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Image Suffragette cartoon based in a butcher shop, 1900

TLF ID R8619

This cartoon, captioned 'MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB', features the Queensland premier Robert Philp (1851-1922) as a butcher of the 'Democratic Butchering Co'. As he sharpens his knife a small girl approaches bearing the initials WEFA (Women's Equal Franchise Association) on her coat. She leads a lamb with 'A VOTE FOR WOMEN' on its back. Carcasses hanging in the shop represent the failure of campaigns for one vote per man and early closing of shops. The cartoon is from the 11 August 1900 edition of the Qld federated unions' newspaper, The Worker.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This cartoon suggests that Qld premier Robert Philp would 'butcher' or kill off any attempt to introduce women's suffrage, as he had previously 'butchered' attempts to pass legislation on the early closing of shops and the abolition of multiple voting by male owners of more than one property. It was said that Philp obstructed votes for women and it was not until 1905, between his two terms as premier (1899-1903 and 1907-08), that the Elections Act Amendment Bill was finally passed.
  • The unsuccessful legislation referred to on the carcasses was connected with women's issues. There had been an attempt in 1897 to reduce shop opening hours to relieve women shop assistants as part of union efforts to improve their conditions. Both the Labor (then Labour) Party and WEFA also campaigned against men who owned several properties being allowed several votes. They prioritised that issue over the enfranchisement of women.
  • In the cartoon 'Mary' represents WEFA, which was formed in 1894. In 1900 there were two pressure groups campaigning for enfranchisement of women in Qld: WEFA and the Women's Christian Temperance Union's Brisbane branch, which was formed in 1885 and which took up the suffrage cause in 1891. In 1903 the Qld Women's Electoral League and the Women Workers' Political Organisation were also formed. The organisations cooperated strongly.
  • Suffragette organisations such as WEFA believed women and men should have equal voting rights, as women paid taxes without representation and were subject to the law but had no voice in its formulation. They believed that voting would result in improved working conditions, an increase in the age of consent, property rights, reduced domestic violence, improved education of girls and opportunities for women to work in professions and the public service.
  • People such as Philp proffered various arguments against giving women the vote: they said that women lacked men's intellectual capacity, women would neglect their families, the divorce rate would go up and the birth rate down, women did not want the vote, women were too easily led and would vote as men told them, and women should be 'revered' and 'uncontaminated' by politics. They also evoked fear of the unknown, saying that no precedent existed.
  • In this cartoon from The Worker, a sympathetic newspaper, the suffragettes are typified by a well-known nursery rhyme character, Mary from 'Mary had a little lamb', as innocents going to the slaughter. Ironically, however, the cartoon depicts women as children naively going to the slaughter - not as adults with intellect who are able to reason and argue.

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Name: The Worker
  • Organization: The Worker
  • Description: Author
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Monte Scott
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and State Library of Queensland, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements