneficial
might we not anticipate that the influence of these same women, used under similar circumstances,
but with greater freedom, would result in greater good? They exercise more good at home. I am sure that although we widen the scope
of women’s influence we would not lessen the power for good she has shown in her present
sphere. It will. Does Mr Solomon pretend that because women
have voted for mayor, aldermen, and councillors, it has weakened her influence at home? Those women who voted were only tax-payers
and property holders. Does he pretend that women with property might
exercise the franchise without injuring their home influence but that women without property
could not? It matters not whether we look at it from
a political, a social, or a moral point of view there appears no logical argument against
extending to women that which we have extended to all men. Several days later, there is great excitement
in the House of Assembly. The members who were sick are back and the government believes
it has enough supporters present to get the Bill through. When debate begins the gallery is packed with
women eager to see the Bill pass. The opposition, however, is determined to stonewall. They
bore on and on until after dinner, waiting for old, frail George Hawker to tire and for
the government’s numbers to dwindle. Mr McDonald Mr Speaker, I think that the opponents of
the measure have only been stonewalling it up to the present time. In advocating for
suffrage I consider that we are perfectly safe and that nothing but good would result
from handing over the right to vote to the women. The same old arguments and the same
old story are used time after time by the opponents of the Bill. I intend to introduce a clause preventing
women from sitting in Parliament. Women would aspire to a seat in Parliament, but I do not
think they should have it just yet. The House is not a proper sphere for women. All the Australian colonies are pledged to
the measure, which should be passed without delay. Mr Landseer Thank you, Mr Speaker. Amongst the ladies
with whom I am acquainted there is no desire that the Bill should be passed. They have
confidence in their husbands and brothers to see that nothing is done to oppress women,
and they feel that the government of the State might well be left in their hands. They also
point out that the position of women is now altogether different to that of fifty years
ago, and without the extension of the present franchise I have faith that those who come
after us would be only too anxious to afford to women that protection and care which any
motherly woman could desire. Domestic happiness is the most important thing
to us all, and I fear opportunities would crop up for disturbing domestic quietude if
the Bill was passed. Women hold very strong views on elections, and they would then be
able to express those strong views. On the other hand husbands and sons might be particularly
interested in the return of Mr So-and-so, and if the lady of the house endorsed their
choice all would be well. But if the mother held other views she would have an opportunity
of tutoring her daughters in her ideas. Later on the husband and brothers might have their
suspicions aroused as to the way their womankind voted, and they would put the question straight.
The women would then either have to admit that they voted in opposition to the men or
they would have to adopt a system of duplicity. I am merely placing my views honestly on record.
Woman’s influence is greater today than if the Bill passed. It is not a question of influence, but of
right. My own views on right differ from those of
the honourable member. Adam and Sampson and Anthony were all led astray by the wiles of
beautiful women, who proved how great is women’s influence. I hope the Bill will not pass Mr Riddoch Mr Speaker, men are no doubt much better than
women in their reasoning faculties, although women excel in the perceptive, and we must
remember that women are frequently influenced by the good looks and manners of men rather
than by their true character. That is a danger that is bound to exist in the case of elections.
We are told that in Wyoming one of the results of woman suffrage was that the best-dressed
men are returned to the legislature. Captain Randell’s description of the care
bestowed by woman upon mankind from the cradle to the grave was quite poetic, and I am quite
with him in realising the obligations we are under to the sex. But because I feel that
Nature intended woman to fulfil the duties so well described by that member, and that
there would be a risk of them becoming less womanly, I oppose the franchise being forced
on them. Those who claim that woman’s influence would
be good on account of her greater refinement of feeling should remember that the contact
with grosser men necessary to qualify herself to exercise her right to vote would rob her
of the refinement she now has, so that her power for good in that way would be non-existent.
