The Timeline is a listing of key events in Australian women’s history, an authoritative timeline of milestones and anniversaries.
31 October 1827
First Female Workers Riot
First Female Workers Riot occured at the Parramatta Female Factory over conditions and food deprivation.
First Australian Suffrage Society
Henrietta Dugdale and Annie Lowe formed the Victorian Women’s Suffrage Society
20 July 1888
Organising women’s suffrage in South Australia
Women’s Suffrage League formed in South Australia
21 March 1895
Votes for women in South Australia
The proclamation of South Australia’s Suffrage Act, assented to by Queen Victoria on 2 February, gave women an equal right with men to vote, and to stand for election to the Colony’s House of Assembly.
Women with property could also vote in Legislative Council elections, but women could not stand for the upper House of the parliament until 1959.
15 May 1900
Women win the vote in Western Australia
West Australian women win the vote in WA elections with Queen Victoria’s assent to the Bill passed by the WA parliament on 15 December 1899
9 July 1900
Queen Victoria’s Assent enacts the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution
12 June 1902
Commonwealth Franchise Act grants right to vote and stand for election for the Australian parliament to women on the same basis as men, with Aboriginal people in some States still without this right
16 December 1903
First Australian women stand for federal parliament elections
Vida Goldstein, Nellie Martel, and Mary Ann Moore Bentley stand for the Senate, and Selina Siggins for the seat of Dalley in the House of Representatives
29 February 1904
Votes for women in Tasmania
Tasmanian women won an equal right with men to vote in elections for the House of Assembly. Women with property were eligible to vote for the Legislative Council and from 29 October 1920 those who served in the 1914-18 war were also eligible to vote for the upper House. An equal right to stand for election to both Houses was won two years later.
23 October 1907
Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work opens
Opening of the Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work in Melbourne by Lady Northcote, with Pattie Deakin running a model creche during the five-week exhibition showcasing the work of musicians, artists and craftswomen
31 March 1909
Votes for women in Victoria
Women in Victoria won an equal right with men to vote in State elections. Only women who met the propery qualification could vote in Legislative Council elections. Victorian women won an equal right o stand for election to both Houses of their State parliament in 1924.
12 March 1921
First woman elected to an Australian parliament
Edith Cowan (Nationalist, West Perth) became the first woman to be elected to an Australian parliament. She served in the Western Australian Legislative Assembly until 22 March 1924.
12 August 1921
Australian Federation of Women Voters
Bessie Rischbieth founded this federated body of Australian women’s political associations as a national group to liaise with international feminist organisations and establish credentials as lobbyists and advisers at the League of Nations.
An immediate success of the AFWV was lobbying prime minister Billy Hughes to have a woman included on Australia’s delegations to the annual League of Nations General Assembly. From 1922 Australia was one of the few member nations to comply with the equailty provision in the covenant of the League in including a woman on each official delegation.
26 August 1925
First woman member speaks in the NSW Parliament
Millicent Preston-Stanley, elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly in May 1925, delivered her first speech two weeks after the opening of the parliament.
23 September 1943
First women elected to the federal parliament
Dame Enid Lyons becomes a member of the House of Representatives for the United Australia Party, and the Australian Labor Party’s Dorothy Tangney takes a seat in the Senate representing West Australia
SA Council of Aboriginal Women
Founded by Gladys Elphick, a Kaurna descendant
In 1969, Zelda D’Aprano chained herslef to the Commonweath Building in Melbourne. 35 years later (2004) she was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia in recognition of her campaigning on women’s workplace issues.
19 June 1969
After decades of campaigning, Australian women workers win equal pay rates with men doing comparable work under an Arbitration Commission decision for incremental increases, with pay parity eventually achieved in 1972
The Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) began in Feb 1972 when 10 women met in a femisnists home to disuss ways of playing a more influential role in the election planned for December that year.
31 August 1975
Australia celebrates International Women’s Day
The Australian Government held the first national conference from 31 August to 6 September in1975 on the status of women (Women and Politics) and committed Australia to celebrating International Women’s Day with other member nations of the United Nations.
The conference generated a great deal of debate in Australia. Some conference delegates invaded the offices of the Canberra Times to protest about the coverage of the conference.
25 April 1981
ANZAC Day. Women arrested while marching to remember women raped in war.
In the early ’80s, a number of Australian women attempted to join official ANZAC Day marches because they wanted to commemorate all women who had been raped in wars.
In 1980, fourteen women who tried to do this in Canberra were arrested. The following year, again in Canberra, around 250 women attempted to join the tail of the official ANZAC Day march but were stopped by police and directed not to march. The police were acting under a Section 23A of the Traffic Ordinance, a section that had only been gazetted the day before the march. As a result about 64 people, mainly women, were arrrested and charged with failing to obey the police directive.
The special legislation, march and arrests that took place aroundthat Anzac Day in 1981 gave rise to a great deal of debate in the Canberra Times.
Australia becomes CEDAW signatory
Australia becomes a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
1 July 1989
National Foundation for Australian Women launched
The official launch of the National Foundation for Australian Women was at the National Press Club in Canberra on 1 July 1989. A series of mini-launches in all states and territories were held in the following six months.
8 March 2000
Women’s History Month 2000 launched
Hon. Margaret Reid, Senator for the ACT and President of the Senate, launched Women’s History Month in Parliament House Canberra.
12 February 2002
Women’s History Month 2002 launched
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