It should always be the aim of woman to rise from the degrading position assigned her in the age of bestial ignorance and brute power.
Henrietta Dugdale (1827–1918) was a passionate, confident, and assertive feminist who was one of the pioneers of Victoria, Australia’s feminist movement.
She founded the Victorian Women’s Suffrage Society, the first of its kind in Australasia, and lived to see Australian women attain the vote in 1902, due in part to her relentless campaigning.
Henrietta was born Henrietta Augusta Worrell on May 14, 1827 in London, and named after her mother, Henrietta Ann.
She sewed her own clothes and was a skilled chess player, and early on became interested in public affairs. In 1852, she moved to Australia with her husband, a merchant navy officer named J. A. Davies. He died soon after, and she remarried the ship’s captain William Dugdale in 1853.
After over 15 years of marriage, Henrietta separated from William Dugdale and moved to Camberwell (a suburb of Melbourne), where she was to live for the rest of her long life.
Henrietta’s involvement in campaigning for women’s rights began in earnest when she wrote a letter to Melbourne’s Argus Newspaper that was published in April 1869. Using the psuedonym of Ada, she wrote about the Married Women’s Property Bill and spoke out in favor of equal justice for all women:
Along with suffrage for women, she campaigned for women’s dress reform, admission of women to the universities, education of the working class and more equal wealth distribution, and an eight-hour work day.
Along with Annie Lowe, Henrietta founded the Victorian Women’s Suffrage Society in 1884 with the goal of obtaining “the same political privileges for women as now possessed my male voters”.
Jayaben Desai, one of the mostly British-Asian women out on strike at the Grunwick factory in 1977, pictured on the picket line.
Image Credt: Photograph by Getty Images.
It was in 1857, that on 8 March in New York City, garments workers went on strike. Suffering horrific conditions, endless hours and low pay, they took to the streets demanding better money and working conditions.
Dispersed after being attacked by police, the women continued to fight and from their movement the first women’s labour unions were established.
In the early 20th century, their movement blossomed. New York City’s streets again saw women march demanding shorter hours, better pay, an end to child labour and the right to vote in 1908. Leading labour organisers sought to strengthen the movement internationally.
At the Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen in 1910, Clara Zetkin asked over 100 women from 17 countries – representing unions, socialist parties and women’s working clubs – to pass a motion for an International Working Women’s Day.
They did so, unanimously, and the so International Women’s Day was born.
Zetkin, in conjunction with other well-known women from the movement including Rosa Luxembourg and Theresa Malkiel focussed on the conditions that dictated women’s lives.
They organised with women working in inhumane conditions for long hours and no pay.
Women who also went home to complete their “second shift” – cleaning, cooking, childrearing and household managing; women who were the engine keeping families, communities, companies and countries running, but whose work received little pay and even less recognition.
As International Women’s Day is celebrated around the globe, we look back at the woman who organised the first one in 1911.
The 8 March marks International Women’s Day, a day with over a century of history and change behind it.
Originally known as International Working Women’s Day, its roots lie in the socialist, rather than feminist, struggle of the early 20th century.
Although national days had been celebrated prior to 1911, the 18 March of that year marked the first International day, following a proposal from German communist Clara Zetkin.Zetkin who had been involved with the socialist movement in Germany since the 1870’s.
She was also a fervent campaigner for women’s rights and universal suffrage. Zetkin believed socialism was the only movement that ‘could truly serve the needs of working-class women.’
Zetkin was renowned throughout her career for her passionate oratory skills. She represented the German Communist Party in the Reichstag from 1920 until 1933 (when the party was banned by Hitler).
Her election to the Reichstag in 1932 made her its oldest member, and tradition dictated she opened the parliamentary session. She did so with a 40 minute attack on Hitler and the Nazi party.
Zetkin died in 1933. In her obituary the Manchester Guardian referred to her as the ‘grandmother of communism,’ yet the legacy of International Women’s Day, and her contribution to it, should also be recognised, and celebrated.
The women’s history project has been absolutely brilliant in opening our eyes to such a significant (but mainly unspoken) part of our country’s (and the world’s) history.
Our perceptions on the role of women in history is primarily based on stereotypes and uneducated inferences that women have been merely passive witnesses in the building of our current society, and it was only men who really made any impact.
A lot of us aim to excuse this by relying on the idea that women had limited opportunity.
However, the project has taught us that although this is partly true, women did a lot more than we first assumed.
These false assumptions can be argued to be a result of how women are represented on the curriculum, with us knowing lots about influential kings, prime ministers, archbishops, male scientists and authors etc. but little about not only influential women as individuals (e.g. Mary Seacole, Marie Curie etc.), but of the gender as a whole.
We were extremely surprised to learn of the Georgian political protesters, as the only thing we are taught about the role of women in politics is the movement of women’s suffrage in the early 1900s, and even then this topic is separated and highlighted as an exception and is only about their fight for equality, not the influence they have had throughout history and how they helped shape society into what it is today.