All that could be desired can be brought about by the exercise of the influence they now
possess, all true men being quite ready to grant everything that is fair to women. Few men appreciate a true woman more than
I do, but I feel strongly that in resisting this measure, as I do with all my might, I
am doing womankind the best service in my power. And I feel that the time is not too
distant when they will feel grateful to those who opposed this measure. We know that women
are more easily excited, and when excited they go to greater lengths than men, and it
should be our duty to spare them as much as possible. Mr Speaker, the political disabilities that
women labour under are more imaginary than real. Members who say that it is necessary
for women to have the vote and the right to sit in Parliament, to ensure justice being
done to them, passes a vote of censure upon themselves. Mr Edward Hawker Mr Speaker, it was urged that the vote should
be granted to woman so as to enable her to have her wants attended to. I do not know
what wants have not been attended to. We already have the Women’s Property Act, and I feel
gratified that I had the honour to bring before the House a Bill which gave the widow the
same right to be guardian of her children as is possessed by the widower. The Bill under discussion is like a good many
more measures. It was simply introduced because some member thought it should be introduced,
and not because there is any demand for it. I have asked various members if their wives
are in favour of it, and they replied that they did not believe their wives favoured
it. One member said that his wife has learned to be in favour of it. This question has never
been submitted to the people, and at the last election was treated rather as a joke. Mr Speaker, some members who would like to
vote against this Bill are afraid to do so. In New Zealand some members lost their seats
because they had opposed woman suffrage and others because they didn’t come up to the
moral standard. The extension of the suffrage to men was given
on the ground that it was due to them as a great unrepresented class. Women, however,
are not a class but a sex, and their interests are identical with those of their menfolk. The position of women is nearly as good as
that of man. They can enter the medical profession, and I am only surprised that they have not
been permitted to enter the legal profession. They are admitted into all offices and all
trades. Mr Speaker, I have heard the opinion expressed
by more than one able man that women’s suffrage would lead to doing away with the marriage
tie. When I mentioned that to one of the ablest advocates of the measure in the colony, he
replied, ‘What of that?’ When we find men advocating a movement like that, and believing
that no harm but perhaps good would result from doing away with the marriage tie, there
must be something radically wrong with the movement. How many supporters have you heard say that? How many men would dare to say it publicly? If we give women the vote we wish them to
exercise it after proper education. The majority of women are poor in this colony and they
are taken up by household duties, and I do not think their little leisure time would
be spent in reading up politics. Men, on the other hand, work together and so meet and
talk over political matters. Either the women would follow the men or if the women voted
away from the men family jars would ensue. The Honourable Mr Homburg Thank you, Mr Speaker. Undoubtedly this measure
would act very unfairly in country districts where people have to go for long distances
to record their votes. A man often has to travel as much as five or ten miles, and if
he had to take his wife as well that would cause much trouble. The question then arises
– Could women forsake their domestic duties and the whole of the family drive ten miles
to the polling-place, and leave the farm to take care of itself? In Adelaide it would
not be difficult for a woman to get someone to take charge of her children during the
few minutes it would take her to record her vote, but in the country it means a whole
day. Consequently the votes of the farmers’ wives would be absolutely lost. It’s 8.10pm. The stonewalling continues.
Vaiben Solomon is about to rise and argue against the Bill for nearly three hours (redacted
for your benefit!) Gradually the women who had come with such high hopes leave in disgust. Mr Solomon Mr Speaker, would any honourable member say
the women he meets day by day want the suffrage? It is advocated by a lot of faddists. The best women are the best mothers and wives. And those who educate their children in political
matters. I would like to see what sort of home those
are in which the mothers give political instruction to their children. It is more likely to introduce
discord into the home. If we had woman’s suffrage ten times over
we would not get a body of men in Parliament who would prove more earnest, honest, and
true in their desire to do what is right in relation to their womenkind than we have at
the present time. That men should preach such twaddle from the platform is an insult to
every man in the House. We might perhaps get men elected who would sacrifice all questions
of what is best for the community, of financial prosperity, and the wellbeing of the producers,
for some fad such as the abolition of public houses or the direct veto. Some oily-tongued
old women of that sort would be returned to the House no doubt. I have little doubt that
the gentler sex, easily talked over by a glib tongue, a smooth face, and an air of piety,
would vote for such people. Some of them might even vote for you. It would not be on account of my supporting
the direct veto. Nor on account of your piety. I would vote with the Government if they would
give the vote to women who have no protectors, earn their own living, and are taxpayers.
Women who are fairly and honestly represented by their husbands do not want it, do not ask
for it, and have no right to it. Looking around amongst the happy homes that I have been privileged
to visit I have asked the wives and daughters if they wanted the vote, and they have said
that they did not. You have not been in every happy home. I have not been in that member’s, but would
be pleased to visit it; and I might find that the women folk there differ from Mr Wood.
