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Vida Goldstein

Among her many achievements, in 1903 Vida Goldstein was the first Australian woman to nominate for election to national parliament.

Honour Roll

Vida Goldstein was born on 13 April 1869, at Portland, Victoria. In 1877, after living in Portland and Warrnambool, her family moved to Melbourne where her father worked as a contract draughtsman. The Goldstein's involvement in churches, particularly Charles Strong's Australia church, encouraged Vida's interest in social work. Her father worked for numerous charity organisations and was a member of the Women's Hospital Committee.

Vida was well educated by a private governess before attending the Presbyterian Ladies College from 1884-86. Her mother was a suffragist and an ardent worker for social reform. In 1890, Vida helped her mother collect signatures for the 'Great Petition' for women's suffrage. She subsequently became involved in the National Anti-Sweating League, the Queen Victoria Hospital appeal and other social welfare activities.

She read widely and attended parliamentary sessions in order to learn about politics. She became friends with Annette Bear-Crawford, who founded the United Council for Women's Suffrage in order to unite the disparate women's groups. Goldstein learnt a lot from her, so much so that when Bear-Crawford suddenly passed away with pneumonia in 1899, Goldstein took over her leading role.

She began spreading the word to other women via her monthly magazine the Woman's Sphere, which she owned and edited. In 1902, she travelled to the United States to give evidence in favour of female suffrage to a committee of the Congress. On her return she nominated for election in the national parliament, thereby achieving a notable first. She ran as an independent candidate for the Senate in 1903, campaigning tirelessly for women's suffrage. Although unsuccessful she made four more attempts: in 1910 and 1917 for the Senate and in 1913 and 1914 for the House of Representatives, always as an independent woman candidate.

Throughout this period Vida continued to be outspoken on many social issues such as equal pay, her opposition to capitalism and public control of public utilities, as well as women's rights. She successfully lobbied politicians in order to achieve some of her social reforms. Vida refused to join a party but sympathised deeply with the cause of working people.

She helped to either found or support many women's organisations including the National Council of Women, the Victorian Women's Public Servants' Association and the Women Writers' Club. In 1909, she launched a second paper, the Woman Voter, which she owned and edited. During World War I she turned her attention to pacifism, forming the Women's Peace Army in 1915. Her radical pacifism and opposition to the war lost her the support of the women's movement, so she fared poorly in the 1917 elections.

After the war, she spent three years abroad. In her later years, disillusioned, she turned to Christian Science and died of cancer at her home in South Yarra on 15 August 1949. Despite her years of dedication her death passed unnoticed. Her memory has been revived with the second wave of feminism and in 1984 a federal electorate in Victoria was named Goldstein.