Rose Scott – Women’s Champion

Day 154 of Colourisation Project – October 8

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Born on this day, October 8, 1847 at Glendon, New South Wales, Rose Scott was an Australian women’s rights activist who advocated for women’s suffrage and universal suffrage at the turn of the twentieth century.

A lifetime of unwavering commitment to the women’s movement saw Scott residing over many organisations, all working towards the right to vote and increased economic independence and mobility for women beyond marriage or prostitution.

Rose_Scott Bef & Aft

Photo: August Ludwig – Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales – Rose Scott 1883 – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

The daughter of a pastoralist and of independent means, Scott claimed that her feminism was triggered by hearing the story of Katharina’s subjugation in The Taming of the Shrew and the essay by John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women (1869). Whatever the source, Scott’s commitment to the cause of improving the lot of women never floundered.

In 1896 Scott became international secretary of the National Council of Women of New South Wales. Then as President of the women’s committee of the Prisoners’ Aid Association in 1898, she advocated for a separate prison for women after having inspected Darlinghurst Gaol. One was eventually opened at Long Bay in 1908.

She was also a founding member of the Women’s Literary Society in 1889, the Womanhood Suffrage League of NSW in 1891 and later on The Women’s Club established in 1906.

Scott’s years of campaigning to bring about equality for women resulted in the women’s suffrage becoming law. In 1902 Australia was the first country in the world to give women both the right to vote in federal elections and also the right to be elected to federal parliament. Rose Scott was a leader among other suffragettes in Australia and instrumental in this international breakthrough for women’s rights. (New Zealand had granted women the right to vote in 1893, but it did not allow women to be elected to office until 1919).

Scott lobbied for the establishment of a Children’s Court for juvenile offenders. In 1905 the Children’s Court of NSW was set up and represented a significant development in the law relating to children. It is one of the oldest children’s courts in the world. Her efforts in this area also led to a more equitable system of family maintenance being established through the Family Maintenance and Guardianship of Infants Act (1916).

A staunch pacifist during the Boer and First World Wars, Scott opposed conscription and was President of the Sydney Branch of the Peace Society in 1908.

Scott was a founding member and the first President of the Women’s Political Education League from 1902 to 1910. The League established branches throughout the state and consistently campaigned for raising the age of consent from 14 to 16, which was achieved in 1910 with the Crimes (Girls’ Protection) Act.

Scott lived at home caring for her elderly mother and two-year old nephew whom she adopted after her sister’s untimely death in 1880.  She never married, claiming “that life was too short to waste it in the service of one man.”

After a lifetime of service to women, Rose Scott died in 1925 at the age of 78.

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“Your vote is your voice and to find it you must consult your own mind and heart…What is the Australian woman going to do with her vote? …Who is to guide woman? I reply: Certainly not man, in the first place! …The chief guide is always to be found within, not without. We must, in fact, think for ourselves.”   –  Rose Scott in Table Talk, March 1903

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