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What is International Women’s Day?

Date Published: 07/03/2023

Celebrated annually on the 8th March, International Women’s day is a day that unites, celebrates and advocates women’s rights. Formed off the backbone of the women’s suffrage movement where women around the world fought for the right to vote and have equal rights. In Australia “women’s suffrage was a key achievement of the First Wave feminists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,” (Women’s Suffrage, n.d.).

Suffrage protest 1912 – National Library of Australia

The first independent country to allow all its women to vote was New Zealand in 1893 prior to this women were deemed inferior to males and seen as uneducated, not intelligent and not required in the traditional workforce.

During the late 1800s Australia was working towards federation (to achieve one nation), at the same time the suffragettes in Australia were collaborating to achieve female rights. Many women joined female working parties such as Working Women’s Trade Union, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and the Social Purity Society these parties marched the Australian streets raising awareness and gaining support as well as many opposes to women’s voting rights.

After much lobbying South Australian women gained the right to vote in 1894 along with being the first women globally allowed to stand as candidates in their own state election. The rest of Australia followed soon after “the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 allowed non-Indigenous women in all states to vote and stand as candidates in federal elections,” (Women’s Suffrage, n.d.).

Although women had the right to vote in Australia as well as stand as candidates it wasn’t until 1921 when Edith Cowan aged 59 was elected as a member of Legislative Assembly of Western Australia. Another twenty years would pass and in the middle of the WWII when finally two women were elected into federal parliament. Finally Indigenous women were granted the right to vote in 1962 sixty eight years after non-indigenous women were granted the right to vote.

This year the theme for International Women’s Day is #EmbraceEquity a timely reminder for all women and men to embrace equal opportunity, equal pay and overall equal rights for all women across the world. It’s also equally important for all generations to remember what the suffragettes endured for women’s voting rights and for all future generations, especially women.

Happy International Women’s Day! If you would like to learn more about the suffrage movement along with other iconic Australian women please pop in and see our International Women’s Day Display.

International Women’s Day. (2019). International Women’s Day 2019. International Women’s Day; International Women’s Day.

Meachim, L. (2021, March 11). “She deserves a statue”: Australia’s first female MP barely recognised in her home town. ABC News.

National Library Australia. (n.d.). Women’s Suffrage. National Library of Australia. Retrieved February 27 C.E., from

State Library New South Wales. (2021). Sex, power and anger: A history of feminist protests in Australia [Online]. In ABC News.

State Library South Australia. (n.d.). Women staging a protest at Melrose [B 57605] [Online]. In State Library South Australia. Retrieved February 27 C.E., from

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