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Vida Goldstein


‘Thus far we have not had democracy, only male democracy’[1]

Vida Goldstein was born in Portland, Victoria on 13 April 1869.  After her family moved to Melbourne Vida was educated by a private governess then attended the Presbyterian Ladies College from 1884-86.[2]

Both her parents were enthusiastic reformists. Helping her mother with slum work and collecting signatures for the ‘Great Petition’, Vida personally saw the destitution and hardship of the underprivileged. Although the ‘Great Petition’ failed to win reform, it converted the State Premier to the cause. Vida realised early on that their work was having an impact.[3]

Vida became involved in many social welfare activities. When her friend Annette Bear-Crawford unexpectedly died she assumed the leadership of the United Council for Women’s Suffrage and then started a monthly magazine the’ Woman’s Sphere’.[4]

Vida was an excellent public speaker, addressing audiences quietly and confidently, as a woman. She used imagery and cajoling as well as evidence-based facts. On the international stage she quoted written testimonials from Australian MP’s, lawyers and clergy heralding the improvements that women’s participation had brought to political life. [5]

In 1902, she went to America to address the International Women’s Suffrage Conference and in 1911 was received at the opening of the Women’s Social and Political Union Campaign at the Royal Albert Hall in London as an international celebrity.[6]

Vida ran for Parliament five times; for the Senate in 1903,1910 and 1917 and for the House of Representatives in 1913 and 1914.

Had she joined the Australian Labor Party, she may have been successful, but Vida was wary of her key message being lost within party politics, so she always ran as an independent candidate.

Vida lost support in the 1917 elections due to her unpopular pacifist stance during World War 1.

Disillusioned in later years, Vida lived quietly and died of cancer at home in South Yarra on 15 August 1949. In 1984 a federal electorate in Victoria was named Goldstein.[7]

Thank you to Port Melbourne Historical & Preservation Society and Port Places for assistance with resources and information.

This Biography has been written in consultation with Glenelg Shire Council and artist Carmel Wallace.



Postcard – Senate Election, Vida Goldstein, 1910.
unknown designer,
Museum Victoria, HT 36235

Vida Goldstein c.1915
Photographer Unknown
Wiki Commons


Memorial: At Last a Seat for Vida! 2008, Sculptural seat by Carmel Wallace  – bluestone and stainless steel

Memorial Triangle, Portland Victoria Australia 

This seat commemorates pioneering suffragist Vida  Goldstein, born 13 April 1869 in Portland Victoria, Australia.  The seat was commissioned by the Historic Buildings  Restoration Committee and designed by artist Carmel  Wallace. It was unveiled as part of Victorian Women Vote  1908-2008 celebrations by Member for Western Victoria  Gayle Tierney MLC on 24 October 2008 and funded through  the Victorian Government’s Centenary of Suffrage grant  program and Regional Arts Victoria. The project received a  Victorian Local Government Women’s Charter Award.

[1] Wright, C. (2018) You Daughters of Freedom p. 136

[2]  Victorian Women’s trust (2008) reprint, Goldstein, V. Women’s Suffrage in Australia p.2.
Wright, C. (2018) You Daughters of Freedom pp. 30-31.

[3] Wright, C. (2018) You Daughters of Freedom pp. 30-33.

[4] Wright, C. (2018) You Daughters of Freedom p. 36.

[5] Victorian Women’s trust (2008) reprint, Goldstein, V. Women’s Suffrage in Australia pp.10-23.
Wright, C. (2018) You Daughters of Freedom p. 136.

[6]  Author unknown. (1902, January 6th)International Women’s Suffrage Conference, Arrival of Miss Vida Goldstein, The Sydney Morning Herald.

[7] Wright, C. (2018) You Daughters of Freedom p.474.