Women's suffrage theme for Charlton WAB meeting

The South Australian Women's Suffrage Movement was the focus of the June meeting of Charlton Women in Agriculture and Business.

Local historian Lee Clayton was the guest speaker and his background lecturing on Constitutional law and his passion for history enabled him to give an engaging talk to the group on women who actively campaigned for improved conditions for females and the right for women to vote.

These women were known as suffragists or suffragettes, from the term suffrage, which refers to the right to vote.

Early settlers arriving by boat to the new colony of South Australia included young women hoping to gain employment.

However hard times in the ensuing years meant many found themselves in distressing situations and vulnerable, with no means of support and many of them were forced to turn to prostitution.

Two notable South Australian suffragists were Catherine Helen Spence and Mary Lee.

Catherine Spence, a journalist, writer and fighter for effective voting, was the first female political candidate.

She pioneered Children's Courts in South Australia, sought aide and equal pay for women and was co-founder of a fostering scheme for children.

In the early 2000s she was pictured on the five dollar note.

Mary Lee was also a notable leader in the Suffrage Movement and a champion for working women.

She belonged to the Social Purity Society which fought for improvements in laws relating to child labour, young women's employment and the age of consent.

She was an energetic and eloquent speaker and a force to be reckoned with.

The Constitutional Amendment Act 1894 gave women in the colony of South Australia the right to vote and to stand for parliament, and South Australia became the first in Australia to do so.

This year marks the 125th Anniversary of that landmark legislation.