The most loveable women and the most devoted to their husbands and children do not want
the vote. I am satisfied if the Bill becomes law that
every member who assisted in passing it will in ten years’ time bitterly repent his action. Suddenly Solomon sits down. A lot of members have left for the evening. One of the opposition has passed Solomon a
note to say that only 27 supporters are present. The lukewarm James Howe has stepped out. 28 is the majority required. There is only
one woman left in the gallery to see what follows. The question is that the Bill be now read
a second time. Those of that opinion say aye. “Aye!” Those against say no. “No!” I think the ayes have it. Divide! Division is called. Ring the bells. To the opposition’s chagrin James Howe reappears. Some say Howe came back because government
members stopped him leaving. Others say that he met an acquaintance in the corridor, stopped
for a chat, and had to go back when the division bells rang. Time has expired. Lock the doors.
The question is that the Bill be read a second time. The “ayes” will move to the right
of the chair, the “noes” will move to the left of the chair. I appoint the Minister
of Education as teller for the ayes and Mr Solomon as teller for
the noes. The result of the division being ayes 28,
noes 12, the Bill has been read a second time. In Committee on December 17 the opponents
try to make amendments to the Bill. All amendments fail except one to allow women to vote in
absentee. That same evening, the Minister of Education moves the third reading. At 9.30pm
a crowd of women, who had been celebrating the return of Catherine Helen Spence in a
Rundle Street café, walk down to Parliament House to watch what they hoped would be the
passing of the third reading. They were disappointed. The opposition prolonged debate until midnight.
Three supporters of the Bill got bored and went home. The government lost its numbers
and the House adjourned. On December 18, at 10.30am, the House meets
and, after a brief delay to give some tardy members a chance to turn up, the Bill is read
a third time. The Minister of Education I move that the Bill be read a third time. Mr Solomon Mr Speaker, I regret for the credit of the
colony that such a measure has been passed, as it will delay federation by at least 20
years. By this Bill we place another barrier to a uniform system of electing the representatives
of the various colonies. Mr Grainger Thank you, Mr Speaker. The carrying of the
Bill means farewell to federation, as the colonies of New South Wales and Victoria are
not such idiots as to adopt female suffrage. It is not likely that two colonies with such
pluck and energy as these would join an emasculated colony like South Australia. Mr Hourigan Mr Speaker, it has been said that if we give
women a vote it would lead to quarrels and destroy the sanctity of the home. That is
about one of the weakest arguments that could be used against the Bill. I would remind members
of the domestic life of no less a person than the Queen of England and her late husband.
We hear nothing of the political duties of the Queen interfering with the sanctity of
the home, and yet she presides over the destinies of the greatest Empire the world has ever
seen. Surely if a woman was able to fulfil all these duties without any friction in her
domestic life it is not too much to say that the women of South Australia could go to the
poll once in three years and record their votes without any disastrous consequences
arising in their domestic circle. Mr Speaker, there is nothing in the argument
that women have hitherto taken but little interest in politics, because I maintain that
some of the noblest and most self-sacrificing women in South Australia are leading the van
for the political emancipation of their sex. Why is it that the great majority of women
have not taken a greater interest in politics? It is simply because for thousands of years
the sex has been treated as if women are little better than serfs. Woman has been made to
believe that her principle duty in life is to make herself pleasing to her husband; to
cook his food, wash his clothes, mend his socks, and bear him children. When one thinks
of the treatment women have been subjected to in the past it is too revolting for one
to speak about with calmness. Thanks to the spread of education, we are
beginning to realise the fact that a woman has a perfect right to every political privilege
possessed by man. Are we to believe that thousands of cultivated women have a worse claim than
the rudest and most ignorant men, simply because through the accident of birth they were born
women? Should a son have more rights than his mother, from whom perchance he has inherited
his best qualities? Common sense and common justice answer ‘No’. Mr Butler Mr Speaker, I wish to reply shortly to some
of the washy and silly arguments used by Mr Solomon. I’m glad to know it, and had the influence
of women been as great on Mr Solomon as it has been on myself he would be a much better
man. He would have been more of an old woman judging
by you. The honourable member is excessively rude
as usual. Mr Solomon wasted more time than any other member, and when anyone else spoke
who did not agree with him he began making silly interjections which were as meaningless
as they were insulting. Mr Solomon has said that the Bill would retard
federation, but I would point out that some of the leading statesmen in the colonies,
including the Premier of Victoria and Sir Henry Parkes, have declared in favour of women’s
suffrage. Mr Griffiths Mr Speaker, I compliment the last speaker
on his piece of stonewalling, undertaken to keep the ball rolling until the Ministry had
their number in the House. The result, which is now a foregone conclusion, is due to the
twisting and turning of some of the political jugglers, who are absolutely insincere. Personal
interest is at the bottom of most of the voting for the Bill. Before voting for the third
reading I hope members will review the position and not support the Bill for the sake of satisfying
morbid curiosity. The question is that the Bill now be read
a third time. Those of that opinion say aye. “Aye!” Those against say no. “No!” I think the ayes have it. The motion is carried. Divide! Division is called. Ring the bells. Time has expired. Lock the doors. The question is that the Bill be read a third
time. The “ayes” will move to the right of the chair, the “noes” will move to
the left of the chair. I appoint the Minister of Education as teller for the ayes and perhaps
Mr Griffiths this time as teller for the noes. Before I announce the result, I remind the
gallery to contain their emotions whatever the outcome. The result of the division is that the ayes
are 31, and the noes 14. Order! Order! I see it is not the gallery I need to remind
of their emotions, but the House. There being the necessary statutory majority
in favour of the Bill, the third reading is definitely carried. Mr Clerk. Mr Clerk. The Bill is immediately sent back to the Legislative
Council where the amendment made by the Assembly must be agreed to before the Bill can finally
pass. A message from the Legislative Council. Mr
Speaker – The Legislative Council has agreed to the Bill returned herewith, titled An Act
to Amend the Constitution, without any amendment. Queen Victoria completes the final stage,
providing her Royal Assent, on 2 February, 1895. The first election after women were
given the right to vote was held in 1896. The state of parties remained much the same
and the Kingston government was returned for a second term in office. The Bulletin paper
reported “The alleged Shrieking Sisterhood didn’t shriek to any extent worth mentioning.
The woman voter didn’t blunder over her ballot paper much more than the average male.
In short, nothing happened as it was expected to happen.” Elizabeth Webb Nicholls, key
suffragist and President of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, remarked “We
have not heard of any domestic quarrels or any neglected children as a result of the
new departure, and the dinner was cooked on election day much the same as usual.” Ladies and gentlemen, we have indeed witnessed
history here tonight and just as well it’s finished, I’m not sure the heritage furniture
could have taken much more. I want to thank everyone in the audience for watching and
all those who participated in the re-enactment. Thank you to the cast, many of whom volunteered
their time, to Dr Niki Vincent, who volunteered her time to narrate the debates. Niki’s
narration was guided by the State History Research Centre paper prepared by Pat Stretton
and Kathryn Gargett. Thank you to several providers who supported this project, including
Oranje Creative, Aspect Photography, the State Theatre Company, Violet Rowe Hire, Heather
Jones, the Adelaide Costume Shop, Jill Bartlett, Josh van Konkelenberg, and Kojo. Thank you to the Hansard people for supporting
the recording and streaming capabilities, and to the creative team who planned the re-enactment,
including Simon Lancione, Emma Johnston, Kate O’Donnell, Lauren Williams, Meredeth Brown,
Alix Harrigan and Natalie Young. Thanks also must go the Clerks and Presiding
Officers of the House of Assembly and the Legislative Council for supporting and most
importantly funding this re-enactment. I must also acknowledge the members on the
Joint Committee on the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage for their work and recommendations
to the Parliament and acknowledge the role of the Premier in making such a special year
as special as it has been, thank you Mr Premier. Our collective desires are that everyone will
be inspired to celebrate and also continually reflect on South Australia’s achievements
in women’s equality. And to appreciate why our amazing suffragists wanted the vote, and the good blokes who supported them. The cause, like the women, really owe a good deal to
the great blokes. Like them, we must always value the power of the vote, and what it can
achieve in a participatory democracy. In closing, I would like to again express
gratitude to those in the galleries of this chamber for being part of this historic occasion,
and also to those watching at home in the virtual galleries. Whoever said Hansard wasn’t
exciting? We look forward to sharing a recording of
this re-enactment for use as an ongoing resource in the new year. Honourable members, ladies and gentlemen,
the House stands adjourned. “Votes for women!” they cried, “for
our future, our lives” “And no tax without representation”
“Give us choice in our lives, give us voice to decide”
“How we earn, how we build our station!”” Votes for women!” they cried.

No Comments

Leave a Reply