Annette Bear-Crawford

Annette Bear-Crawford was a leading force in Victoria's feminist movement and a passionate advocate for equal rights for women.

Honour Roll

She worked tirelessly to improve the status and conditions of women and children in the late nineteenth century. Annette united the existing suffrage societies to establish the Victorian Women's Franchise League in 1894, and formed the United Council for Women's Suffrage. Both groups were influential in gaining equal opportunities for women and ultimately the vote for the women of Victoria. As an important social reformer of her time, Annette's influence extended to encouraging and educating women to undertake public work, attend speaking engagements and to stand for election on all-male boards and committees.

Annette was born in Melbourne, trained in England and worked as a social worker in the London slums before returning to Victoria, where she became one of the first members of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Victorian Vigilance Society. She helped obtain amendments to legislation affecting women including successfully raising the age of consent for girls to sixteen years and the appointing of women as factory inspectors. She also campaigned for police matrons and for women to administer the Infant Life Protection Act 1890.

One of her most enduring achievements grew out of her concerns for the welfare of unmarried mothers and their children. Annette led the fundraising campaign to establish the Queen Victoria Hospital and as a result, the Queen's Shilling Fund raised 63,250 shillings from the women of Victoria, equivalent to around $2.5 million today. Sadly, she did not live to see this hospital opened, dying prematurely from pneumonia while in London representing Australia at the Women's International Conference. Annette is buried in London and a plaque in Christ Church, South Yarra, commemorates her life.