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1890

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``Will it come to this when woman secures her vote?"

The Coolgardie Pioneer,
20 August, 1898
Courtesy of the Battye Library

A century ago, when Perth was the most far-flung outpost of the British Empire, the population of Western Australia was dominated (almost two-to-one) by men.

The woman's place was in the kitchen, where she could keep the home fires burning, raise the children and fulfil her wedding vow to `honour and obey' her husband.  If she was unfortunate enough to be single, her position was even more difficult as there was no clear life role for her and employment opportunities were very limited.

Women's opinions were rarely sought on political issues, and their voices seldom heard outside the accepted avenues of social conversation.

It was very much a man's world. Men made the laws - and their laws favoured men. Some women were content with a system which regarded them as their husband's property.  Fortunately for women today, many more were not.

The Woman's Christian Temperance Union
The Woman's Christian Temperance Union
Perth Convention Group
Courtesy of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union

Pioneers like Emily Hensman, Margaret Forrest, Madeleine Onslow, Gwenyfred James, Edith Cowan and Roberta Jull became leaders of a women's movement devoted to advancing the rights and status of colonial women - married
and single.  They discovered their own political voice... and they wanted to be heard.

In 1892 six branches of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) were formed in Western Australia.  Concerned about the role of women and the family in a very much male-dominated society, the WCTU recognised the importance of female suffrage in the pursuit of badly needed social reforms.

The WCTU held public meetings and circulated a petition that was later pasted onto a mile-long length of cloth.