Photograph: Vida Goldstein, by Yeoman and Co., Swan Street Richmond. Gift of Helen MacDonald, 2009. Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection.

Vida Goldstein was born in Portland. Her father Jacob had arrived in Portland in 1858, and married Isabella Hawkins, the daughter of a Scottish-born squatter.

The Goldsteins moved from Portland to Warrnambool where Jacob ran a general store. Then in 1877, they moved to Melbourne.

Vida's mother was clearly an influential figure in her daughter's beliefs and values. Isabella was a confirmed suffragist, a teetotaler and a tireless worker for social welfare and reform.

Her father, interestingly was anti-suffragist, but encouraged his daughters to be well educated and financially independent.

Vida's public career began in 1890 when she helped her mother collect signatures for the Women' Suffrage Petition and she began taking an interest in various social welfare activities.

In 1899, she made her first public speech to advocate for the vote for women, and in 1902, she traveled to the United States of America to speak at an International Women Suffrage Conference.

Australian women had been granted the Federal vote in 1902, (though in Victoria women still could not vote in state elections) and on Vida's return to Australia, she became the first woman in the British Empire to be nominated to stand for Parliament.

Vida formerly launched her political campaign in the Portland Library Hall on Tuesday, 13 October 1903. Her choice of the town of Portland was a considered decision. She was born in Portland and her parents were well known and she was reported as having fond memories of her early years growing up in the town. Portland was also significant for it was a fitting place for her history making decision as the first white settled township in Victoria.


"Why have not the women of Victoria succeeded in getting the highly prized vote, which the women of other Australian States secured with comparative ease?"  - Vida Goldstein, Women Suffrage in Australia (1908)


Despite being defeated, she began educating female voters through lecture tours around Victoria and her paper Women's Sphere, which she owned and edited between 1900 and 1905. She also continued to work tirelessly for State suffrage. When women were finally given the vote in Victoria in 1908, Vida returned to national politics and made four more attempts to enter Federal Parliament: in 1910 and 1917 for the Senate, and in 1913 and 1914 for the House of Representatives.

Vida's Senate campaign was launched in Casterton on the 14 February 1909 where she adopted the colors presented to her by the Women's Political Association (WPA) of lavendar, green and purple which became synonymous with Women's rights.

Although she was not successful in entering Parliament, Vida Goldstein is one of the few Australian women connected with the emancipation and suffrage movements of the day, to gain an international reputation. Her influence was significant through the many amendments and reforms to legislation she influenced including protecting the rights of children, laborers, wage rates, unmarried mothers and women's marital rights.



Ceramic sculpture of Vida Goldstein by Ursula Dutkeiwicz from “The Art of Suff-Rage” exhibition. Acquired 2014. Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection.


"Every day the necessity for sending women into Parliament is more apparent. Strenuous times are ahead of us, not only in our own movement, but in the wider humen movement." - Vida Goldstein, That Dangerous and Persuausive Woman (1993)


Vida Goldstein Chair photo by Kirsten Jones

“A Seat for Vida” by Carmel Wallace. Stainless steel and bluestone. Gift of the Historic Buildings Restoration Committee, Portland, 2008. Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection. Photo by Kirsten Jones.



Portland Map

Which State was the last in Australia to offer women the vote?

What are some of the words inscribed on the Vida Goldstein memorial seat and where is it located?

Vida played a role in the war effort? What was it?

To find the answers to all these questions and more, visit the Portland Library and view of the Vida Goldstein resources held in the local history collection.


Portland Library

32 Bentinck Street, Portland VIC 3305
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