November 2012

Encounters

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Vida Goldstein & Theodore Roosevelt

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

When the first International Women’s Suffrage Alliance conference convened in Washington in February 1902, Australia’s representative was its most prominent radical feminist, Vida Goldstein.

Vida was then 32, “slight in figure and attractive in personality”, a vigorous campaigner whose platform eloquence and ready wit drew large audiences to hear her speak. She fought for a range of social justice issues but suffrage was her main focus.

Australian women had already won the vote in some states and all white women had been guaranteed voting rights in national elections in the deal that forged Federation. American suffragists could only view such achievements with awe. Addressing the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, Goldstein told the honourable gentlemen that some Australian women had been voting in municipal elections since before she was born. And they had not, as American anti-suffragists argued would inevitably be the case, banned alcohol and shut down the saloons.

Elected conference secretary, she was invited to the White House to meet President Theodore Roosevelt.

Born into a wealthy New York family, Teddy Roosevelt had become president after the assassination of William McKinley the previous year. Roosevelt was a bluff, jaw-jutting exponent of strenuous masculine endeavour, a big-game hunter, trust buster and war hero whose policy was to speak softly and carry a big stick. He was also an early champion of women’s equality. While a student at Harvard, he’d written his thesis on the subject, arguing that married women should not have to assume the man’s name.

When Vida was ushered into his private office, Roosevelt was issuing instructions, with “one foot on a chair, slapping his knee for emphasis”. He cordially welcomed Miss Goldstein and “expressed his great interest in the advanced politics of Australia”. There were Australians among his Rough Riders, he told her. Were they any good, she asked? Excellent, declared the president.

In August, Goldstein returned home to be greeted at the wharf with the news that the Franchise Act had just been signed into law.

But there was still much to be done. Her star burnished by overseas endorsement, Vida proceeded to storm the speaking circuit with ‘To America and Back’, a feminist travelogue illustrated with magic-lantern “limelight views”. At the 1903 election, she ran for the Senate, Australia’s first female federal candidate. She got decent numbers but no cigar. In 1912, after two terms as president, Roosevelt established the Bull Moose Party. Its platform included votes for women. But it took until 1920 for American women to win the vote. Then they closed the saloons.

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

November 2012

November 2012

From the front page

A day for some Australians

January 26 is going to remain controversial

Image from ‘Her Smell’

Toronto International Film Festival 2018 (part two)

The ordinary and the extraordinary at this year’s event, and the perils of criticism

Image from ‘The Harp in the South’

‘The Harp in the South’ at Sydney Theatre Company

Kate Mulvany’s adaptation proves that Ruth Park’s epic endures

Feeding the Muppets

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In This Issue

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Who Stopped the Music

How Jean Sibelius ran out of notes

'Dead Europe'by Tony Krawitz (director). In limited release.

‘Dead Europe’ by Tony Krawitz (director)

Bill Henson, 'Untitled', 2009/2010. Image courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.

The Vagina Dialogues: Do women really want less sex than men?

'On Warne', Gideon Haigh, Hamish Hamilton; $35.00

‘On Warne’ by Gideon Haigh


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Read on

Image from ‘Her Smell’

Toronto International Film Festival 2018 (part two)

The ordinary and the extraordinary at this year’s event, and the perils of criticism

Image from ‘The Harp in the South’

‘The Harp in the South’ at Sydney Theatre Company

Kate Mulvany’s adaptation proves that Ruth Park’s epic endures

Feeding the Muppets

What does the Morrison government have to offer in terms of serious policy?

Paul Feig’s sophisticated ‘A Simple Favour’

This camp study of sociopathy is far from simple


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