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Women's right to vote in Queensland

In 1900, all Australian women received the federal vote as part of federation and in 1905, Queensland became the second-last Australian State to grant women the right to vote in state elections.

Before gaining the right to vote, women were treated as second-class citizens. They had a hard time gaining tertiary education and marriage was seen as the only career for middle-class women.

Obtaining the vote was the key to financial independence for women and was part of a gradual process of change which would affect the lives of all women.

The achievements and milestones for Queensland women is a comprehensive list of significant events, at a local, national and international level, which impacted the rights and attitudes towards women in Queensland.

What the legislation said

The Electoral Franchise Bill sought:

"All persons not under twenty-one years of age whether male or female married or unmarried -
  1. who have resided in Queensland for six months continuously, and
  2. who are natural born or naturalised subjects of the King, and
  3. whose names are on the electoral roll for an electoral roll for an electoral district of Queensland,
shall be entitled to vote at the election of members of the Legislative Assembly for such electoral district."
  • (Queensland Parliamentary Debates, vol 94, 6 January 1905, p65)

Women who changed their surname upon marriage were not to be disadvantaged:

"No female elector shall be disqualified from voting under the name appearing on the roll merely because she has changed her name upon marriage."
  • (Queensland Parliamentary Debates, vol 94, 9 January 1905, p65)

Key organisations and individuals

The following organisations and individuals were key players who campaigned for the vote for Queensland women.

Woman’s Christian Temperance Union

  • Campaigned to protect women from drunken husbands’ abuse and alcohol-induced poverty.
  • Wanted the age of consent raised from 12 to 16.
  • Wanted Contagious Diseases Act 1868 (Qld) abolished.
  • Recognised that to effect social reforms they needed a voice in Parliament and the best way for that to happen was to have a say in who the representatives were.
  • Its president Elizabeth Brentnall pushed for adoption of women’s suffrage as mission activity in 1888; taken up in 1891.

Woman’s Equal Franchise Association (WEFA)

  • Formed in 1894.
  • Led by trade unionist Emma Miller (PDF, 152KB).
  • Believed in ’one person, one vote’.
  • Disbanded after the vote was granted in 1905.

Woman’s Franchise League

  • Headed by journalist Leontine Cooper (PDF, 107KB).
  • Splinter group of Women’s Equal Franchise Association (WEFA).
  • Did no support WEFA’s ‘one person, one vote’ stand.
  • Believed women’s suffrage more likely to be achieved if on the same basis as men who already had the vote—i.e. property-biased system.
  • Disbanded after the vote was granted in 1905.

Queensland Woman’s Electoral League (QWEL)

  • Formed in July 1903.
  • Headed by Margaret Ogg (PDF, 39KB).
  • QWEL was conservative and anti-socialist, and concerned with social issues including equal pay, early shop closing, divorce laws and censorship.
  • Continued until 1960s, taking up social reform issues, including women in Parliament.
Last updated
30 September, 2014

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