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Screenplay - Highgate School SA Suffrage 125 Schools Competition Winner

The Room 4, Year 6 students of Highgate School present a video to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Adult Suffrage Bill in South Australia.

Scene 1: Four men standing in front of a flyer that reads “Votes for women”

Man 1: Give women the vote? How preposterous!

Man 2: You have to be joking!

Man 3: What do women know about politics?

Man 4: They are far too weak and emotional!

Man 2: They’ll only vote for whomever their husband tells them to.

All: A woman’s place is in the home.

Scene 2: Narrators standing in front of a flyer that reads “Votes for women”

Narrator 1: This was the popular thinking in Australian in the nineteenth century. Women were considered inferior to men, with very few legal rights. And it was generally believed that marriage was their only destiny and duty in life.

Narrator 2: Once married, they had even less rights, with everything they owned becoming the property of their husbands.

Scene 3: Women cleaning and tending to children

Wife 1: Our place is in the home.

Wife 2: It is our job to look after the comforts of our husbands.

All: We cook, clean and look after our babies. It’s just the way it’s always been.

Scene 4: Photos of Adelaide, circa 1888

Voiceover: Before the 1870s, women were not able to file for a divorce and even after these laws were changed in the 1880s, it was still difficult. It was not unusual for wives to be abandoned. Deserted women and young women from poorer families were often forced to find paid work.

Scene 5: Women working at manual labour

Woman 1: Same job, but I get paid much less than a man.

Woman 2: I get less than two-thirds of a man’s wage.

Woman 3: Working conditions are awful.

Woman 4: I can barely make a living, but what else can I do?

Scene 6: Narrators standing by a lectern

Narrator 1: But social conditions and attitudes were changing. Greater educational opportunities for women were becoming available, and women were gaining a wider range of employment, although terrible conditions still persisted. In 1882, the Social Purity Society was launched with Mary Lee as the secretary.

Mary Lee enters.

Lee: Imagine young girls, at ten or twelve, being sent out to work as servants, in factories, or selling newspapers on the street. Many of them are cared for by the employers, but many others are abused.

Narrator 2: The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was established in 1886.

Woman’s Christian Temperance Union representative enters.

Representative: Our main aims were temperance and Christianity across the country. We wanted to eliminate alcohol because it often leads to violence against women and children.

Scene 7: Men at a hotel

Man 1: Who do they think they are?

Man 2: They take away life’s pleasures!

Man 3: Send them back to their homes where they belong.

Scene 8: Narrators standing by a fireplace

Narrator 2: Some members of Parliament were sympathetic to the cause. Sir Edward Stirling was the first politician to propose in Parliament the idea of giving women the right to vote.

Scene 9: Sir Edward Stirling

Stirling: There is no natural difference between the sexes, except in strength, and both should equally participate in the Government of the State.

Scene 9: Narrators standing by a fireplace

Narrator 2: The parliament agreed to Stirling’s proposal, but no action followed, and another six Bills also failed. In response, the South Australian Suffrage League was formed, with Doctor Stirling as the President and Mary Lee as co-secretary.

Narrator 1: Working conditions were still hard, and the depression in the 1890s meant that many more women had to seek work.

Narrator 2: In 1890, the Working Women’s Trade Union was formed. Mary Lee visited factories where conditions were often cramped, dirty, with no bathrooms and little light and air.

Scene 10: Women working at manual labour

Mary Lee:  Could women have ever descended to such depths of misery and degradation if women had a voice in making the laws for women? Let us be up and doing!

Scene 11: Narrators observe a meeting

Narrator 1: In 1891, Catherine Helen Spence joined the Suffrage League and told the Premier…

Spence: I am in my seventh decade and I still have no more vote than a child of three years.

Narrator 2: In 1894, the Suffrage League circulated a petition demanding suffrage for all. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union helped to gain signatures.

Narrator 1: The Union helped to gather more than eight thousand of eleven thousand six hundred signatures. Mary Lee travelled the countryside, from Mount Gambier to Naracoorte to Port Pirie, she campaigned.

Lee: Let husbands, brothers and fathers be kept in mind that it is the duty of every free man to leave his daughters as free as his sons.

Scene 12: The petition is presented

Narrator 2: The final petition, tied with gold ribbons, was presented to Parliament on August 23rd 1894. It measured around 120 metres in length and contained signatures from rich and poor, city and country, men and women.

All: cheering

Narrator 1: On the 18th of December 1894, the Adult Suffrage Bill was passed.

All: cheering

Narrator 1: For the first time in the world, women were granted both the right to vote and the right to sit in Parliament. Finally, after the tireless efforts of so many, women could vote in the South Australian state elections in April 1896.

All: cheering

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Last Updated:
06 Nov 2023
Printed on:
08 Dec 2023
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