Rose Scott (8 October 1847 – 20 April 1925) was an Australian women's rights activist who advocated for women's suffrage and universal suffrage in New South Wales at the turn-of-the twentieth century.
Rose Scott: Early life
Scott was the daughter of Helenus Scott (1802–1879) and Sarah Ann Scott (née Rusden), the fifth of eight children, and a granddaughter of Helenus Scott (1760–1821), a Scottish physician. She was educated at home with her closet sister Augusta.
Women's rights work
In 1882, Scott began to hold a weekly salon in her Sydney home. Through these meetings, she became well known amongst politicians, judges, philanthropists, writers and poets. In 1889, she helped to found the Women's Literary Society, which grew into the Womanhood Suffrage League in 1891. Speaking at committee meetings gave her confidence, and she eventually became a witty and accomplished public speaker. Her mother died in 1896, and Scott was left with a home and sufficient income for her needs. Her interest in votes for women led to much study of the position of women in the community, and she found that young girls were working in shops from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on ordinary days, and until 11 p.m. on Saturdays. Some of these girls were asked to come to her house on Sundays and describe the conditions in which they worked, and there leading politicians such as Bernhard Ringrose Wise, William Holman, W. M. Hughes and Thomas Bavin met and discussed the drafting of the bill that eventually became the early closing act of 1899.
Other reforms advocated, and eventually implemented, were the appointment of matrons at police stations and of women inspectors in factories and shops, and improvements in the conditions of women prisoners.
Scott founded and became the first President of the Women's Political Education League in 1902, a position she held until 1910. The League established branches throughout the state and consistently campaigned for the issue closest to Scott's heart: raising the age of consent to 16, achieved in 1910 with the Crimes (Girls' Protection) Act. She was also President of the Sydney Branch of the Peace Society in 1908. Other post-suffrage feminist reform campaigns she participated in included the Family Maintenance and Guardianship of Infants (1916), Women's Legal Status (1918) and First Offenders (Women) 1918 Acts.
She was also, for many years, international secretary of the national council of women in New South Wales. When she retired in 1921, a presentation of money was made to her which she used to found a prize for female law students at the university. Another subscription was made to have her portrait painted by John Longstaff. This now hangs in the art gallery at Sydney. She died after a painful illness on 20 April 1925. Scott was opposed to federation and conscription. She was an Anglican pacifist.
- National Library of Australia. Scott, Rose (1847–1925). The National Library of Australia's Federation Gateway
- State Library of New South Wales. Papers of the Scott family, 1777–1925 (ML MSS 38)
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