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The Heritage of Herstory: the emergence of feminism in Melbourne en

This audio tour will visit a series of Melbourne’s heritage sites connecting the story of women attaining the right to vote and participate in public political life, and several enduring public landmarks. The story will demonstrate how social reforms initiated by women and for women were key in the cultural and social progress of Melbourne from the 19th into the 20th century.

The 1830’s saw the rise of the temperance movement in Melbourne, inspired by similar in America and Britain. Temperance was a social movement against the consumption of alcohol, lobbied for largely by women from Christian church based organisations, such as the Independent Order of Rechabites, the Band of Hope and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. (WCTU)[1] The temperance movement was the first movement where women were permitted to deter their focus from family, church or home into politics. The women activists recognised through their temperance action that their political voice was powerless to influence social policy and legislation without the vote in parliament. The Melbourne branch of the WCTU was formed in 1886, and rapidly grew to 3000 members in 1892. Throughout the 1890s the WCTU gained momentum and strength, developing alliances with other women’s suffrage organisations, and by the 1890s were a highly influential movement, campaigning with letters, education programs, meetings, and ultimately, the Monster Petition.[2] Their goal was to educate the public about the benefits of total abstinence, drawing the connection between alcohol consumption and domestic violence. They agitated for laws restricting the sale of alcohol; campaigning for the introduction of six o’clock closing and for ‘dry’ suburbs. Through this action the women realised they could agitate for other social reform issues such as anti-gambling, Sabbatarianism, anti-sweating, the antiwar and peace movement, raising the age of consent, and banning the sale of drink and cigarettes to minors, if they had the vote.[3] It is evident therefore, that eventually the action of the WCTU in the push for temperance forms a clear pathway to the women’s liberation movement of the Victorian suffragettes.

[1] (‘Paul’, 2014)
[2] (Blainey, 2008)
[3] (Blainey, 2008)


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