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Women and Politics in South Australia

Key Men in the campaign for votes for women

Support for women's suffrage came from both men and women. The men included a number of prominent politicians, from both the reforming and conservative sides of politics. Many of them came from strong nonconformist Christian backgrounds, and were involved in social reform and charity work - particularly the work of the Social Purity Society and the temperance movement.


Sir Edward Stirling

Sir Edward Stirling was a doctor and a parliamentarian. He had a general interest in promoting social reform and women's rights. In 1885 he introduced the first parliamentary measure supporting women's suffrage, and became the first president of the Women's Suffrage League in 1888. He resigned the presidency in 1892, because he felt that a women's organisation should be headed by a woman, but stayed on as vice-president.

Joseph Kirby

Joseph Kirby

Joseph Kirby was a prominent Congregational minister. He founded the Social Purity Society and became a founding member of the Women's Suffrage League. He was also an active member of the temperance movement.

Robert Caldwell

A farmer who entered Parliament in 1884, he was a Methodist, and a member of the Temperance Alliance. He presented a number of Bills for women's suffrage to the Parliament, but only favoured the vote for women of property. But his efforts in Parliament meant that the issue of women's suffrage was kept alive in Parliament and in the newspapers.


Several prominent politicians were also active supporters

Frederick Holder, Premier of South Australia in 1892, and a Member of the Commonwealth Parliament after Federation. He also played an important role in gaining the vote for women in Federal elections.

Dr John Cockburn, Minister of Education, and Premier in 1889-90. He later moved to London as Agent-General and spoke out in support of women's suffrage in Britain.

John GordonJohn Gordon
John Gordon, Leader of the Government in the Council and Chief Secretary under Premier Kingston. He introduced the successful women's Suffrage Bill to the Legislative Council in 1894.

Charles Kingston, Premier from 1891-1897, was not originally a supporter of votes for women. But by 1894 he changed his mind and became determined that it would pass, mainly because he saw that public opinion was swinging in that direction - including from his own electorate of West Adelaide where many of the signatures for the great suffrage petition of 1894 were collected.