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Image Suffragist publication cover, 1900

TLF ID R8621

This black-and-white cartoon cover of the second issue of The Australian Woman’s Sphere, published in October 1900, was part of the campaign for the right of women to vote. It portrays a young woman as scholarly and attractive but without the right to vote, contrasted with eight men presented as unworthy of the vote they have. These men include satirical depictions of a violent man, a drunkard, an unintelligent dandy and an elected member of the government. The cover also includes an Indigenous and a Chinese man among the eight caricatures.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This 1900 cover cartoon of The Australian Woman’s Sphere was part of a long campaign for women to be given the right to vote in all Australian states. The movement included demonstrations and meetings, the formation of organisations, lobbying of the influential and letter-writing campaigns to newspapers. Only two suffrage campaigns had been successful up to this time. South Australia gave women the vote in 1894 and Western Australia in 1899.
  • While the cartoon supports the rights of women against the prejudices of the time, it also demonstrates the existing racial prejudice, particularly toward Indigenous Australians and the Chinese, who are presented here as stereotypes. In reality Indigenous Australians were not allowed to vote in Queensland or WA. After Federation, the few who voted in other states were allowed to continue, but no further Indigenous Australians were added to the electoral roll.
  • The cartoon attempts to ridicule opposition to women’s suffrage by using satirical stereotypes to show the absurdity of allowing incompetent and ‘inferior’ men to vote while not allowing competent women the same right. There is a strong contrast between the young educated woman and the men. Several of the men represent brutality and violence; two have a racial focus, one is a dandy, one a drunkard and one a pompous-looking government member.
  • The inclusion of the Chinese man in the cartoon as one who could vote and by implication should not, reflected the racial prejudice against the Chinese that had begun in the goldfields and was encapsulated the following year in the Immigration Restriction Act 1901, and in the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902. In reality only a very few Chinese were entitled to vote in some colonies if they were naturalised and in some instances if they held land freehold.
  • Enfranchisement for white women at the state and federal level came in stages, with SA in 1894, WA in 1899 and the federal government following in 1902, when it passed the Commonwealth Franchise Act allowing women the right to both vote and stand for election. New South Wales gave the vote to women in 1902, Tasmania in 1903, Qld in 1905, and Victoria was the last in 1908.
  • The Australian Woman’s Sphere was a Melbourne-based publication edited by Vida Goldstein, who was well-known in the Victorian suffrage movement. The publication lasted from 1900 to 1908, and was successful in drawing attention to the arguments for women’s votes. Goldstein’s editorial in this issue apologises for the ‘preponderance of politics’ and looks forward to less troublesome times.

Other details

  • Publisher
  • Date of contribution: 06 Sep 2013
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
  • Copyright holder
  • Organisation: State Library of Queensland
  • Address: Brisbane QLD 4000 Australia
  • Remarks: Reproduced courtesy of State Library of Queensland
  • Content provider
  • Author
  • Date of contribution: 1900
  • Organisation: The Australian Woman's Sphere
  • Remarks: publisher
Access profile
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Learning resource type
  • Image
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  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and State Library of Queensland, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements