When Woolloongabba was Wattle Scented

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Women to Vote for First Time in Queensland State Election, 1907 - A Photo History!

Women were not always part of the democratic process in Australia and were not able to vote in Federal elections until 1905 and the first Queensland state election in May 1907. Many of Queensland's suffragettes were active members of the Labour Party and Mrs Lillian Locke-Burns was described as "The Brilliant Organizer and Propagandist" in a caption of a photo tribute to "Leading Labour Women" that was published in an edition of The Worker, in June 1907.

A letter publised in the The Worker a week prior to the election of the 25th of May 1907 leaves no doubt that Lilian's reputation seemed well-earned, with a powerful and passionate plea for women to find time to vote.

A Woman's Appeal to Women.

Awake ! Thou that Sleepest !

This should be the clarion call to the Labour women of Queensland in the coming elections. It was the boast of the Tories in the last Federal elections that it was the women who put them at the head of the poll. Unconsciously, to a great extent, the women (who should be in the very forefront as fighters in the great cause of Humanity), helped thesemen in their efforts to put back the hands of the clock of progress. Gulled by stories of the Labour party's intentions to ultimately undermine the purity of home life,etc., they were led into the trap and voted against their own, against their husbands, and against their children's most vital interests.

In some of the States many of them were utterly blind as to the far-reaching importance of their part in the political fight, and were utterly absorbed in the carrying out of trivial domestic arrangements on election day. 

Some of them stoutly refused to make any effort to get to the poll, even when importuned by earnest Labour canvassers. They had no time to help save sweated workers : no time to save white hairs from a pauper's grave ; no time to save one child from starvation ; no time to help the great, seething mass of humanity in their!struggle to get standing room on God's earth. No time—because they were too busy washing blankets!

 Let every earnest woman rise tothe occasion, and wipe off the stigma of the last election. Humanity calls to Woman the Humanitarian. It calls from every sweater's hell; it calls from every deadly slum; it calls from every foodless house; from tear-stained eyes of worn-out mothers it makes its mute appeal. Sooner or later it must touch the heart of Queensland's women.


The women of Queensland did take an opportunity to vote in 1907 and studio photographer Poul Poulson was on the streets of Brisbane to record the event. The images of this historic day clearly show women taking their place inside city polling enclosures. International Women's Day was celebrated this week and the 2012 state election marks the 105th anniversary of women taking their rightful place in Queensland's democratic process.

Women take their place inside the polling enclosure for the first time. Brisbane North polling place, 1907.

Hats for all! Queen Street, Brisbane.Election day, 1907.

Women voters consulting notes outside the polling place, 1907.

Photo Images: John Oxley Library, State Library of Qld.
Press Clipping From Trove Australia:1907 'A Woman's Appeal to Women.', Worker (Brisbane, Qld. : 1890 - 1955),
18 May, p. 10.

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