Emma Miller was a working class campaigner for better wages and conditions. She helped set up the Female Workers' Union in Brisbane in 1890. She helped form the Woman's Equal Franchise Association (WEFA), an organisation which insisted that the plural vote be abolished before women's suffrage could be won. This group formed the Women Workers' Political Organisation (WWPO) which campaigned through the unions and Labor organisations.
Emma Miller's statue in King George Square, Brisbane. A small
hand-scratched plaque under it asks who has stolen Emma's umbrella (missing
from her left hand).
photo: Shev Armstrong
Alongside Miller's statue is a statue of Charles Lilley who was the first to raise the issue of women's suffrage in Queensland Parliament in 1870.
Miller is also known for using a hatpin to great effect (unhorsing the Police Commissioner) during a skirmish with police in 1912, at the tender age of 73.
Pictured are various hatpins, with a Parker
pen as a size reference.
photo: Shev Armstrong
For more information about Emma Miller, see Pam Young's book on Miller, "Proud
To Be a Rebel."
For Miller and the union women's role in the 1912 General Strike, see Pam Young's article in Hecate 14.2 (1988).
Elizabeth Brentnall first called for women's suffrage in her presidential address to the Woman Christian Temperance Union annual convention in 1888. Forceful, eminently capable and with fine organisational ability, Brentnall had been mistress of a large girls' school in Lancashire before her marriage. 1 She was state president of the WCTU from 1886 to 1899 and afterwards a honorary life president. The WCTU formed a separate suffrage department in 1891.
Photo: Members of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, Brisbane, 1901
Front Row: Mrs Carvosso (President), Mrs Brentnall (Treasurer), Mrs Murray (Honourable Secretary). Back Row: Mrs T. Bryce (Hon. Treasurer), Mrs E. B. Harris (Vice-President-at-Large)
Collection: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, no. 108858
What Elizabeth and her husband discussed at the dinner table
would have been interesting. Frederick Brentnall, a moral extremist, opposed
votes for women except with the property qualification. An appointed life member
of the Legislative Council after resigning from the Methodist ministry with
throat troubles, he was also part of the Telegraph empire. When
the Boomerang lampooned him for his speech on raising the age
of consent he sued them for libel and lost. 'I would like to see a woman who
would ever tempt me to do wrong', he had said. 2
Brentnall was also responsible for the insertion into Hansard
of part of Lawson's poem Freedom on the Wallaby": 'So we must fly
a rebel flag / as others did before us ... / they needn't say the fault is ours
/ If blood should stain the wattle,' as part of a speech thanking military and
civil officers for 'the apprehension of the late organised attempt to subvert
the reign of law and order' (the 1891 Shearers' Strike which was brutally suppressed
by the state).
Agnes Williams (colleague of Brentnall) was acclaimed as the most capable feminist orator in the state.
The Brentnalls' daughter, Flora, was a confirmed suffragist and 'Y' organiser for the WCTU. She married into the well established Harris family.
photo : Shev Armstrong
1 Audrey Oldfield, Woman Suffrage in Australia,
A Gift or a Struggle?, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992),
2 Spencer Browne, A Journalist's Memories, (Brisbane: Read Press, 1927) p.275.
Léontine Cooper was the most important intellectual writing about white women's rights in the struggle for the enfranchisement of women in Queensland. Active in the first short-lived suffrage group, she formed the Women's Franchise League (WFL), (a breakaway group from Woman's Equal Franchise Association) and edited Queensland's only suffrage paper, the Star. Although a socialist she believed in the need for an autonomous women's 'non-party' group. Her appointment to a Royal Commission into working conditions was a first for women. She actively fought for female education, was instrumental in the formation of the Pioneer Club for women, and wrote remarkable short stories.
Born in 1837, the daughter of a French father, a merchant and an English mother, Léontine Mary Jane Buisson married Edward Cooper in 1869, in London. They emigrated in 1871. In 1874 Léontine, although married when most women had to resign to marry, taught in the newly opened one teacher school at Chinaman's Creek (now Albany Creek). In 1876/7 she was on the staff of the Brisbane Girls Grammar School as a French teacher. Her husband was a surveyor and wrote poetry. Cooper is said to have had a 'slow graceful manner' and 'a gentle, low, and refined voice'.
