Vida Goldstein, born in the Victorian city of Portland in 1869, was the first woman in the western world to nominate for a national parliament.
When Australian women were granted the right to vote by an act of parliament in 1902, the rest of the world recognised this new country as extraordinarily progressive. Women all over the world envied their Australian sisters – Vida was even invited to the US as a representative of “Australia, where women vote”.
Her last campaigns took place during the first world war; she vehemently opposed the then prime minister Billy Hughes’s two attempts to introduce conscription for overseas service. Defying not only the government but a large part of the population, she led public meetings – returned soldiers set fire to her platforms several times – and took steps to see that women and children did not starve while men were away fighting. When conscription was twice defeated, she felt vindicated.
Vida Goldstein was a woman of great ability, courage, intellectual force and determination: surely an asset to any parliament. Had she lived in the US or the UK, where she was lauded and admired, I believe she would certainly have been a member of the national legislature. Both countries had women in parliament or congress within five years of them gaining the vote; in Australia though, it took 40 years after women won the vote to see them take a seat in parliament.