A lot of words associated with Annie Lowe but few images. Also few links compared to her colleagues.
Mrs Lowe pointed to a small photo graph group on her drawing-room wall. “There,’ she said, “Is a portrait group of the committee of the first Women’s Suffrage Society started in this colony; It was formed nearly, twelve years ago. I was a member of the committee, and I have been connected with the movement, more or less intimately, ever since.”
“You were very much ridiculed at first ? It is scarcely necessary to ask the question.”
“We were, indeed; and not only ridiculed, but insulted. At that time, I think, only one place in the British Empire had given the franchise to women. That place was the Isle of Man: It is rather odd that a place with that name’ should have been the first to do this justice to women, but so it was, if I remember rightly. The late Dr. Bromby was our first president; and Mrs Rennick was our secretary: Public speaking oil the question then was really hard. work. The usual jeer with which our. speakers were greeted was to be told to go home and darn out husband’s stockings, as If that was the sole domestic occupation of an intelligent woman!”
“You get some of that sort of banter even now, don’t you ?”
“Oh yes, occasionally, especially in the suburbs of Melbourne, where the audiences seem much ruder than in the Country. Personally, I don’t mind it very much,- because I can generally get even with those who take this line. On one occasion, at a suburban meeting, a clergyman got up and said that women: who took part in such meetings had been called “the shrieking sisterhood.” When it came to my turn to speak, I said it was not wise for people to begin calling names,especially for clergymen, because someone might remind them that they had been called members of the third sex! This turned the laugh against the clergyman, and he was very subdued during the rest of the meeting.”
“Do you really think it is the case that audiences in the country are better mannered than those in and around the metropolis ?”
“I am sure of it. In places like Castlemaine, Bendigo and Ballarat the people are rarely rude to a woman speaker, even if they disagree with what she is saying. I really can’t say the same about the suburbs of Melbourne. And it is surprising, too, what an interest the people of the country take in this question. Why, in Castlemaine–to mention that place again, as I was just speaking of It–they have a women’s suffrage society with three or four hundred members in it. You find that the women up country read and think about questions of this sort, and form very definite opinions.”
“Do you often find much active opposition “
“Not often. In fact, I almost wish we did, because a little opposition gives you such a chance of showing up the weakness and absurdity of the arguments against women’s suffrage. Why, that last debate in Parliament, when some members talked so scandalously, did our cause any amount of good. For my part, I like opposition. When Sir Henry Loch was Governor here, he, being very much interested in women’s suffrage, was the means of causing a debate to be held on the subject at Trinity College. There was a young man there who adopted a very superior tone- against the cause. He said that at present men are the protectors of women, but that if women got a vote. and were made politically equal with men,- it would be very different. For instance, he said, if a man were in a field with a lady, and a bull ran towards them it would be the duty of the man to protect the woman: but that if they were both equal the man would be justified in running away, and leaving his companion to look after herself. This amused, me very much. In my girlhood I was quite accustomed to hard work. I, with my brothers, went into the back blocks of Queensland, to open up a station there, and was generally accustomed to real privations and a hard life. It amused me to think of this young philosopher rescuing me from a bull. So when it came to my turn to speak, I said that I rather fancied that if the young man and I were in that position his philosophy would soon vanish, and I would be quite content that he should make a dash for the hedge, and leave me to keep the bull from doing any harm. The audience had only to look at the nervous young philosopher to form the Opinion that that was about true, too.
“What made you interested in the question at all, Mrs. Lowe ?”
“Thirty-five or thirty-six years my father, who was a large landlord in New South Wales, fought for the enfranchisement of men there. At that time all sorts of disabilities were imposed upon men who did not happen to possess property. And when it was sought to enfranchise, the very same arguments were used in opposition as are used to-day against giving the vote to women. It was said that they didn’t want the vote, that it would cause dissension between master and men, that the men would neglect work to attend the voting, and that law making was not their sphere. Same old arguments, you see! We get them now as before, freshened up to furnish an opposition to the franchise for women. When I heard the arguments against women’s suffrage, I remembered that they were just the same old things as I had heard my father speak of years before. And I saw, too, that they were just as hollow.