Cooper wrote a scholarly article on Emile Zola and then a series of wonderful feminist, realist short stories for the Boomerang in the late 1880s. Her four critical articles on women's work, wrongs, unions and rights place her in the forefront of emerging feminist theory. Active in the Women's Suffrage League, she defended it against the attack by the Boomerang. In 1894 when the women's suffrage movement re-grouped, then split on the issue of the plural or property vote, Cooper resigned as vice-president from the Woman's Equal Franchise League and was first (and apparently only) president of the Women's Franchise League. For a while she wrote 'Queensland Notes' for the Dawn, then, with a friend, edited the Star, a suffrage paper, for a year; later she edited Flashes, a weekly paper. Her eloquent and insightful letters to the editor frequently graced the Courier and she corresponded with Rose Scott who also believed in the importance of non-party politics.
Cooper was a socialist, even though women were largely excluded from the unions at the time (see Helen Hamley 'The Women's Union, 1890-1910', Radical Brisbane, 88-93). In 1891 Cooper was a government appointee on the Royal Commission into Factories, Shops and Workshops. This was the first time women had ever been appointed to a commission. Cooper became actively interested in the development of women's unions. By the mid 1890s Cooper emerged as an important spokesperson for both adult and child female education in Brisbane. She was active in literary circles, on the School of Arts committees and in the call for a university. In 1899 she was the first president of the Pioneer Club, for women only. Cooper died prematurely in 1903, soon after the death of her husband, and without children. A dedicated campaigner and extremely articulate spokesperson, Cooper was recognised by suffragists across Australia.
link to the following longer article by Deb Jordan about Léontine Cooper:
Jordan, D., 'Léontine Cooper and the Suffrage Movement, 1888-1903', Hecate, 30. 2. 2004
Cooper, Léontine. 'Only a Woman' (short story) Hecate 30.2.2004, 103-113.
Jordan, D., 'Léontine Cooper and the Suffrage Movement, 1888-1903', Hecate, 30. 2. 2004.
Ferrier, Carole, and Deborah Jordan, 'Women's Suffrage Struggles', in Evans and Ferrier, (eds.) Radical Brisbane, (Melbourne: Vulgar Press, 2004) : 102-109.
Oldfield Audrey, Woman Suffrage in Australia: A Gift or a Struggle? (Melbourne, Cambridge University Press, 1992).
Young, Pam, 'Emma Miller and the campaign for women's suffrage in Queensland, 1894-1905,' Memoirs of the Queensland Museum v.2, pt.2, 31 May 2002: (223)-230.
Poet and writer, Margaret Ann Ogg worked as a journalist and edited the women's section of the United Grazier, a NSW publication, using the pseudonym "Ann Dante" (Andante).
She built up a network of white country women who would request her to shop for them. She was active in Brisbane literary circles and sub-edited the Presbyterian Austral Star. Through the WCTU she was instrumental in setting up the Mission to Seamen.
In 1903 she became secretary of QWEL
(Qld Women's Electoral League), a position she held for 30 years. In her reminiscences
she recalls travelling around the outback, with a Mrs Anderson,
on speaking tours promoting suffrage for women. When she was refused the use
of the public halls (which happened more and more often as her reputation preceded
her), she would speak from atop her sulky, using it as an open air platform.
Here we have one of the few insights into the personal difficulties and abuse
these women faced in their attempt to speak to other women about their new political
rights. Ogg accused some of her hecklers as being paid. Who were these men,
we could ask. Who was paying them? Ogg was suspicious of radicalism, finds Betty
Crouchley who has written the Australian Dictionary of Biography
entry on Ogg, and strove to maintain the anti-socialist stance of QWEL.
Ogg's advice and organising ability helped Irene Longman
and many men into parliament, and her expert lobbying contributed to the raising
of the age of consent in 1913, and the Testators Family Maintenance Act, through
which widows were entitled to a proportion of the husband's estate. For a long
time her home at 27 Bridge Street, Albion was a landmark.
Old Streets of Brisbane, Unpublished paper held by the Queensland Women's Historical Association
Vol. 11, 1891-1893, pp. 67-68.
photos of Margaret Ogg courtesy of Qld Women's Historical Assoc.