Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Petitions part 11

Woman's Christian Temperance Union

Franchise Department
As well as sharing a strong Christian, primarily Protestant, backgound many of the WCTU members had experience working with families facing poverty and hardship. Although it was commonly believed that a 'woman's sphere' was Home and a 'man's sphere' was Work there was also the growing belief that women should have the same rights as men, especially in making decisions that affected family and the Home. Having the right to vote in parliamentary elections would give women a voice in the decisions that affected their lives.
A summary of the reason why members of the WCTU supported woman suffrage and established a Franchise Department was provided in the history of the Geelong City Union of the WCTU 1888-1980 - For God, Home and Humanity by Judith Parteger.
The WCTU of Victoria established a Women's Suffrage Department in 1890. The WCTU advanced eqality and saw the vote as a woman's right as a citizen. The WCTU has always defended the principle of women having a life of usefulness and independence. It saw the vote as something women could do to further public good and express their special interests in family welfare. As most people believed that women, bearing the brunt of drunkedness in the home would vote against drink, it was also furthering the aims of the temperance organisations. Once the women did receive enfranchisement in 1902, in Federal elections, the call was to use the vote "wisely and well".(p60)
All members of the WCTU of Victoria were encouraged to support the work of the Franchise Department in obtaining the right for the women of Victoria to be able to vote. Mrs Wallace, Superintendent of the Franchise Department for Australasia, in 1891 outlined the requirements in a paper, Woman's work for suffrage. The debate on woman suffrage at a meeting held as part of the WCTU Convention in May 1891 provides many of the arguments on the question of women having the vote.

At the WCTU Convention in 1892 Mrs Wallace, in the Franchise Department Report, spoke about the petition and the failure to obtain the franchise:
There is no cause for discouragement in the failure to secure, in this first instance, that for which you petitioned. An "arrest of thought" has been secured. The question has been brought into the field of practical politics , made a debatable one, on which statesmen and politicians are expected to declare themselves. The granting of the ballot to women in this and other sections of the world may be delayed some time, but the discussion of the question will go on. We must work out the solution, and to this end consider the best means.
In the Alliance Record 11 July 1891 (p171), Mrs Harrison Lee issued A Woman's Plea for the Suffrage and stated her reasons as to why women should be able to vote -
I am a woman working with all the classes and conditions, for the benefit of our people. And knowing now the feelings of a very large number of our women, I plead on their behalf for Womanhood suffrage.
1st - Because it is their right.
2nd - because I feel assured they will use the privilege wisely and well.
3rd - Because they so intensely desire it.
They will use their power to advance public morality, to protect woman's kingdom - Home, to shield the weak, to denounce the wrong, and in every way uplift and enoble the individual and the nation.
They desire it because they are part of the nation, bound by its laws, taxed by its Government, responsible for its welfare. Allowed to share the burdens, yet not allowed the one privelege of voting.
They desire it now because they are powerless to protect their homes or children. with the vote they would have a voice in making laws for their own and their family's defence.
They desire it because it will place them where God placed them - side by side with woman's noble partner, man. A help-meet indeed.
Education was to be the major component of the continuation of the campaign. Each WCTU branch was to subscribe to the Alliance Record so that the members could be kept up to date with the latest information, pamphlets on woman suffrage were to be distributed and articles about suffrage submitted to the local papers. Members should also learn about political processes and an examination paper containing questions that the ladies should be able to answer was presented.
In April 1894 the WCTU organised a public meeting to encourage public assistance in obtaining woman suffrage and the result was the formation of the Victorian Women's Franchise League.

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