Author(s): Jacqueline Kent
Vida Jane Mary Goldstein, feminist and suffragist, was born at Portland, Victoria. Her father was an anti-suffragist, but Jacob Goldstein supported his daughters to be economically and intellectually independent. In the 1890s she became involved in various social welfare activities and attended Victorian parliamentary sessions where she learned procedure while campaigning for a wide variety of reformist legislation. In 1899 she lead the radical women's movement in Victoria, and that year made her first public-speaking appearance to advocate the vote for woman. In 1902 she travelled to the United States of America to speak at the International Woman Suffrage Conference, was elected secretary, gave evidence in favour of woman suffrage to a committee of the United States Congress and attended the International Council of Women Conference. Australian women had been granted the Federal vote in 1902 and on her return from America she was one of four women who were the first in the British Empire to be nominated and to stand for election to a national parliament when she campaigned as an Independent candidate for the Senate in 1903. Through the newspaper she founded and edited, Woman's Sphere, and by lecture tours around Victoria, she campaigned untiringly for the State suffrage which was won in 1908. Vida returned to national politics and made four more attempts to gain election to Federal parliament- always as an Independent Candidate. She was outspokenly opposed to capitalism, supporting production for use not profit, and public control of public utilities. In August 1909 Vida launched her second newspaper, the weekly Woman Voter, of which she was owner-editor. Vida Goldstein was the only Australian woman suffragist to gain an international reputation. In February 1911 she visited England at the invitation of the Women's Social and Political Union and her speeches drew huge crowds. During World War I Vida was uncompromisingly pacifist. She became chairman of the Peace Alliance, formed the Women's Peace Army in 1915, and was involved in much valuable social work including the organization of a women's unemployment bureau.