Goldstein, Vida (1869–1949)

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Goldstein, Vida (1869–1949)

Australian feminist who was the first woman parliamentary candidate in the British Empire. Born Vida Jane Mary Goldstein on April 13, 1869, in Portland, Victoria; died on April 15, 1949, in South Yarra, Australia; the eldest of five children of Jacob Goldstein (a storekeeper and army officer) and Isabella (Hawkins) Goldstein; graduated with honors from Presbyterian Ladies' College, 1886; attended the University of Melbourne; never married; no children.

Brought up in a progressive household, the well-educated Vida Goldstein spent her early career working with her mother in the anti-sweating movement and in housing and prison-reform campaigns. When the bank crashes of the 1890s threatened the family income, she and her sister Bella Goldstein , who married the British socialist H.H. Champion, opened a free, co-educational school in St. Kilda. Meanwhile, Vida continued her political education by reading widely and campaigning for legislative reform. Becoming increasingly involved in women's suffrage, she left her school in 1899 to devote herself full time to the movement. From 1900 to 1905, in addition to working as a paid political organizer, she produced the feminist journal The Australian Woman's Sphere, in which she addressed local women's issues and also reprinted material from Lucy Stone 's Woman's Journal, thus keeping her readers abreast of the international movement. In 1902, having gained an international reputation for her feminist work, Goldstein was a representative at the Women's Suffrage Conference in Washington, D.C.

In 1903, after the federal vote was gained, Goldstein ran as an independent candidate for the Senate in the federal election, the first woman parliamentary candidate in the British Empire. Although unsuccessful, she polled a large number of votes and drew enormous attention, mostly negative, from the press. Four subsequent attempts to win a parliamentary seat—in 1910, 1913, 1914, and 1917—were also unsuccessful. After state suffrage was won in 1908, Goldstein launched a new journal The Woman Voter (1909–11), in which she continued to champion for equal marriage and divorce laws, and equal pay and employment opportunities for women. With Rose Scott , Goldstein opposed party politics, encouraging women to act independently and lobby every political group. In 1911, she visited Britain, where she enjoyed a successful speaking tour and worked as a political organizer for the Women's Social and Political Union. She also wrote suffrage articles for both British and international distribution.

Goldstein was a staunch feminist and became increasingly socialistic in her views. After returning from Britain, she became more and more involved with anti-militarist activities. In 1915, she helped found the Women's Peace Army, a militant group which organized projects for the relief of women who had experienced unemployment or poverty due to the war. By 1917, the year of her last run for Parliament, her writings were censored and her activities monitored closely. In 1919, Goldstein went to Europe where she represented Australia at a Women's Peace Conference in Zurich. Upon her return to Australia, she gradually withdrew from politics, devoting her last 20 years to Christian Science. She died of cancer on April 15, 1949, at her home in South Yarra.

sources:

Radi, Heather, ed. 200 Australian Women. NSW, Australia: Women's Redress Press, 1988.

Uglow, Jennifer S., ed. The International Dictionary of Women's Biography. NY: Continuum, 1985.

Wilde, William H., Joy Hooton, Barry Andrews. Oxford Companion to Australian Literature. Melbourne: Oxford, 1985.