My third great grandmother Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny née Dana, lived from 1820 to 1904, a period of great change in the political status of women.
In 1902, when she was 82 years old, the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 granted Australian women the right to vote and the right to stand for election to the Commonwealth Parliament.
When the list of voters was compiled, Charlotte was recorded on the Electoral Roll for the polling place of Beaufort, Division of Grampians, State of Victoria, as Charlotte Champion, living at Eurambeen, occupation home duties. (Eurambeen was about 11 kilometers west of Beaufort.) Also on the Roll were her daughters Viola Julia Champion and Helen Rosalie Beggs née Champion Crespigny, both also living at Eurambeen with the occupation of home duties.
Oddly, it appears that Charlotte and Viola were recorded twice. There are entries on page 4 of the roll for Crespigny Frances and Crespigny Constantia, also both of Eurambeen; Frances was Charlotte’s middle name and Constantia was Viola’s third given name. When names were collected for the roll the surname Champion Crespigny went over two lines and so did their given names. There was not enough space on the form: the result was two Roll entries each.
On the 1909 roll Viola’s surname was changed to Crespigny, with her full name recorded as Crespigny, Viola Julia Con. C. At that time she living at St Marnocks with her sister and brother-in-law.
A Victorian state election was held in October 1902 but for this women were as yet not enfranchised. The next year, however, there was a Federal election on 16 December and Charlotte and her daughters were eligible to vote.
The Federal Division of Grampians was retained by the sitting member Thomas Skene (1845 – 1910) of the Free Trade Party, an anti-socialist party which advocated the abolition of tariffs and other restrictions on international trade.
Charlotte and her daughters, from a prosperous family of graziers, probably supported Skene, a pastoralist. Voting was not compulsory, however, and though she was entitled to vote, Charlotte was unwell and probably unable to travel to the polling station at Beaufort to cast her vote.
There was provision for postal voting but it was very complicated, with specific witnesses required.
All in all, the story of my great grandmother’s enfranchisement is not especially remarkable. She was not a fire-breathing suffragist, but an ordinary person who, late in life, accepted a new political privilege with no great fuss.
- Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903 retrieved through ancestry.com first published by the Australian Electoral Commission
- Geoff Browne, ‘Skene, Thomas (1845–1910)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/skene-thomas-8441/text14837, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 12 February 2020.
- VOTING BY POST. (1903, December 9). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 9. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10586768
- A new genealogy prompt ~ Through Her Eyes Thursday! #ThroughHerEyesThursday https://thishoosiersheritage.blogspot.com/2020/01/new-genealogy-prompt-through-her-eyes.html