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The 1891 Victorian Women’s Suffrage Petition - Did your ancestor support the cause?

In honour of International Women's Day I thought readers might enjoy reading the following article I initially wrote for the Heraldry and Genealogy Society of Canberra back in 2017 about the historic Victorian Women's Suffrage Petition. Read on to discover how to search for your ancestors' names in the petition. And it's good to know the data is online and free!

Photo of the 1891 Women's Suffrage Petition courtesy of the VIctorian Parliament.

Women’s Suffrage Petition, 1891. PROV VPRS 3253/PO, Unit 851. Photographer: Laura Daniele, Public Records of Victoria. Reproduced with permission of the Victorian Parliamentary Library.

Finding information beyond birth, death and marriage details for female members of a family tree can be a frustrating exercise. Unless they were convicts, famous, or indeed infamous, they seldom left a traceable footprint in the same way as their male counterparts. Even less likely is finding evidence of their political views.

However, thanks to the efforts of a handful of dedicated women who took to the streets in 1891, there is a unique (and now digitised) record of names and addresses for 30,000 women in Victoria who signed a petition seeking that “Women should Vote on Equal terms with Men”. Ordinarily, women's voices are missing from historical accounts, however, the suffrage petition provides a lasting record of these women and their commitment to political and social reform.

The petition was initiated follow