Tag Archives: suffrage

Nothing compassionate about conservatism – it’s about certainty

Women’s ability to vote in society, and thus be recognised as more competent than children, is a relatively new phenomena (table below), but still incomplete.  The dates are inaccurate when it comes to indigenous peoples of some of these countries.

  • 1893 New Zealand
  • 1902 Australia
  • 1906 Finland
  • 1913 Norway
  • 1915 Denmark
  • 1917 Canada
  • 1918 Austria, Germany, Poland, Russia
  • 1919 Netherlands
  • 1920 United States
  • 1921 Sweden
  • 1928 Britain, Ireland
  • 1931 Spain
  • 1944 France
  • 1945 Italy
  • 1947 Argentina, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan
  • 1949 China
  • 1950 India
  • 1954 Colombia
  • 1957 Malaysia, Zimbabwe
  • 1962 Algeria
  • 1963 Iran, Morocco
  • 1964 Libya
  • 1967 Ecuador
  • 1971 Switzerland
  • 1972 Bangladesh
  • 1974 Jordan
  • 1976 Portugal
  • 1989 Namibia
  • 1990 Western Samoa
  • 1993 Kazakhstan, Moldova
  • 1994 South Africa
  • 2005 Kuwait
  • 2006 United Arab Emirates
  • 2011 Saudi Arabia
We live in heady days! The recognition of women has made great progress over the last century.  We might be excused for thinking that full recognition of women will soon be realised, but another perspective is that the lingering abuse of women, the ownership of women, their lack of legal status and their enforced submissiveness has persevered for far too long.
Conservatives resist changes to the status quo. They call it tradition and endow it with reverence. They defend tradition, despite the inequities that it delivers. They resist every new position of leadership for women, including women’s ordination, but then you’ll hear the term ‘compassionate conservatism’ – a misleading framing.  Rather than indicating that conservatives are compassionate, it indicates a strategic surrender to irreversible advancements that once were strenuously resisted.  Conveniently they forget about each of the lost battles.  It’s been a long time since a conservative reminisced about the glory days of slavery, or the halcyon days when women couldn’t vote in the LCA.  In that way they aim to bolster their credibility for resisting the next step towards equality.  Their current cause is to resist women’s ordination, but they have resisted:
  • women voting at congregational meetings (1966)
  •  women being delegates at Synod (1981)
  • women being a member of church boards and committees (1984)
  • women being included in the guidelines for reading lessons in worship (1984)
  • women assisting in the distributing of Holy Communion (1989)
  • women being lay assistant as an alternative to elder (1990)
  • being chairperson of a congregation (1990)
  • women being synodical chairperson (1998)
  • women lay-reading (2003)
Conservatives are forced to give ground again and again, their causes being transient and ethereal, vapourising as society realises that for 10 000 years of civilisation women have been denied fair treatment.  There is nothing compassionate about conservatism.   Its focus is resistance – resistance to mutuality, to questioning, to open two-way conversations.  It’s about absolute certainty while retreating to the next fortress to be defended.  It’s about fear and sometimes even hatred.  You cannot embrace women in one context and fear and hate them in another.  Consider the women-hating theology of Jack Schaap in his fundamentalist Baptist church in Indiana.  Not surprisingly he has been dismissed from his parish because of his affair with an underage girl who came to him for abuse counseling.
If we are simply products of our past, it might be understandable that so many men (and women) relegate women to subservience. There’s so much that supports a theology of domination. Consider the Danvers Statement (1987) which forms the basis of the fundamentalist renewal of misogyny in U.S. Christian churches. Consider the long history of violence towards women, justified and maintained by our legal systems. Consider the hatred shown towards women in the witch trials throughout Europe and the USA around the 15th century. Consider the theologians that formed the foundation of our theology (Augustine, Aquinas, Luther):

St. Augustine of Hippo (354 to 430 CE). He wrote to a friend:
“What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman……I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.”

Martin Luther (1483 to 1546) (this link leads to other misogynist quotes):
“If they [women] become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that’s why they are there.”

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 to 1274 CE):
“As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence.”

We are not, however, simply products of our past.  We have the God-given intellect to analyse cultural traditions and decide what is helpful or destructive.  We have a wealth of scriptural scholarship that allows us to go beyond a fundamentalist proof-texting.  We have the ability to listen and to learn from the stories of women denied access to ordained ministry. We can jointly envision and mould a future where women are empowered to share in the leadership and create the welcoming, embracing church that we want it to be.

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Why women shouldn’t be “burdened” with the vote: 1915

The arguments against the full participation of women in society are intriguing. This anti-women’s suffrage poster, from 1915,  places full female participation in society in opposition to male participation, as if one will cause the downfall of the other. In fact, ironically, that argument is no more true than within today’s male-only ordination, which has forced many women out of the Church over many years.

The poster’s patronising arguments are not so different to those of today, when women are told that they are not made of the right stuff.

Why women shouldn’t be “burdened” with the vote: 1915 – Boing Boing.

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Posted by on January 17, 2011 in politics, sociology


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A brief history of universal suffrage

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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