Papers of Vida Goldstein

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists of diaries (1902, 1908); albums (1902, 1911); volumes of press cuttings (1900-1937); letter-books (1919); manuscript of article (undated). These refer to her 1902 visit to the United States of America, her 1903 Federal Senate election campaign (Australia) and her 1911 visit to England.

Administrative / Biographical History

Vida Goldstein (1869-1948) was born in Australia in 1869 and educated at the Ladies' Presbyterian College in Melbourne. With her mother and siblings, she campaigned against slum poverty and sweated labour with the Presbyterian minister Dr Charles Strong and began to study sociology and economics to underpin her ideas on the causes of poverty. However, after her family found itself in financial difficulties in 1893, she and her sisters opened a mixed-gender preparatory school and became active in social welfare work. It was in the late 1880s that female enfranchisement became an issue in Australia. The Australian Women's Suffrage Society was formed in 1889 to obtain rights for women, building on the foundations of the Women's Christian Temperance Union's social reform and equal moral standards work since 1887. By the 1890s, Goldstein too had become concerned with the issue of women's suffrage. She helped her mother collect signatures for the Australian Woman Suffrage Petition at the start of the decade and by the end had become leader of the United Council for Women's Suffrage after the death of its founder Annette Bear-Crawford until the latter half of 1901. In 1894, South Australian Women were granted the right to vote followed by those Western Australia in 1899. However, her own territory of New South Wales did not grant this right until 1902 and Victoria waited until 1908. Goldstein therefore began 1900 by founding and editing the women's suffrage journal, 'Australian Women's Sphere', which was read worldwide since much suffrage work was done at the international level at the end of the century. Consequently, the Australian was invited to a suffrage conference in Washington in 1902 to which she was elected the first secretary of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance formed there and drafted its proposed constitution and declaration of principles. During this visit, she was requested to undertake research into solutions to child neglect by the Australian government and the Trades Hall to inquire into unionisation in the United States. There, she spoke to the two houses as well as the president. Furthermore, she was invited to speak before a hearing of the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives to support Carrie Chapman Catt's request for an investigative committee to into the practical results of women's enfranchisement. On her return, having resigned her role in the United Council, she began preparations for the first Federal election in 1903 where women were entitled to vote, founding the Women's Federal Political Association, which later became the Woman's Political Association. Goldstein, Mrs Nellie Martel, and Mrs Mary Ann Moore Bently stood for the upper house or senate, becoming the first women parliamentary candidates in the British Empire. Though unsuccessful, Goldstein ran three more times for the Senate, in 1903, 1910 and 1917 and for the lower House of Representatives in 1913, and again in 1914. She remained concerned with social issues during this time and her research on poor families was used in the Harvester Judgement of 1907, which set a basic wage for Australia. She also helped establish separate courts to try underage children. However, she did not leave the issue of women's suffrage behind, establishing the periodical the 'Woman Voter' in 1908. Goldstein's first visit to Britain occurred in 1911 when she spoke on behalf of the Women's Social & Political Union, wrote a number of articles for 'Votes for Women' and contributes several pieces for the book 'Woman Suffrage in Australia' published by the Woman's Press. She was also present at the Women's Coronation pageant on the 17 Jun where she represented her country. It was while she was in the United Kingdom that she established the Australian and New Zealand Voters' Association. This was intended to help British citizens, resident in Australasia, to support the campaign for women's suffrage in their homeland. During this visit to Britain, she met Adela Pankhurst and it was Goldstein who helped Pankhurst to move to Australia and become the first organiser of the Woman's Political Association there in 1914. The support which she had in the country waned after the outbreak of the First World War after her pacifist position became clear. She became the Chair of the Peace Alliance and a number of original members left the Women's Political Alliance when it adopted a pacifist policy. In Jul 1915 she established the Women's Peace Army with Pankhurst and Cecelia Johns and began to campaign actively against conscription. At the same time, she organised the Women's Unemployment Bureau to find work for those in need as well as offering subsidised meals and offering help to dockers' families during a strike. In Jan 1919 Goldstein and Johns were asked to represent Australian women at the Women's Peace Conference in Geneva. After attending this, however, the former did not directly return home but spent three further years in the United Kingdom, allowing the Women's Political Association and the 'Woman Voter' to lapse. By the time of her return, she had become a Christian Scientist and she spent the rest of her life living with her sisters Elsie and Aileen, supporting the idea of planned families and social purity. She died in Aug 1949.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Acquisition Information

Deposited in the Fawcett Library by Mrs How-Martyn in 1949, following Vida Goldstein's death.

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Related Material

The Women's Library Autograph Letter Collection (9/03) also holds letters by Goldstein whilst The Women's Library, Biographical Press Cuttings collection contains further details about Goldstein (including an obituary by Edith How-Martyn and in a magazine article by Margaret Clarke).

Additional material related to Goldstein is held in a number of Australian archives such as State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection The Goldstein chronicle; National Gallery of Australia Research Library press cuttings collection (N+ 324.3 GOL); National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection, Vida Goldstein 1869-1949 (MS 1637); Correspondence of the Industrial Workers of the World (MS 3516); Papers of Baron Henry Stafford Northcote (MS 590); Papers of Leslie Moira Henderson (MS 1444); Papers of Lorna Rudduck; Papers of Ruby Rich (MS 2260); Papers of various Australian women (MS 842); Ruby Rich Papers (NLA MS 2260).