Suffragists digitally memorialised by 'Wikibomb' 120 years on

By / 26th of November, 2014

VOLUNTEERS will simultaneously create Wikipedia entries on twelve of South Australia's most influential suffragists to mark the 120th anniversary of suffrage.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to honour these brave activists whose dedication and resolve made South Australia the first state to allow women to vote and stand for Parliament, on 18 December 1894,” said Status of Women Minister Gail Gago.

Female suffragists include:

  • Elizabeth Webb Nicholls
  • Rosetta Birks
  • Serena Thorne Lake
  • Mary Colton
  • Agnes Milne
  • Augusta Zadow

Male suffragists include:

  • Robert Caldwell
  • John Warren
  • Sylvanus Magarey
  • John Alexander Cockburn
  • Hector McLennan
  • John Hannah Gordon

Women's Suffrage in South Australia

Following colonisation in 1836, South Australian settlers lived under British common law which made women subordinate to men, in that they were subject to their fathers, and then to their husbands.

Their children, income and property were legal property of their husbands.

Early progressive legislation began to separate women's legal identity from that system. Bills were introduced to allow for divorce, as well as allowing landowners, including women, to vote in local council elections.

The fight for South Australian suffrage has its roots in social organisations such as the Ladies' Social Purity Society, formed in 1883.

After successfully campaigning to raise the age of consent, the Society broadened its focus, becoming the Women’s' Suffrage League. They worked with other women's groups in Australia and overseas, writing letters, distributing petitions, writing to newspapers, giving speeches and visiting politicians amongst countless other activities.

Their efforts culminated in the passing of the Adult Suffrage Bill which granted women - for the first time in Australia - the right to vote and the right to sit in Parliament.

That took place on the 18th of December, 1894. The Queen endorsed the Constitutional Amendment in March 1895, allowing women to vote in state elections for the first time.

For a more detailed summary, the Office for Women has provided a fact sheet celebrating 120 years of South Australian women's suffrage.

“These strong-willed men and women campaigned tirelessly for these rights through letters, speeches, and travelling throughout South Australia collecting signatures.

“It’s wonderful that South Australians are today giving a modern tribute to those who contributed to those momentous changes to women’s rights.

“As part of today’s Wikibomb, new Wikipedia pages will be created and existing ones expanded for these inspirational suffragists who deserve recognition and a prominent place in our history,” Ms Gago said.

This article will be updated with links to the Wikipedia pages when they become live at 1pm today.

The Office for Women in South Australia

Key contacts

Tanalee Smith Media contact for Minister Gail Gago DPC
0408 377 584 smith.tanalee@dpc.sa.gov.au