Scott, Rose (1847–1925)

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Scott, Rose (1847–1925)

Australian feminist. Born in Glendon, near Singleton, New South Wales, Australia, on October 15, 1847; died on April 21, 1925; fifth of eight children of Sarah Anne (Rusden) Scott (a linguist and scholar) and Helenus Scott (a police magistrate in Maitland); educated at home by her mother; never married; children: adopted the son of her deceased sister.

Rose Scott was born in 1847 in Glendon, near Singleton, New South Wales, Australia, and raised in a family that believed fervently in education for boys. While her brothers were packed off to private schools, she was educated at home by her mother. In 1879, upon the death of her father, Scott inherited £500 per annum which she used to care for her ailing mother. Following the death of a beloved sister, Gertie, a year later, Rose adopted Gertie's son and set up home in Woollahra, Sydney, where she became something of a celebrity. In 1891, she founded the Womanhood Suffrage League and became its secretary.

Initially, Scott worked with Dora Monte-fiore , a Marxist, and Vida Goldstein . Although she refused to join a political party, Scott lobbied heavily for protective legislation: she demanded shorter hours for shop assistants, worked to raise the age of consent for girls to marry from 14 to 16, and pushed to criminalize the seduction of women under the promise of marriage. To exact such changes, she often went head to head with those feminists who supported labor.

Following the death of her mother in 1896, Scott became president of the women's committee for the Prisoners' Aid Association and soon called for a separate women's prison. In 1901, she organized the League for Political Education, of which she later became president (1910). In 1902, she was elected foundation president of the Women's Political and Educational League, campaigning for a widow's rights to share in her husband's estates and for the removal of gender barriers in the legal profession. She adamantly opposed a bill to regulate prostitution, a bill designed, in her words, to "supply clean women for profligate men."

An ardent pacifist, Scott condemned the British for the Boer War in 1900, was president of the Peace Society for many years, and decried Australia's involvement in World War I. In 1903, she did, however, champion the release of Ethel Herringe , who had been convicted of shooting her employer. They had had an affair, and when the employer learned she was pregnant, he not only fired her but would have nothing to do with her. In jail, Herringe gave birth to twins who were taken from her, and Scott became even more vociferous.

Rose Scott retired from public life in 1922. Though women had obtained the vote, she was disillusioned with the way she perceived them using their newfound power. She was particularly disturbed that women joined existing parties rather than formulating their own. To her, the flappers of the 1920s had become sexual playthings for men. When Rose Scott died in 1925, she left money in her will for the establishment of the Rose Scott Memorial Prize in International Law at the University of Sydney.