Woman The Golding Sisters

Tambaroora, New South Wales, Australia
Labour movement activist and Women's rights activist
Alternative Names
  • Dwyer, Kate (Married Name)
  • Golding, Annie
  • Golding, Belle
  • Golding, Kate

Written by Patricia Grimshaw, The University of Melbourne

Three remarkable sisters, Annie, Belle and Kate Golding (later Dwyer) were leading suffragists and labour movement activists in New South Wales, who grew up in a Catholic family and attended school in rural Tambaroora. The oldest of the three, Annie Golding, born in 1855, was a teacher who lobbied for the vote, equal pay for women, and equal opportunity in the workforce. With her two sisters, Kate and Belle, she helped found the Women's Progressive Association in Sydney in 1901, serving as its president from 1904. The Association was inclusive of working women and attentive to working-class family needs.

Kate Golding, (known as Dwyer after her marriage to fellow teacher Michael Dwyer), was born in 1861, and became one of the most prominent women in labour politics in New South Wales. From 1894 when she and her family moved to Sydney, Kate became prominent in the Womanhood Suffrage League. She was an energetic public speaker and a prolific writer who became the first president of the Women's Organising Committee of the Political Labor League in 1904, and a member of the State Labor Executive in 1905. She worked for a minimum female wage, and during the years 1911-1913 assisted the royal commission into female and juvenile labour and sat on the royal commission of enquiry into food supplies. She represented the Women Workers Union (which she had helped to form) on Wages Boards and in the 1920s sat on conciliation committees. In 1921 she was one of the first women to be appointed a justice of the peace. Kate Dwyer stood unsuccessfully for election to the seat of Balmain in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 1925.

The youngest of the sisters, Belle Golding, who was born in 1864, also took up the profession of teaching and worked energetically as a member of the Women's Progressive Association. In 1900 she became the first female inspector under the Early Closing Act of 1899. In 1913 she was transferred to the inspectorate under the Factories and Shops Act as senior (woman) inspector, a pioneer in this work. Belle died in 1940, the second of the sisters to do so. Annie had already died in 1934, and Kate died nine years after Belle, in 1949.

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