Women and Politics in South Australia
Organisations supporting the Women's Suffrage Campaign
The campaign for women's right to vote was organised primarily through the Women's Suffrage League. But there were a number of influential organisations that strongly supported women's suffrage.
The Women's Christian Temperance Union was formed in 1886 and dedicated to promoting sobriety and fighting drunkenness. The temperance movement was an influential and widespread movement, linked closely with the nonconformist churches. Many of the social problems of the time, including poverty and family disruption, were thought to be caused by drunkenness.
The Union was an Australia-wide organisation with local "unions" all over the country. It was strongly committed to gaining the vote for women, and used its widespread organisation to spread the message about votes for women and to gain support from clergy, politicians and other prominent citizens. Many of the "unions" had their own suffrage committees, to speak out and educate other women about the vote.
The Social Purity Society was concerned with what was called then "the social evil" i.e prostitution. It campaigned for legislation to raise the age of consent for girls, and provided accommodation and assistance for young women coming to the city for work. Although it had been successful in gaining some of the legislative reforms that it campaigned for, it believed its ability to achieve reforms was seriously limited by the weak political status of women. Key members of the Social Purity Society also set up the Women's Suffrage League.
The United Trades and Labor Council and the Working Women's Trades Union also supported women's right to vote. They saw it as an important part of the campaign for better pay and conditions for women workers who had to work to support their families.
The newly emerging political parties - the United Labor Party and the National Democratic League - also supported women's suffrage, partly because they saw it as a way of increasing their membership. The party platform of the United Labor Party included support for women's suffrage. When Premier Charles Kingston changed his mind about women's suffrage in 1893, and became a firm supporter, he recognised that giving women the vote would increase the number of city voters (who tended to support the ULP and Kingston's government).
After 1889, several of the major Nonconformist churches pledged their support for the campaign, and became actively involved in promoting the cause.