Woman Dugdale, Henrietta (1827 - 1918)

London, England
Suffragist and Writer

Written by Patricia Grimshaw, The University of Melbourne

Henrietta Dugdale was a leading early advocate of women's rights in the Colony of Victoria. Her activism and writing and their influence on the women's suffrage campaign has attracted a recent biographer, Susan Priestley.

Dugdale was born in London in 1827 and migrated to Victoria with her first husband in 1852. He died in 1859 and she remarried William Dugdale with whom she had three children. She became a member of the Eclectic Society and the Australasian Secular Association. Victoria was notable for nurturing in 1884 the first women's suffrage organisation in the Australian colonies, although it was also notable for being in 1908 the last state to pass the state franchise.

This first suffrage organisation was the initiative of Henrietta Dugdale. In 1883 she had published a booklet, A Few Hours in a Far Off Age, dedicated to the pro-suffrage parliamentarian, George Higinbotham whom she admired for his stand on women's issues. The pamphlet projected radical changes in future society; it was Australian colonial in tone and style but also comparable to radical writings of European and British feminists of this period. After a conversation with the sympathetic suffragist, Annie Lowe, she formed with Annie the Victorian Women's Suffrage Society, of which Dugdale became president.

Dugdale persisted in her radical political and feminist politics over the next decades, somewhat distant from most middle-class suffragists but nevertheless an influential figure. A 'trenchant and forceful' advocate she was described as 'the most able letter writer of her day' (Queenscliff Sentinel, Drysdale, Portarlington, Sorrento Advertiser (Vic.: 1914 - 1918), 29 June 1918, p. 2). Widowed once more, in 1903 she married Frederick Johnson. She continued her interest in public affairs until her death in 1918.

Published Resources


  • Priestley, Susan, Henrietta Augusta Dugdale: Activist 1827-1918, Melbourne Books, Melbourne, Victoria, 2011. Details
  • Suffrage Collective, They Are But Women: The Road to Female Suffrage in Victoria, The University of Melbourne: Department of History: School of Historical Studies, Melbourne, Victoria, 2007. Details

Newspaper Articles

Online Resources