Warragul Guardian, 25 October 1895
Mrs. Annie Lowe, who will be written In our history as the mother of the suffrage movement, is one of the most charming women in, Australia (says the Melbourne “Herald). She Is an Intellectual, a woman with a broad mind and a most delightful wit. Her manner Is natural, warm, and breezy. Australian—that Is the word for it. Mrs. Lowe is an Australian of Australians. Seventy-five years old in July of this year, she has a grandchild who is an Australian of the fourth generation. Knowing her country from north to south, east to west, and believing it to be the finest on God’s earth, with the clear, keen intellect, her sunny temperament, her courage and Independence of spirit— its simplicity and charity—with her deep, sweet, womanliness—the greatest charm of all, Mrs. Lowe is the model of what we would wish the typical Australian woman to be.
[cut for length]
THE SUFFRAGE CAUSE.
The womanhood suffrage cause appealed to her naturally when she came to Victoria, where whispers of it were in the air. Her father, a man of liberal views and a considerable, landowner, had championed manhood suffrage in New South Wales. “He discussed politics before his boys and girls,” said Mrs. Lowe. “We imbibed his broad and liberal views. Boys and girls, we were trained equally. We girls were taught that what was good for the boys was good for us to know. When I came to Victoria I applied my father’s arguments for manhood suffrage to the women’s cause. I remember,” she said, in her energetic way, “the first day Mrs. Dugdale and I had any talk about it. Then our first informal meeting, which was held at Mrs. Rennick’s house in Shipley street, South Yarra.”
AN OLD HERALD.
Mrs. Lowe stopped speaking to spread on the table a newspaper, yellow with age and sorely creased. “This,” she said, triumphantly, “is the ‘Herald’ of June 1, 1885, and contains the notice of our first public meeting. The Victorian Women’s Suffrage Society was formed in 1884, but did not hold its public meeting till 1885.” “I think.”” Mrs. Lowe added, “that we women would be basely ungrateful If we did not thank the press for what it has done for our cause.” Some of Mrs. Lowe’s platform replies to opposition and hostile query will be chestnuts with our grandchildren. Her weapon in argument was never tho bludgeon, but always a rapier-like wit. Mrs. Lowe’s eyes sparkled. She laughed as merrily as a girl when she was asked to tell something o£ bet platform experiences.
“A man got up in a public hall once, and declared that he did not believe in the suffrage, as it meant women neglecting their households, leaving their domestic duties, in order to vote.” Said Mrs. Lowe, “I asked him if he neglected any duties in order to register his vote. He said No; he didn’t think he had. “Why, man, you’re a sweater, then, if you won’t give a woman a few minutes off one in three years to register hers,” I told him. A clergyman, who was in the chair at one of Mrs. Lowe’s meetings, after her address, had the somewhat questionable taste to refer to the suffragists on whose platform he sat as members of the “shrieking sisterhood.” Mrs. Lowe very cleverly, In order to answer his remark, rose and thanked the audience for its courteous attention, and her chairman for his service in conducting the meeting. “But,” she said, in the most gracious and graceful way in the world, “the reverend gentleman has referred to us as members of the ‘shrieking sisterhood.’ We do not mind that any more, I suppose, than he himself minds being called, one of the “third sex.'” Again commenting on a remark made by a member of Parliament that “he would as soon a lot of shrieking old cockatoos had a vote as women,” she inquired very sweetly, very politely, “If the hon. gentleman knew that It was the male cockatoo that did the shrieking?” The witticisms, all exquisite, swift, and thrusting, are too numerous to mention. If there was a Mrs. Lowe in England to-day there would be no need of militant methods to get the vote. For over a quarter of a century, pioneer and helmsman, Mrs Lowe has stood at the wheel of the woman’s movement .Mrs. Lowe is the last actual member of that gallant pioneer band of 20 women who first preached the gospel of female emancipation in Australia. Only ill-health has prevented her from being foremost among the workers of today.
