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Vida Goldstein

1869 – 1949

Vida Goldstein (1869- 1949), activist, was the daughter of energetic social reformers. Having graduated from Presbyterian Ladies College, she became a teacher and conducted a preparatory school with her sisters in St Kilda between 1892 and 1898. Introduced into the fight for women's suffrage by her mother in 1890, she joined the Prahran Women's Franchise League and the National Anti Sweating League and in 1900, broadly recognised as the spokeperson for radical women in Victoria, was appointed general secretary of the United Council for Women's Suffrage. From 1900 to 1905 she owned and wrote the paper The Woman's Sphere. When the Victorian Legislative Assembly rejected the Women's Suffrage Bill for the seventh time in February 1903 (the year after Federal suffrage), she stood for a Federal Senate seat, becoming the first woman candidate and the first woman to register a vote at that booth under the Commonwealth Franchise Act. In spite of an extraordinary 51 497 votes, she was defeated. Brought to the London Great Suffragette demonstration by the militant Women's Social and Political Union, she was introduced as 'one of the foremost leaders of the Australian women's movement . . . now helping her sisters in England to win their freedom'. In 1909 she launched her second paper, the weekly Woman Voter. Goldstein stood for parliament again in 1910, 1913, 1914 and 1917, but she never gained a seat. Throughout the war she was an passionate pacifist, becoming chairman of the Peace Alliance and forming the Women's Peace Army with Adela Pankhurst, recently arrived from England, as an organiser. After the war she took an increasing interest in international matters, advocating disarmament and the pursuit of better living standards. Goldstein summarized her attitude to politics and public life as 'In essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; in all things charity'.

Updated 2018