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Women's Movement Page 4

Working Women's Trades Union

The Working Women's Trades Union (WWTU) of South Australia was formed in January 1890. South Australia was the first territory outside Britain to legalise Trade Unions and in 1884 the United Trades and Labor Council (UTLC) was formed. The organisation of women into their own union was a significant event, and occurred in response to the 'sweat shop' conditions in which many young women found themselves. On 11 December 1889 Mary Lee called on the UTLC to form female trades unions, and on 14 January 1890 the Working Women's Trades Union of South Australia was formed, with Mary Lee serving as Secretary and Auguste Zadow as Treasurer.

On 15 March 1890 Mary Lee wrote to The Observer congratulating the United Trades and Labor Council in forming the Working Women's Trades Union and suggesting 'Let us hope that the Trades and Labor Council will follow up their generous action by fighting for women the battle of the ballot'. [Adelaide Observer, 22 March 1890, p.8]

That some male unionists may have felt disquiet with woman unionists is suggested in the UTLC Minutes of 28 March 1890 - Mr Stirling 'Secretary of the Working Women's Trades Union, wrote on behalf of that body and applied to become affiliated with the Council, but stated that it was not the intention of the Union to send lady delegates at present. The application was unanimously granted'.[United Trades and Labour Council Minutes, SRG 1/1, State Library of South Australia] However by 13 June 1890 the minutes record new delegates 'Mrs Milne, Mrs Reuin and Miss Vincent from the Working Women's Trades Union" attending the meeting. 

Similarly, on 25 August 1893, UTLC Secretary, John McPherson, in response to a letter from Mary Lee felt compelled to write 'With reference to the latter part of your letter, in which you state that the opinion is gaining ground that 'our members are not quite so ardently the friends of adult suffrage as they were before the elections' I can only express my astonishment at such a statement, which is neither generous or just.' [United Trades and Labor Council correspondence, SRG 1/5/3 State Library of South Australia] 

The resignation of Auguste Zadow to take up her appointment as the first Lady Inspector of Factories, followed by her sudden death on 7 July 1896, left the WWTU without her energy and commitment.  In 1905 the WWTU was replaced by the Women's Employment Mutual Association, but in the first decades of the 20 Century few women joined unions and their influence on women's lives was minor compared with that of World War I and the social changes that accompanied it.  

League of Women Voters


Following Catherine Helen Spence's bid to be elected to the Federal Convention in 1897 efforts to advance the gains of the the suffrage movement stalled. Women had gained the vote, but with no women in Parliament little had changed in the daily lives of women. On 19 July 1909 a group of women, including Catherine Helen Spence, Louise Morice,  and Vida Goldstein met at Bricknell's Cafe in Rundle Street and responded by establishing the Women's Non-Party Political Association, with the aim of improving the economic and political status of women and children. Following confusion over the the association's name, it was changed to Women's Non-Party Association and then with the establishment of the Australian Federation of Women Voters the name changed again to the League of Women Voters in 1924.

The work of the League was instrumental in establishing the Local Government Women's Association, whose work greatly increased the participation of women in local government, and the Electoral Reform Society. In 1916 the League sponsored Annie Hornabrook and Amy Tomkinson to stand as candidates for the Adelaide City Council, the first women ever to nominate for local government in South Australia.

Other important achievements included, amendment of the 1925 Adoption of Children Bill to provide for a woman justice on the decision making panel, the amendment of the Guardianship of Infants Act in 1940 to give equal rights to the mother of the child, where previously all rights were with the father, and as late as 1965 the inclusion of women on juries.

The League disbanded on 27 July 1979, marking the occasion with a farewell luncheon at the Mead Hall, Flinders Street.

"Suitcase Parade" of women opposed to changes to six o'
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"Votes for women" more in the air than ever
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Abortion in SA legalised
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Candidate for Parliament
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Catherine Helen Spence
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Catherine Helen Spence and Helen Brodie Spence
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Catherine Helen Spence, 1825-1905 : this for rememberan
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Certificate of Membership
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Certificate of membership, verso
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Eliza Davies
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Elizabeth Scarce and members of the International Women
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Feminist governor
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