Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Petitions part 1

Petitions can be a valuable resource when researching family stories. Signatures are collected on a wide variety of issues to be presented to Parliament to show public support for an issue. Copies of petitions can sometimes be located in state or national archives.

One such petiton was the Woman's Petition - 28,000 signatures collected in Victoria in 1891 requesting the right for woment to vote for parliamentary representatives.

The posts in this section provide information provide background information on the history of the 1891 Woman's Petition, its significance in the social history of the times and the achievement of a number of women's organisations combining to promote their common cause - the right for women to have the vote. 

Having worked on the project to create an index of the names of the women who signed the petition I wanted to find out how in such a short period of time so many signatures were collected in 1891. Some of the information collected is included in the following posts. Since the initial research was undertaken in 2007 Trove provides access to an increasing number of digitised newspapers, including The Argus, with articles recording events relating to the suffrage and temperance movements.

The Woman's Petition

Image taken at PROV exhibition - Centenary of Women's Suffrage:
Signature stories
13 March - 16 June 2008
 At noon on the 6th May 1891 the Premier of Victoria, the Hon. James Munro, received a deputation on Womanhood Suffrage. The deputation was organised by by the Victorian Alliance in conjunction with a variety of temperance organisations. A number of parliamentarians were included in the deputation but the majority of those in attendance were women - primarily from the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) but also from the Melbourne Women's Temperance Union and female members of other temperance organisations.

The meeting resulted in the decision to petition women in Victoria to prove that women wanted the right to vote.

On 11th July 1891 a petition appeared in the Alliance Record. The petition was circulated throughout the state. Completed petition sheets were to be forwarded to Marie Kirk at the WCTU office in Russell Street, Melbourne, by 20th August but the date was extended for another two weeks when the the introduction of the Constitution Act Amendment Bill was delayed.

At the WCTU office the collected petition pages were pasted on a fabric roll to form the Monster Petition. The petition consisted of more than 28,000 signatures and measured 260 metres.

On 29th September 1891 the Monster Petition was presented to Parliament.
During the debate on the Constitution Act Amendment Bill, the clause that would have granted women the vote was removed when it was obvious that there were not enough supporters for the clause in the Legislative Assembly.

Although women in Victoria did not receive the right to vote in Victorian parliamentary elections until 1908, the Monster Petition is accepted as a symbol for women's suffrage in Victoria.

In August 2007 the importance of the petition was recognised when it was placed on Heritage Victoria's register of Significant Objects for Victoria.

In February 2008 the petition was inscribed into the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register.

Use this link for further information about the collection of the signatures for the petition.

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