Daily Post, 3 June 1909
The many friends of Mrs Annie Lowe will regret to hear of her death, which took place on April 14, at her residence, Clyde street, St. Kilda. Mrs Lowe, who was nearly 76 years of age, underwent an operation for an internal trouble about two years ago. Some months ago, however, the old complaint manifested itself again, and the sufferer had for many weeks been confined to her bed. For some days past her condition was regarded as extremely serious, and her death, which occurred at 3.30 this morning, was not unexpected. Deceased leaves one son, Mr Claude Lowe, the well-known solicitor; and a daughter, Mrs L. H. Pearce.
Mrs Lowe was one of a family of ten children, consisting of six daughters and four sons, and eight of these are still alive, the eldest being 80 years of age and the youngest 58. They are all resident in New South Wales. The deceased lady, who was one of the earliest workers in the movement to secure the franchise for women, had an exceedingly interesting life history. Her mother was born at Hawkesbury, New South Wales, over a century ago, and her grandparents were among the earliest settlers on the lovely . Hawkesbury river. Mrs Lowe was born in July, 1834, and therefore would have been 76 years of age had she lived until July next. She herself, like her grandparents, was a pioneer, she was the first white woman to go out-back in Queensland. With her husband she went 700 miles further out than others had been, crossing rivers on rafts of logs or a tree “dug out.” As she related, the blacks came in swarms to look at her. They had never before ! seen a white woman. Mrs Lowe prized a friendship with Kendal, the gifted Australian poet, as & she possessed letters from, poems by, and photographs of, the poet which she valued very highly.
In connection with public Mrs Lowe was wont to tell that she with witnessed the first election under responsible government in Australia, and the womanhood suffrage appealed to her at once, when she came to Victoria, when there wore then only whispers of it. Her father, a man of liberal views and a considerable landowner, had championed manhood suffrage in New South Wales, and he habitually discussed politics with and before his boys and girls, and they imbibed his liberal views. When she came to Victoria, Mrs Lowe applied her father’s arguments in favor of manhood suffrage to the women’s cause.
First Mrs Lowe spoke to Mrs Dugdale about women’s suffrage and they communicated with others, and the first informal meeting was held at Mrs Rennick’s house in Shipley street, South Yarra. In the interview with our lady contributor she triumphantly produced a copy of “The Hearld” of June 1, 1885, and said, “This contains the notice of our first public meeting. The Victorian Women’s Suffrage Society was formed in 1884, but did not hold its first public meeting until 1885. I think we women would be basely ungrateful if we did not thank the press for what it has done for our cause. “The Herald was always our sturdy advocate.”
The ability, determination, and resourcefulness with which Mrs Lowe conducted the long and arduous campaign in favor of women’s suffrage were long recognised, even by the opponents of the movement. She was the last actual member of that gallant pioneer band of twenty who first preached the gospel of female emancipation in Australia. Latterly ill-health prevented her from sharing so much in public as she was entitled to do, in the triumph of the cause.
The Weekly Times, 23 April 1910
Some bits from the Victorian campaign.
Extract from “Parliament”:
Mr MUNRO desired now to deal with the next amendment, which he hoped hon. members would support, It seemed to him (Mr Munro) very important for various reasons, one of which was that as a professed liberal he believed that government should be of the people, by the people and for the people (Hear, hear.) Why should one half of the people be excluded from the franchise? He had read up all the arguments which he could find against the extension of the franchise to women and he could not find one tangible objection–not one There could be no argument against woman suffrage which could not be used equally well against manhood suffrage. He would read an extract from a speech on the subject delivered on May 20, 1867, by Mr John Stuart Mill. Mr Mill said–
“I rise, Sir to propose an extension of the suffrage which can excite no party or class feeling in this house, which can give no umbrage to the keenest asserter of the claims either of property or of members–an extension which has not the smallest tendency to disturb what we have heard so much about lately–the balance of political power which cannot [?]lict the most, timid alarmist with revolutionary terrors or offend the most zealous democrat as an infringment of popular right, or as a privilege granted to one class of society at the expense of another. There is nothing to distract our attention from the simple question whether there is any adequate justification for continuing to exclude an entire half of the community, not only from admission but from capability of being ever admitted within the pale of the constitution though they may fulfil all the conditions legally and constitutionally sufficient in every case but theirs. Sir within the limits of our constitution this is a solitary case There is no other example of an exclusion which is absolute. [?] the law denied a vote to all but the possessors of 5000 a year the poorest man in the nation might, and now and then would, acquire the suffrage but neither birth nor fortune nor merit nor exertion or intellect nor even that great disposer of human affairs accident can ever enable any woman to have her voice counted in those national affairs which touch her and hers as nearly as any other person in the nation.”
That was a quite undeniable statement
Mr HUNT–Read Mr Bright’s reply.
Mr MUNRO–Mr Bright voted on this occasion with Mr Mill.
Mr W. T. CARTER—He spoke against it
Mr MUNRO believed in government of the people by the people for the people. Who were the people? He (Mr Munro) ventured to remark that in taking the census Mr Hayter not exclude all the women nor confine the census to the male population
Mr L . L. SMITH–An hon. member says he includes cows and fowls (Laughter )
Mr MUNRO–Mr Hayter not include any of the animals which the hon. member would be called on to prescribe for as a physician. (Laughter.) People under 21 years were excluded from the suffrage on the ground that they had not arrived at years of discretion. So wore prisoners in gaol excluded, and lunatics. Why should women should be classed with lunatics and criminals and children under age he (Mr Munro) did not know. Why position did woman hold? They were found engaged in teaching youth ; they were engaged in hospitals risking their lives as nurses on the battlefield, taking charge of domestic affairs Women voted like men in some congregations. They held real estate, and shares in public companies ; they were actresses and artists ; they were among our best authors ; they worked hard for families that had lost their fathers
Mr BOWMAN–Why not put them on the jury list?
Mr MUNRO–There was every evidence that the innocence of women would tend yo [?]vate and purify politics. They were part of the people, and there could be no government of the people by the people for the people which excluded them
Mr W T CARTER–They’re not excluded.
Mr BURROWES–Don’t they govern us now?
Mr MUNRO had noticed in the press the previous morning that a great deal had been said about the position of women in America. He (Mr Munro) had taken the liberty to get an opinion on that question by communicating with the Agent-General and asking him to get the latest information about the position of women in the United States and other parts of the world. He would read a statement by a leading American Senator, which ran as follows:
The Argus, 30 September 1891
Ladies filled the galleries of the Legislative Council yesterday hear the debate on the Adult Suffrage Bill. Miss Vida Goldstein, , who occupied one of the front seats was an interested listener, and as the debate proceeded an odd member of the Legislative Assembly dropped in to hear the oft repeated arguments.
Realising that there was little new ground to be broken , the Attorney-General (Mr. Davies) curtailed his second reading speech. At the outset he said that the bill would not confer on women the right to sit in Parliament.
Mr. J. Drysdale Brown.–Why not?
Mr. Davies said that it was laid down that any subject of the King could be a member of the Legislative Assembly, but it was specified that only a male could be elected to the Legislative Council. At all events, in the present bill there was no provision for enabling women to enter Parliament . Otherwise the bill conferred on women the same rights as regarded the vote as men enjoyed. The question had been before the House on many occasions. The bill was first brought forward 16 years ago It had been before the Legislative Assembly on 15 or 16 occasions, but when introduced in the Council it had always failed to secure a majority. He emphasised the fact that adult suffrage existed in every other state in Australia than Victoria. The privilege was also granted in New Zealand. The time had arrived for women to have a vote ,although he could say that personally he did not want to see women as members of Parliament.
