Did any women contribute to the Constitution or was it mainly aimed at men at the time it was written?
The Australian Constitution is often described as the birth certificate of the nation and belongs to all Australians. However, when the Constitution was written and agreed to most Australian women did not have the right to vote. Despite this, the idea of universal suffrage—all women and men having the right to vote—was supported by lots of Australians, including some of the men involved in writing Constitution.
In 1895 South Australia gave women the right to vote and stand for parliament. South Australian women voted to elect representatives to the 1897 constitutional convention. Catherine Helen Spence stood for election to the convention but was unsuccessful. Although no women took part in any of the constitutional conventions, the records of the debates show most of the men who took part thought it was inevitable that universal suffrage would be introduced early in the new Australian Parliament. The Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 gave all women (with the exception of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in some states) the right to vote and stand for parliament.
Members of the Australasian Federation Convention, 1890.
National Library of Australia, AN14292110
A sepia toned photograph of a group of men in formal attire in front of a portico of a building. Six men (including Edmund Barton, fourth from left in the top hat) are seated on chairs. Eight men stand behind. Henry Parkes is fourth from left and Alfred Deakin is sixth from left.
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