Jennifer (JC-S)'s Reviews > You Daughters of Freedom: The Australians Who Won the Vote and Inspired the World

You Daughters of Freedom by Clare Wright
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bookshelves: australian-author, australian-womens-writers-challenge, net-galley, review-books

‘The Australians who won the vote and inspired the world.’

I read and enjoyed Clare Wright’s ‘The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka’ in 2014, and while I’m not sure how I missed this book when it was first released last October, I was delighted to read an electronic copy of the 2019 edition.

In 1902, when one of my grandmothers was a Tasmanian child of 9, Australia’s suffrage campaigners won the vote for white women. Her first opportunity to vote would have been on 5 September 1914: which was called before war was declared in August, held after it commenced, and was our first double dissolution election. I wish I could ask what that meant to her.

In this book, Clare Wright tells the story of the Australian victory in the campaign for the vote for white women and goes on to tell of Australia’s role in the subsequent international struggle.
There’s quite a contrast between the way in which Australian women achieved voting equality and the battle by the British suffragettes. In Australia’s case, female suffrage had been granted by South Australia in 1894 and by Western Australia in 1899. After federation, in 1902 when the Commonwealth Parliament was debating who would be eligible to vote in the first federal election, they could vote either to extend suffrage to all women or to remove it from the already enfranchised women in South Australia and Western Australia. Withdrawal of suffrage would have threatened the newly formed federation, at least from a South Australian perspective. So, there’s a contrast between the relatively civilized way in which Australian women achieved suffrage and the violent battles in the UK.

‘Power concedes nothing without a demand.’ (Frederick Douglass)

The international struggle is told through the eyes of five women: Vida Goldstein, Nellie Martel, Dora Montefiore, Muriel Matters and Dora Meeson Coates. Dora Meeson Coates painted the controversial Australian banner carried in the British suffragette monster marches of 1908 and 1911, which now hangs in the Australian Parliament House in Canberra.

This is a fascinating story, which I read slowly over a fortnight. I had the bare bones of the history of Australian female suffrage, knew a bit about the fight for female suffrage in the UK, but knew little about the role that these Australian women had played. Perhaps my grandmother would be horrified about my lack of knowledge. We should be proud of these achievements, even though our pride should be qualified by the exclusion on Indigenous people from the franchise (as is noted by Clare Wright).

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Text Publishing for providing me with a free electronic copy of the 2019 edition of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Reading Progress

August 1, 2019 – Started Reading
August 1, 2019 – Shelved
August 1, 2019 – Shelved as: australian-author
August 1, 2019 – Shelved as: australian-womens-writers-challenge
August 1, 2019 – Shelved as: net-galley
August 1, 2019 – Shelved as: review-books
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August 16, 2019 – Finished Reading

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