The white women of Victoria were granted the right to vote in state elections in 1908, but were not permitted to stand for election themselves until 1924. It took another nine years for a woman to be elected, and over time the numbers of women in the Victorian Parliament have increased to the point where they have an impact on policy and legislation. In total 88 women have been members of the Victorian Parliament since 1924. There are currently 39 women members of the Parliament of Victoria out of a total of 128 Members; 88 in the Legislative Assembly and 40 in the Legislative Council. Twelve are Legislative Councillors and 27 are Members of the Legislative Assembly. The figure of 39 represents approximately 30 per cent of the total, still short of the 50 per cent which would be representative of the total population.
For every successful woman however, there have been many who have not been rewarded. In addition to the successful candidates, this exhibition includes all the other women who have been candidates for election to the Victorian Parliament between 1924 and 2008. Their stories are often very interesting and their efforts and achievements no less worthy or inspirational than those of their victorious sisters. They have come to politics via many routes, but almost always there is a belief in the importance of community and involvement in the political process that motivates them. For example, Alicia Katz, the first woman to stand for election to the Victorian Parliament, in her campaign for the Legislative Assembly seat of Barwon, at the 1924 state election, stated that 'an intelligent mother must use her vote and her influence in setting up better living conditions for the community so that when children go out into the world they will be safeguarded from some of the social evils now existing through women in the past having no say in the making of laws.' Florence Rodan, who stood for election to the Victorian Parliament three times, in 1945, 1952 and 1955 believed that women should be more active in the political process. She was a widow who in addition to her three children reared her brother's three children. In her election campaign pamphlet for the 1945 election, she explained that 'I learned why women should interest themselves in the affairs of the state and the nation. I would not have a home to be busy about if I did not interest myself in the affairs of the state and the Nation.' Mrs Mascotte Brown demonstrated great persistence in her unsuccessful attempts to become the Member for Malvern. She stood for Parliament at least four times in the 1950s, usually as an Independent Liberal but once as an endorsed candidate of the Victorian Liberal Party.
This project marks the centenary of female suffrage in Victoria by honouring all the women who have exercised their political citizenship and stood for the Victorian parliament, thus restoring them to their rightful places in Australian political history. Apart from any symbolic value that this celebration implies, the production of this register provides researchers with a valuable tool by which they can conduct further research into the lives of these interesting women. This register highlights the growth in women's influence in the public sphere over time and the difference this growth in influence has made to the quality of life enjoyed by all Victorians, but especially women. It is searchable by name, year, electorate, party and jurisdiction, thus enabling interested users to observe patterns and trends across a variety of variables.
The accompanying biographical essay provides an explanation of the complicated situation of indigenous women in Australia and clarifies some common misconceptions about the process of their enfranchisement in Victoria.