Vida Goldstein (1869 – 1949) feminist and suffragist
Vida Goldstein, feminist and suffragist, was born on 13 April 1869 at Portland, Victoria. Vida actively promoted women’s rights and emancipation in many ways over the years from 1891 to 1919. She helped to found or supported many women’s organizations including the National Council of Women. Charming, public-spirited and believing in Christian principles which she consistently practised.
Vida Goldstein, feminist and suffragist, was born on 13 April 1869 at Portland, Victoria.
Vida and her sisters were all well educated by a private governess; from 1884 Vida attended Presbyterian Ladies’ College where she matriculated in 1886.
Vida’s mother was a confirmed suffragist, an ardent teetotaller and a zealous worker for social reform. Vida’s own public career began about 1890 when she helped her mother Isabella Goldstein collect signatures for the huge Women’s Suffrage Petition. In the 1890s she also became involved in the National Anti-Sweating League, the Criminology Society and various social welfare activities, particularly those promoted by Dr Charles Strong and by her close friend Annette Bear-Crawford, with whom she helped to organize the Queen Victoria Hospital Appeal for the Queen’s jubilee in 1897.
Between 1899 and 1908 Vida’s first priority was the suffrage. In 1902 she travelled to the United States of America to speak at the International Woman Suffrage Conference, was elected secretary, gave evidence in favour of woman suffrage to a committee of the United States Congress and attended the International Council of Women Conference. Australian women had been granted the Federal vote in 1902 and on her return from America she became the first woman in the British Empire to be nominated and to stand for election to a national parliament.
Once the State franchise was won in 1908 Vida returned to national politics and made four more attempts to gain election to Federal parliament: in 1910 and 1917 for the Senate and in 1913 and 1914 for the House of Representatives, always as an Independent Woman Candidate.
Although they changed in detail, she consistently supported the principles of compulsory arbitration and conciliation, equal rights, equal pay, the appointment of women to a variety of official posts, and the introduction of legislation which would redistribute the country’s wealth. She was outspokenly opposed to capitalism, supporting production for use not profit, and public control of public utilities.
She opposed the White Australia policy in principle although she believed alien immigration should be restricted until equal pay for equal work had been achieved. Her desire to enter parliament and her avowed ambition to become prime minister were based on her determination to put her ideals into practice.
Vida actively promoted women’s rights and emancipation in many other ways over the years from 1891 to 1919. She helped to found or supported many women’s organizations including the National Council of Women, the Victorian Women’s Public Servants’ Association and the Women Writers’ Club. She also worked for many social reforms including equal property rights for man and wife and raising the age of marriage and consent, while advocating new laws on land taxation, food adulteration and the sweating of women workers.
Her methods included lobbying politicians to urge amendments to proposed legislation; she directly influenced many Acts. In December 1906, for example, she had the satisfaction of seeing passed into law her long-demanded Children’s Court Act, the terms of which she had helped to draft.
Of the Australian women connected with the emancipation and suffrage movements of the day Vida Goldstein was the only one to gain a truly international reputation. In February 1911 she visited England at the invitation of the Women’s Social and Political Union and her speeches drew huge crowds. Alice Henry wrote that Vida ‘was the biggest thing that has happened to the woman movement for some time in England’.
Throughout the inter-war years, although no longer publicly prominent, Vida continued to lobby for social reforms such as improved provision of birth control and equal naturalization laws, and urged both women and men to support disarmament and to oppose war. She was now deeply committed to internationalism. Among the recurrent themes in her writings were her visionary suggestions for a new social order which was to have a spiritual foundation and be based on the ‘brotherhood of man’ concept of true socialism and on Christian ethics. Indeed, although she had always refused to join a party, Vida sympathized deeply with labour and the cause of working peoples. Most press reports called her a socialist, but she described herself as a democrat with a vision of society which would enable the complete equality of women with men and decent standards of living for all.
She maintained her belief that women had special talents and needs, were potentially the world’s civilizers, and therefore had contributions to make to political and international affairs.
Vida summarized her basic attitude to politics and public life as: ‘In essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; in all things charity’. She was humane, kind and sincere, genuinely concerned for the underdog of whatever race or nationality. Charming, public-spirited and believing in Christian principles which she consistently practised, she was a born reformer, though she promoted simple solutions to complex social problems. According to a testimonial from her supporters, she ‘offered to the people the wit and eloquence of an orator, the knowledge and foresight of a statesman, and the devotion and courage of a brave woman’.
Complete article :
Vida Jane Mary Goldstein (April 13, 1869 – August 15, 1949) was an Australian early feminist reformer and politician. . . . . The Women’s Electoral Lobby in Victoria has named an award after her.
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You will find both Isabella and Vida Goldstein’s names on the Women’s Suffrage Petition at:
Profile of the electoral division of Goldstein (Vic) :
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