Monday 12 November 2012

Grandmother’s Choice

I haven’t been able to catch up with the Grandmother’s Choice blocks these last two weeks – I’m not sure where my time goes but it sure isn’t going the quilting way.

I mentioned last time I posted that I wasn’t too keen on doing the American flag for my quilt block, though I’ve seen a lot of very pretty ones on the Grandmother’s Choice Flickr page.  But, I’m not an American and I was sure I could try and find something relevant to Australian Women’s Voting Rights to put into my quilt.

Did you know, that whilst the US gave women the vote in the early part of the 20th Century, New Zealand was actually the first self-governing country to grant women the vote; in 1893 all women over the age of 21 were permitted to vote in parliamentary elections (from wikipedia). 

In the late 19th century, an enterprising South Australian woman named Mary Lee was foremost in pushing the right for a vote for women in Australia.  And, predictably, there were quite a few men who were against the idea.  But, many men realised that the day would come, quite soon, when they would HAVE to allow women to vote, and a bill was drafted as such. 

But they weren’t quite as forward thinking as we would have liked.  The original bill was drafted to include an amendment stating that whilst women could vote, they were not allowed to stand for parliament. 

One enterprising man, Ebenezer Ward who was fiercely against women voting, decided to be a bit clever.  He put forward an motion to remove the amendment that women couldn’t stand for parliament.  He wagered that NO man would vote for any legislation that would allow women to actually RUN the joint, and by default the remainder of the bill, i.e. the right to vote, would be kicked out too.

But it backfired.  The voting bill was passed, women over 21 were allowed to vote AND stand for parliament in South Australia. 

Of course, South Australia was not alone in its push for women to vote.  The movement was world wide.  But I’m very proud that it was South Australia who were at the forefront.  I never learnt this in school, by the way.  Which I think is a shame.

We know the name Catherine Helen Spence, who was the first South Australian woman to run for a seat (unsuccessfully) in parliament, but we easily forget the name of Mary Lee, one of the original agitators and suffragettes.

And so, in honour of Mary Lee, this block is Mary’s Block from Blockbase.  



Obviously I won’t do it in purples.

Did you enjoy your history lesson?  South Australia can be hard on itself at times.  We’re not as flashy or cosmopolitan as Melbourne or Sydney, but we’ve done some pretty amazing things over our history.

Till tomorrow,



  1. Thank you for the history lesson! I was born in Canada but now live in USA. It is always great to hear of amazing facts from another country than my own. Thanks for "Mary's block".

  2. How neat. I have two really good friends who live in Australia (met on quilting sites) and having this history makes my friendships even more fun. Thank you for doing the research and taking the time to post it. I love it.

  3. :) Pleasure! Now I just need to get off the darn computer and into the sewing room and make the thing!