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A brief history of universal suffrage

03 Sep

Universal suffrage is not as self-evident as we might first think. Manhood suffrage and universal suffrage is a phenomena largely of the last 100 years. Even today women still do not have the vote in some Arab countries, which provides not a little irony for this writer. It is therefore not surprising that some people still haven’t made the mental adjustment that allows equality between female and male.

The earliest democracy was in Athens in 510BC, however, neither Athens nor the nearby Greek city states using democracy granted universal suffrage, for only free adult male citizens, who owned land, could vote. It seems that, as wonderful as democracy was, its virtues were considered too great for certain groups of people: women and slaves in particular. It is surprising to note that in Victoria, in the 1950s, there were still property ownership requirements to qualify as a representative in the Legislative Council.

Universal suffrage is still not a reality across the whole world. While it happened in Australia with Federation in 1901, Indigenous people had to wait until 1965. The Arab states are still discovering the concept and

Australia and Australian States:

  • 1854 Eureka Stockade, Ballarat, Victoria – gold miners fight for manhood suffrage (amongst other demands) under the banner of, “No taxation without representation”- granted in Victoria within 12 months.
  • 1894 South Australian Women, including Indigenous women, were granted the right to vote. They were also granted the right to stand for Parliament, making SA the first in the world to do so.
  • 1899 Western Australian women could vote in state elections
  • 1902 NSW women were granted the right to vote
  • 1903 Tasmania granted women the right to vote
  • 1902 Australian women (except Aboriginal women) could vote for the new Commonwealth Parliament.
  • 1902 Women could stand Federal Parliament
  • 1905 Qld women were granted the right to vote
  • 1908 Victorian women were granted the right to vote
  • Women eligible for election to the State parliaments: 1915 Qld, 1918 NSW, 1920 WA, 1921 Tas, 1923 Vic.
  • 1962 Indigenous women and men given the vote for Federal elections. The states gave the vote over many different years.

The right to vote around the world – select dates

  • US, Wyoming 1869 – grants women the vote (4 years after the American Civil War), refuses to bend to Congress’ threat to revoke the vote, saying they would remain out of the United States 100 years rather than become a state without women’s suffrage
  • NZ 1892 – grants women the vote (first nation in the world)
  • UK 1918 – universal male suffrage
  • NZ 1919 – women have the right to run for the NZ legislature
  • USA 1920 – the vote was extended to women
  • UK 1928 – universal suffrage – men and women
  • UN 1948 – Provision of “universal and equal suffrage” in Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • USA 1965 – universal suffrage finally enforced and includes African-American citizens.

The LCA has approved women the roles of:

  • 1966 voting at congregational meetings
  • 1981 being delegates at Synod
  • 1984 being a member of church boards and committees
  • 1984 included in the guidelines for reading lessons in worship
  • 1989 assisting in the distributing of Holy Communion
  • 1990 being lay assistant as an alternative to elder
  • 1990 being chairperson of a congregation
  • 1998 being synodical chairperson
  • 2003 lay-reading

While it is true that women already have the vote in the LCA, as yet they don’t have access to the ordained ministry, to Pastors Conferences. They don’t have access to the power to contribute to the work of the Church, both now and in the future.

If you hear someone say that this is not important, because clergy have no more power than lay people in the LCA, rest assured that you are listening to a clergyman, who is unaware of the power he has access to. Power is not the key issue however, rather, it is a matter of equality, being one in the Spirit, being equal in community and being able to serve as one is called.

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Posted by on September 3, 2010 in history

 

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