Vida: A Woman for Our Time by Jacqueline Kent

Who was Vida Goldstein?

 ‘Vida Goldstein was the first woman in Australia – indeed the first woman anywhere in the western world – to stand for election to a national parliament.’

Vida Jane Mary Goldstein (18/4/1869-15/8/1949) was born at Portland, Victoria, the eldest child of Jacob Robert Yannasch Goldstein and his wife Isabella, née Hawkins. The family moved to Melbourne in 1877. Vida matriculated from the Presbyterian Ladies’ College in 1886. Vida’s mother was a suffragist, a teetotaller and worked for social reform. Vida’s public career began, about 1890, when she helped her mother collect signatures for the Woman Suffrage Petition. In 1899, after the death of her friend Annette Bear-Crawford, she was the undisputed leader of the radical women’s movement in Victoria. Vida Goldstein became a capable and effective public speaker.

In 1903, she became the first woman in the Western world to stand for a national parliament: she was an unsuccessful candidate for a Victorian seat in the Australian Senate. Vida Goldstein stood for election to the Australian Parliament four more times: in 1910 and 1917 for election to the Senate, in 1913 and 1914 for election to the House of Representatives. While she was unsuccessful on each occasion, her efforts helped pave the way for others. 

Vida Goldstein had an international reputation as well. In February 1911 she visited England at the invitation of the Women’s Social and Political Union. Her speeches drew large crowds.

In this biography, Ms Kent describes the times and the context in which Vida Goldstein was working. She worked for the peace movement, against conscription during World War I, and stood for equal pay and equal rights. She was a woman of principle.

Highly recommended.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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