Brettena Smyth

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Brettena Smyth is associated with Errol Street, North Melbourne, Victoria located at these coordinates -37.8009998, 144.9500791

Date of Birth: 1840
Date of Death: 1898
Also known as:
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User Tags: australian women's suffrage society, feminism, north melbourne, birth control, women's suffrage petition, petition

In 1873 Brettena Smyth, a recently - widowed mother of four children, closed the family greengrocery in Errol Street in North Melbourne. Instead she opened a drapery and druggist's shop, which became a landmark in the struggle for womens's rights. The shop was the venue for meetings of the Australian Women's Suffrage Society in the 1880s and 1890s and more controversially, the source of birth control advice and 'preventatives' for Melbourne women.

Smyth became one of Melbourne's most prominent activists in the feminist cause. At almost six feet0.00114 Miles
0.00183 Km
2 Yards
1.829 Meters
72 inch
tall (two metres), she was also the most recognizable. A member of the first Austalian suffrage organisation, the Victorian Women's Suffrage Society, she left that organisation in 1888 to found the Australian Women's Suffrage Society, after some members found her ideas on birth control objectionable.

Smyth recognised that access to artificial contraception, which could be 'used without the knowledge of the husband', was as liberating as the power of the vote.

Smyth died in 1898 and her organisation did not long survive her. Other organisations such as the Victorian Women's Franchise League (backed by the Women's Christian Temperance Union) and the United Council for Women's Suffrage, led by Vida Goldstein, took the suffrage campaign into the twentieth century.

(Information courtesy of PROV researcher Helen Harris)

(Images courtesy of Melbourne Library Service Local History Collection)

This woman signed the 1891 Women's Suffrage Petition. You can see the entire petition on the Parliament of Victoria Website.

Addressing the crowd on Yarra Bank labour day 1897.jpg

Addressing the crowd on Yarra Bank labour day 1897

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