Mr. Rees.–Why not?
Dr. Embling.–One lady was a candidate for the Federal Parliament.
Mr. Davies retorted that that candidate did not succeed. He did not know if hon. members were aware that women had the vote in Victoria about 45 years ago.
Dr. Embling.–They voted for my father to a “man.” (Laughter.)
Mr. Davies brought his speech to a close by asking the House to restore to women the right to vote that they enjoyed many years ago.
Strong opposition to the bill was expressed by Mr. Harwood, who said that one naturally looked fora reason why the bill was brought forward as a Government measure, while in the past Ministers had been free to vote on the bill as they pleased.
Mr. Davies. –It was brought in as a Government measure once before.
Mr. Harwood did not think too much importance should be attached to the fact that other states in the Commonwealth had granted adult suffrage. It was certainly doubtful whether the adoption of woman’s suffrage had benefited the Commonwealth. There was a socialistic Federal Ministry in power and it was evident that a section of the Federal Parliament was endeavouring to show that there was no necessity for State Parliaments at all. He (Mr. Harwood) emphasised the fact that a number of eminent authorities were opposed to woman’s suffrage . Ex-President Roosevelt, who had expressed himself against the movement said that if a woman assumed equal rights she should discharge duties equal to those carried by men. If the vote were granted to women they should also be eligible for election as members of Parliament. Ruskin had said that ” a woman’s best influence was guiding not a dominating one.” Members should consider how the women had exercised their votes at the federal elections.
Mr. Davies.–They voted as well as the men did.
Mr. Hicks. –Better.
Here a lady who occupied a front seat in the gallery caused a sensation by suddenly jumping to her feet and interrupting the debate. Facing Mr. Harwood, she exclaimed excitedly. ” We had to vote for the men who would support our bill. ” The lady was dragged back to her seat by companions, but it was evident that she was annoyed that her speech had been so suddenly terminated. After conversing with her companions in an excited undertone for a few moments, she suddenly left her seat and walked out of the gallery.
The incident caused much amusement, but it failed to destroy Mr. Harwood’s train of argument. He proceeded to refer to the conduct of suffragettes in the old country, where, he said, they were indulging in unseemly strife. The late Queen Victoria, in a letter to Sir Theodore Martin, written in 1870, stated:–“The Queen is most anxious that the people should join in checking the most wicked folly of women s rights.” He (Mr. Harwood) was opposed to the bill.
Mr. Brown contended that the women of Victoria were undoubtedly in favour of adult suffrage. It had been said that at the federal elections women were indifferent, but it was a fact candidates had been supported by far more women than men. He would support the bill.
“I do not believe in women’s suffrage declared Dr. Embling. His experience as a lecturer before the Women’ s National League convinced him that the majority of women were opposed to the bill. To the very last he would vote against the measure, as he had opposed “one man one vote.” It was undesirable to introduce into the home questions which would cause strife. Either the husband or wife would have to give way or the domestic peace would be broken.
The Argus, 19 November 1908
ADULT SUFFRAGE BILL.
PASSED BY LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
BY TWENTY-ONE VOTES TO FOUR
Melbourne, 18th November.
The Legislative Council has at last surrendered in regard to the question of the women’s franchise. For years the Council has rejected measures which have passed the Assembly by large majorities, but to night the Opposition to the proposal melted away, and the bill was carried by 31 votes against 4, and passed through all stages. The galleries were well filled with ladies when the President took the chair to-day.
Bendigo Advertiser, 19 November 1908
The Adult Suffrage Bill will come into operation as soon as it receives the Royal assent. After that women: will be able to obtain electors’ rights for the Legislative Assembly, and arrangements will have to be made for copying from ratepayers’ rolls the names of women entitled to vote for the Legislative Council.
Ballarat Star, 20 November 1908