Resolution to support woman suffragePart of the discussion at the Victorian Alliance Conference 1891
Mr. John Thompson said:- Mr. Chairman, the Executive has acted wisely in allowing working men to speak in their behalf. We, as working men, have noticed that our leaders are building platforms for us to step on at the next general election. I can only say as a labourer, that if a ship has one rotten plank in it, it is not seaworthy, and if I found that rotten plank I would have it out. I have taken an active part in endeavouring to extend to my wife and daughter the same privilege as I claim for myself. If any of us dare to say that we are superior to women, we know we are lying. Those that have listened to the speeches of Victorian women today, have reason to be proud that we have such women able to take part in public life. I have stood for contested elections, and in four of them ladies have voted. I notice that they came forward to vote in a quiet and becoming manner, and when they had marked their paper with a pencil, they went home to their duties. What did I find was the case with the men? Many of them were willing away that glorious privilege which had long been fought for in the old country, to the highest bidder for a glass of whisky. As a member of the School Board I have sat side by side with the ladies, and on such questions as the elevation of the young they had acted in a business-like way. I hope the electors of Victoria will do their duty, and will insist on having the plank I speak of taken out. (Applause)
Rev. D. O’Donnell moved the following resolution:-
"That in the opinion of this Conference, government of the people by the people and for the people should mean all the people, and not one-half; that taxation and representation should go together without regard to the sex of the taxed; that all adult persons should have a voice in making the laws which they are required to obey; that, in short, women should vote on equal terms with men."
He said – It is my great privilege to be allowed to move this resolution, but as I have said so much of late on this very important question I will not repeat my arguments. I would like to urge the representatives before returning to their homes to remember that it is not sufficient to hear and applaud excellent speeches, nor to pass resolutions of this kind unless you are prepared to do your part in carrying them out in your respective spheres and districts. Undoubtedly this has become a burning question. It has forced its way very properly to the foreground of practical politics, and I am strongly of the opinion that in the approaching general election this great problem will occupy so conspicuous a position as to dwarf all other questions. I hope that we will be able to persuade the Trades Hall Council to make this question one of the planks of their political platform, and I venture to say they would not have a stronger plank to stand by. The working men are making a grave blunder, looking at the matter from their point of view and interests, in setting aside this question. Those of you who reside in the agricultural area of the colony where the great labor problem will not be felt so acutely as in the cities, should remember that you are bound by your loyalty to this Alliance and the principles it advances, to try and carry out those principles. I do not mean to suggest that you should reject every candidate who will not vote for women’s suffrage, but I do say where there is an even balance on every subject it would be well to make this the real test point. I would ask you to take Mr. Vale’s advice, and to carry back with you to your homes some of the literature he spoke of. You will find a great deal of mistaken and misled thought even amongst teetotallers and professed Christian men upon this very important theme. Having listened to the superlatively admirable paper which Mrs. McLean read just now, you would do well to get copies of the previous papers by Mrs. McLean, and I would ask the members of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and all other women, to ponder over the full application of this question, and then, having become fully acquainted with it, constitute yourselves evangelists in this cause. I expect to find that within the next five years Women’s Suffrage will be an accepted fact in our political life. I have great pleasure in moving the adoption of this resolution. (Applause)
The Rev. J. Ross said:- I have very great pleasure in seconding the resolution. You have already heard that I have been associated with the Temperance movement in and about Melbourne for over 20 years; I have never known the movement to take such rapid strides as it has since the ladies came to the front. Our women are taking the leading position in this grand movement. I remember many years ago having occasion to marry a man and a woman, and after the service the lady saying to me, “I thought that expression 'obey' came rather harshly from you." "Oh" I said, “In which sense did you think I intended it to be applied?" "Why, it seemed to me it was to ‘obey’ no matter what the request was." "Then”, I said, "if that is the idea, I know it was never meant. I will never use it again." From that time I have not to my recollection made use of the word in that connection. (Laughter and applause) I am happy to tell you that the word is not in the colonial document and therefore I do not use it. In the district in which I reside I am proud to say that the women are thoroughly united on this subject and meetings are held constantly for the purpose of bringing people into the organisation. I heartily support the resolution. I wonder who dare first take a stand in his home and say there is no equality there. Do we not reckon our wives equal to ourselves? (Laughter) We dare not do otherwise (Renewed laughter) In that sense our women have the franchise, because they are our equals. Every honest, upright man feels that his wife is equal to himself, and if she is equal to-day, she will be no more equal in five or ten years to come and ought to have her position at once. (Applause)
Mr. J.W. Gates: It is with great pleasure I rise to support the resolution. I have from boyhood listened to discussions between my parents at home on this subject and their arguments induced me to stand in opposition to the matter, but since I have had opportunities of noticing how well women can work in every noble cause, I have altered my views, and have come to the conclusion that if we give them the power to vote they will use it in the right way. In Ballarat East we have fought two Local Option polls, and in both we have given the ladies a very prominent place and have permitted them to do a large amount of electioneering work. (Laughter) We knew they could do it much better than we could ourselves, and we were justified in acceding to their request to be allowed to take part, seeing that the proceedings at the polls were conducted in a quiet and orderly manner. The victories were mainly due to the efforts of the ladies. On the occasion of the general election, when two local abstainers were candidates, there was more drunkenness observable than at the Local Option polls. I do not mean that the candidates were responsible for the drunkenness, but some of their supporters were. If you give the franchise to women it will be the means not only of purifying Parliament but the proceedings of every election. (Applause)
The Chairman: I should like to quote a sentence from Mrs. McLean’s last paper, and to see it hung on the walls of our Legislature. It is:
"RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTETH A NATION, NOT THE FISCAL POLICY"
The resolution was then put and carried, with only one dissentient.
Alliance Record 5 September 1891 page 226