Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Petitions part 12

Suffrage and Temperance


Suffrage and Temperance Organisations
In the 1890s temperance groups supported suffrage groups in the campaign for woman suffrage. It was the network structure of the temperance groups, particularly the WCTU supported by the Victorian Alliance, and their use of media, particularly the Alliance Record which contributed to the large number of signatures being collected in only a few weeks.The Woman's Petition was an example of a number of groups joining together for one cause.

However, the support of the temperance groups could also be seen as being detrimental to the suffrage cause. The alcohol industry had connections with members of parliament and other business interests and strongly lobbied against the granting of female suffrage. There was a fear that allowing women to vote would alter the balance of power in parliament and legislation could be introduced that would impact upon the alcohol industry.

The members of the WCTU were aware that their actions would not always be popular with many people. As members of a temperance organisation they were considered, by many, to be wowsers. In addition they campaigned for woman suffrage and often saw their causes lampooned in the press. In the report of the activities for the year provided in the WCTU of Victoria 4th annual report it was noted -
We must be prepared to bear some persecution, many hard and untrue accusations will be hurled at us, which we must try and bear patiently until we have the power to prove that our only object in asking for the vote, is for the protection of Home, and for Purity.
The campaign against the alcohol industry also created a contradiction for the WCTU. In the 1890s many of the publicans of Melbourne hotels were women. Although the women of the WCTU were concerned about the evil of the effects of alcohol, especially on working class families, they also supported the right of the women hotel keepers have the independence to run their own business. This support for women to work however did not extend to the women who worked as barmaids. The WCTU considered barmaids should be banned from working in hotels.

The WCTU continued to support woman suffrage, especially in regard to ensuring that women were fully informed about the issues and were in a position so that when they did have the right to vote, they would use the vote well. During the following years new suffrage groups were established and the WCTU became affiliated with some groups and generally supported the suffrage organisations in their continuing campaign for the right for women to vote.

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