Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On May, 23, 1889, Louisa Lawson founded the Dawn Club

leading suffragette, Louisa Lawson, founded the Dawn Club at a meeting at Foresters Hall, Sydney. One of the earliest clubs for women to discuss such subjects as votes for women, the Dawn Club was a follow-on to her journal, Dawn, which she had first published on her own press just a year earlier.
Meetings were held in various places, including Quong Tart's tea rooms at 137 King Street and 777 George St, Sydney, one at Sydney's Queen Victoria Markets (now called the Queen Victoria Building, or QVB, from 1898), and possibly in the George St markets (aka Paddy's Markets, near Chinatown). One of Louisa's meeting places was 43 Royal Arcade (possibly another Quong Tart establishment). In 1891, the club merged with the Womanhood Suffrage League which was established by Lawson and Dora Montefiore, Maybanke Anderson and Rose Scott (Louisa Lawson was at the foundation meeting of the merged societies).

This is from her speech at the inauguration of The Dawn Club:
"Now as we have no time to be elaborate or diffuse, we must be methodical, and we will take first the reasons why women claim the right to vote; and then we will pick up the objections one by one and turn them inside out to show their entire vacuity, and finally review briefly what women are doing now in other countries (in order to show how woefully we in New South Wales are behind the times). For the thoughts we entertain on this and other sections of the woman's question are merely scattered unshaped blocks lying rough in the quarry, while in America and England they are already squared and set together in the foundations of that new social edifice which the nineteenth century is building.

"The whole principle of the Justice of the woman's vote agitation may be compressed into a question: Who ordained that men only should make the laws to which both men and women have to conform?

"Men tell us we are responsible for the home and education of children, that the morals of society are in our keeping; they have bound our hands and placed us in the front rank of the battle … It is the large-hearted woman who realizes the universal brotherhood of man, and is willing to set self and self-interest aside, and work and pray for the time when she may go to the poll with husband, father or son and cast a vote for "God and home and native land, for truth, temperance and morality" – , to cast the vote that will protect son or brother from the public-house and gambling-den and sister and daughter from infamy and disgrace. When women really understand the relation of home to equal suffrage work, then will they unite in a body and demand the ballot as a means of protection to that which every woman holds clearer than life, her home and her family … But I see a new heaven and a new earth … brother and sister standing shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart in the great fight for right, truth and justice, for better laws, for better protection to our sons and daughters, for better and purer homes."


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