Image Portrait of political activist Emma Miller, c1910s

TLF ID R8620

This posed black-and-white portrait photograph of Emma Miller, probably taken in Queensland in the 1910s, shows a thin and elderly woman, fashionably dressed for the time, sitting on a chair in a studio. She is staring straight at the camera with a resolute look on her face. Her dark clothing includes a richly embroidered jacket with a high collar and a feathered hat, and she holds a handbag on her knee and a closed umbrella in one hand.

Educational details

Educational value
  • Emma Miller (1839-1917), seen here in her seventies, was an active and influential defender of the rights of Australia’s and Queensland’s workers, especially women, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her diverse activist roles included campaigning for improved working conditions for women and being a delegate to ALP conferences, a participant in the eight-hour day campaign, a leader in the demand for women’s enfranchisement and an anti-war activist in the First World War.
  • As a skilled seamstress whose working conditions were relatively good for the time, she fought for the rights of women who were badly treated in her industry, testifying at a Royal Commission in 1891 against sweatshop conditions in which women worked long hours for very little money. Encouraging women to join the trade union movement to improve their working conditions and wages, she became president of the Women Worker’s Political Union, established in 1903.
  • Emma Miller’s determination to stand up for the rights of women led her to campaign for the right of all Queensland women to vote. In 1894 she was elected president of the Women’s Equal Franchise Association, with ‘one person, one vote’ adopted as its platform. This was contrary to those women who simply wanted to extend the existing plural voting system to propertied women, which meant that 60,000 of Queensland’s 80,000 women would not be able to vote.
  • Miller played an active role in nearly all progressive movements until her death, including the 1912 Brisbane General Strike. On 2 February 1912, which became known as Black Friday, Miller led a march of women supporting the tramway employees who had been denied the right to wear their union badges at work. When charged by baton-swinging police, she reputedly stuck her hatpin into the police commissioner’s horse, unseating him.
  • While Miller’s strong personality and record of activism demonstrate personal courage and willingness to stand up to physical intimidation, she was also an active pacifist, opposed to conscription in the First World War. Vice-president of the Women’s Peace Army during the War and, at age 76, president of the Queensland Anti-Conscription Campaign Executive Women’s Auxiliary, she played a part in the defeat of the 1916 conscription referendum.
  • After her death, The Worker newspaper described the effect that Emma Miller had in these words: ‘She was only a little handful - so frail in body - but she had the courage of a lion and her energy was marvellous … Her keen intellect, her magnetic personality and above all her wonderful devotion to the cause were a continual source of inspiration … as a champion of the rights of women she was without equal …’ (25 January 1917).
Year level

F; 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
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  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and State Library of Queensland, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements