Woman Miller, Emma (1839 - 1917)

Derbyshire, England
Labour movement activist and Suffragist

Written by Patricia Grimshaw, The University of Melbourne

Emma Miller played a vital part in the campaign for women's suffrage in Queensland where she was perhaps the best known of a talented group of activists. She was born in Derbyshire, England, in 1839; her father supported the Chartists. Married and widowed at a young age, she had four children whom she supported by sewing. She remarried and migrated with her second husband and children to Australia in 1879. Widowed again, she married for the third time to Andrew Miller, in Brisbane, in 1886.

Emma Miller became a notable advocate for labour and equal pay for women workers. In 1890 she helped form a female workers' union; she became the first woman to travel for the Australian Workers' Union and the first female member of the Brisbane Workers Political Organisation. A supporter of one person, one vote, Miller was foundation president of the Woman's Equal Franchise Association and served as president from 1894 till 1905, the year the vote for women in Queensland state elections was won. Thereafter she was president of the Women Workers Political Organisation and involved in Australian Labor Party politics; she also fought hard for free speech and civil liberties. Variously described as the 'grand old lady' (Worker, 30 August 1917, p. 19) and the 'mother of the labor movement' (Worker, 8 February 1917, p. 14), Miller died in 1917. A poem was penned in her honour (Worker, 2 August 1917, p. 3).

Published Resources


  • Young, Pam, Proud to be a Rebel: The Life of Emma Miller, University of Queensland Press (UQP), St Lucia, Queensland, 1991. Details

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