« History & the Arts/History & archaeology

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In recent years there has been a growing interest in the women who won the right to vote in Australia. Contemporary non-fiction writers have reconstructed the lives of suffragists like Vida Goldstein and the women who left Australia to fight for the rights of women abroad from the historical record. But how did fiction writers at the time contend with the question of votes for women? How did they represent the campaign for women’s voting rights in imaginative writing? And how did they imagine the enfranchised woman herself?

This course will introduce students to the history of the women’s suffrage movement in Australia, including key players and events in the campaign, before delving into the movement’s literary dimension. Structured around the works of three woman writers – Ada Cambridge, Henrietta Dugdale, and better-known Miles Franklin – the course will explore the contexts in which their works were written, and consider how understanding these contexts informs our interpretation of each text and the message it appears to deliver.

  • Topic 1: Historical contexts: the fight for women’s suffrage in Australia
  • Topic 2: Ada Cambridge: writing the campaign for women’s suffrage
  • Topic 3: Henrietta Dugdale: writing an enfranchised future
  • Topic 4: Miles Franklin: writing voting women

Learning outcomes

At the completion of this course, learners should:

  • Know about the history of the women’s suffrage campaign in Australia
  • Recognise how understanding the context in which a literary work is produced can influence a reader’s perception of it
  • Understand the relationship between women’s suffrage fiction and the women’s suffrage campaign’s political agenda in Australia
  • Know about publishing trends in the late nineteenth century in Australia

Who should enrol

This course will appeal to people who are interested in the history of Australian feminism, Australian literature, women’s writing, and/or a combination of these things.

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