BAG History Group / Women and the Path to Equity
Suffragettes Annie Kenny & Christable Pank
In 2014, the focus of the Blackwood Action Group History Subcommittee’s regular articles was on celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the 1914 Blackwood Magazine.
TWENTY YEARS after women gained the vote in South Australia the 1914 Blackwood Magazine was continuing the debate. The “Revolt of Woman”, an article written by a woman especially to become a discussion item for the Blackwood Literary Society, was laden with provocative ideas and language.
Women had originally argued for enfranchisement on the basis of individual rights with the first wave of feminists concerned with obtaining equality for women in the public sphere. Women attempted to speak for themselves and argue for full legal and civil equality. The anti-suffragist movement dwelt on the supposed defects of female intellect and temperament arguing that women were too emotional and lacked broad political vision and were therefore not suited to civic leadership. Both of these ‘defects’ are dealt with by the Blackwood Magazine.
‘The Revolt of Women’ proudly delights in the replacement of the emotional young woman with the ‘... more sporting, more sensible, and infinitely more capable sister - the girl of today’ (The Blackwood Magazine, Aug p183). The magazine suggests that a major reason for female advancement is the amount of time at her disposal compared with women of previous generations. ‘Our grandmothers ... passed from girlhood straight in to the responsibilities of married life, forgoing the good years of independent young womanhood which do so much to build the character and present day girls’ (The Blackwood Magazine, Aug p183).
‘Abundant evidence has been furnished that feminine ‘grey matter’ is by no means of an inferior quality’ ... Many women also are obliged to compete with men on equal ground, and require therefore, an equal preparation ... but women’s nervous ... less robust than a mans cannot b submitted to the train of a system in which she is competitive with him without suffering loss in force and in strength ...’ (The Blackwood Magazine, Aug p184)
The writer displays very firm and sincere beliefs when she states ... ‘Woman is woman still, and though she share the responsibilities of man’s civic and public life her kingdom will still be her home; the love and care of a good man will be here dearest possession, and joy of her children the crown of her existence, I believe this to be true of every woman’ (The Blackwood Magazine, Aug p185)
Perhaps debate raged in Blackwood following the publication of ‘The Revolt of Woman’ for the next month the Magazine published a criticism. Interestingly the reply criticised the literary merits of the article but generally supported its content and the behaviour of feminists who use violent action to further their course. ‘... it must be remembered that few outstanding reforms have been brought without bloodshed ...’ (The Blackwood Magazine, Sept p203)
Thank you to Lexi Karstens from Blackwood High School who assisted with this article.