We stand on the shoulders of the women who came before us

March 3, 2016

They changed our lives, made a difference, paved the way for us.

Photo from Trove. 1911. Great suffragette demonstration in London : Mrs Andrew Fisher, Mrs McGowen and Miss Vida Goldstein from Australia, Geo. Rose

Recently three experiences made me do some soul searching:

  1. I received an invitation to celebrate International Women’s Day;
  2. A voter information letter arrived, sent out by the electoral commission; and,
  3. I watched the movie “Suffragette” during a recent flight to Sydney.

They were all reminders of where women are placed in society today and made me appreciate our female ancestors. The culmination of these three points was watching “Suffragette” and I felt extremely thankful for the opportunity to freely attend and respond to items 1) and 2).

For me, it was a reminder that we still have a long way to go although we have achieved so much. “Parity” according to the Oxford dictionary means “the state or condition of being equal, especially as regards status or pay”.

Sacrifices made before us

It is easy to take things for granted. Many women locally and globally wouldn’t know the true definition of sacrifice and survival to achieve equality. But the women who went before us changed our lives, made a difference, paved the way for us.

In 1903 Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) with her daughters Christabel and Sylvia. The WSPU adopted militant tactics and the groups formed were more generally known as the Suffragettes, who advocated the right to vote in public elections for women. Their motto “Deeds Not Words”. We should be forever indebted.

Their sacrifice: child bearing women transported to a sex-starved colony of men, as involuntary exiles, most of whom were exploited and suffered incomprehensible homesickness, in an alien land. And here we are today, say no more.

The sacrifice of our pioneering women

They fought for today’s standards, however tragically there are millions of women who remain in a semi- or non-recognition state of rights, battling for survival. More work to be done.

I try to visualise and feel what it must have been like. I believe today’s attitudes have stemmed from the influence of these women of the time, whether they were free women, wives of officials, de facto’s, prisoners, convicts or emancipists. We are a product of our ancestors.

What’s your story?

I am pretty certain when we celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) this year, we all have a story we can talk about!

Luckily for some of my ancestors they came out to Australia from England looking for gold.


In my blog  “Lest We Forget the Suffragettes” I mention the three best books that provide some insight to our Aussie pioneer women:

  • “Mary Reibey” by Kathleen J.Pullen – from convict to first lady of trade;
  • “The Floating Brothel” by Sian Rees – the extraordinary true story of a cargo of female convicts on an 18th century ship bound for Botany Bay;
  • “Australia’s Founding Mothers” by Helen Heney – shows the various roles and the significance of the part played by women in founding the colony at Sydney Cove and in bearing the first generations of Australian women.

Let’s celebrate this sacrifice

There is more than one celebration when women of the world gather to celebrate on 8th March 2016 for IWD.

It is true that it could mean different things for different people whether a celebration, reflection or an opportunity to promote an activity. However I support their objective as it is the perfect moment for gender-focused action.

Their motto (or should I say our motto) “Make a Pledge for Parity”.

The IWD website  states it is “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity”. There is an n interesting historical account of the IWD timeline journey on their site.

Photo from Trove:
1911. Great suffragette demonstration in London : Mrs Andrew Fisher, Mrs McGowen and Miss Vida Goldstein from Australia, Geo. Rose

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