Woman Brentnall, Elizabeth (1830 - 1909)

Nottingham, England
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Suffragist and Temperance activist

Written by Patricia Grimshaw, The University of Melbourne

Elizabeth Brentnall was a leader in the suffrage movement in Queensland, working from a base in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). She was born in 1830 in Nottingham in England. In 1867 when she was headmistress of a Methodist school in Lancashire she migrated to Sydney where she married Frederick Brentnall, a Methodist clergyman. The couple had two daughters. The family shifted to Brisbane where Frederick Brentnall became a member of the Legislative Council in 1886; unlike his wife, he supported the women's vote only with a limited franchise.

Elizabeth Brentnall became president of the WCTU in Queensland in 1886 and served in that capacity till 1899; afterwards she was an honorary life president. Her leadership was marked by a 'high tone of spirituality ... Sympathy ... Wisdom ... [and] cheerfulness' (Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), 1 May 1909). She first called for women's suffrage in her presidential address to the WCTU annual convention in 1888 and three years later the WCTU formed a separate suffrage department and engaged in a vigorous campaign until the vote was passed in 1905. Her daughter, Flora Harris, was also a suffragist and organiser for the 'youth' section of the WCTU. Brentnall died in Brisbane 1909.

Published Resources


  • McCulloch, John, From Suffragists to Legislators, Central Queensland University (CQU) Press, Rockhampton, Queensland, 2005. Details

Online Resources