Edith Cowan University
Place of Publication
Churchlands, Western Australia
Saggers, S., & Haslam McKenzie, F.
The centenary of women's suffrage in Western Australia in 1899 has presented many moments to reflect upon and evaluate women's experiences, to recognise and respond to the diversity of women's lives and concerns. This special issue of the International Review of Women and Leadership is one contribution to a year's activities marking that centenary.
Millicent Poole's preface discusses the genesis of these papers in a successful series of seminars in 1998 hosted by the Centre for Research for Women which attested, each fortnight, to the energy, intellectual rigour and vibrancy of participants. Poole contextualises the seminar series by pointing out the gap which existed between the symbolically important granting of non-indigenous women's suffrage in Western Australia and federally (in 1902, and the broader participation of women in formal politics. While personally and socially circumscribed in their contributions to public life, figures such as Edith Cowan demonstrated women's commitments to issues relevant to women and to society at large. Most of the contributors to this special issue are engaging, in some way, with the perennial questions, - what has been achieved, and what still needs to be done to create the sort of society which values all of its citizens?
On the eve of the centenary, some of Western Australia's best known as well as lesser known politicians and activists, writers and academics, addressed issues of current concern in the community; they looked back across the rich and difficult histories which led to the centenary; they surveyed current challenges to active citizenry; and they looked forward, envisioning possible futures and the alternate paths which may be pursued. Contributors to that series elicited lively discussion and debate, relating their views at times with humour, and at others with pathos, but always with a sense of the strong commitment they shared to women's voices being heard.