An Autobiography HTML version

Progress Of Effective Voting
My journalistic work after my return was neither so regular nor so profitable as before I
left Adelaide. The bank failures had affected me rather badly, and financially my outlook
was anything but rosy in the year 1895. There was, however, plenty of public work open
to me, and, in addition to the many lectures I gave in various parts of the State on
effective voting, I became a member of the Hospital Commission, appointed that year by
the Kingston Government to enquire into the trouble at the Adelaide Hospital. That same
year saw a decided step taken in connection with effective voting, and in July a league
was formed, which has been in existence ever since. I was appointed the first President,
my brother John became secretary pro tem, and Mr. A. W. Piper the first treasurer. I felt
at last that the reform was taking definite shape, and looked hopefully to its future. The
following year was especially interesting to the women of South Australia, and, indeed,
to suffragists all over the world, for at the general election of 1896 women, for the first
time in Australia, had the right to vote. New Zealand had preceded us with this reform,
but the first election in this State found many women voters fairly well equipped to
accept their responsibilities as citizens of the State. But in the full realization by the
majority of women of their whole duties of citizenship I have been distinctly
disappointed. Not that they have been on the whole less patriotic and less zealous than
men voters; but, like their brothers, they have allowed their interest in public affairs to
stop short at the act of voting, as if the right to vote were the beginning and the end of
political life. There has been too great a tendency on the part of women to allow reform
work--particularly women's branches of it--to be done by a few disinterested and public-
spirited women. Not only is the home the centre of woman's sphere, as it should be, but
in too many cases it is permitted to be its limitation. The larger social life has been
ignored, and women have consequently failed to have the effect on public life of which
their political privilege is capable.
At the close of a second lecturing tour through the State, during which I visited and spoke
at most of the village settlements, I received an invitation from the Women's Land
Reform League to attend a social gathering at the residence of Miss Sutherland, Clark
street, Norwood. The occasion was my seventy-first birthday, and my friends had chosen
that day (October 31, 1896) to mark their appreciation of my public services. There were
about 30 of the members present, all interesting by reason of their zealous care for the
welfare of the State. Their President (Mrs. C. Proud) presented me, on behalf of the
members, with a lady's handbag, ornamented with a silver plate, bearing my name, the
date of the presentation, and the name of the cause for which I stood. From that day the
little bag has been the inseparable companion of all my wanderings, and a constant
reminder of the many kind friends who, with me, had realized that "love of country is one
of the loftiest virtues which the Almighty has planted in the human heart." That
association was the first in South Australia to place effective voting on its platform.
My long comradeship with Mrs. A. H. Young began before the close of the year. A
disfranchised voter at her first election, she was driven farther afield than the present
inadequate system of voting to look for a just electoral method. She found it in effective