forgotten women: Rose Scott – feminist

One of Australia’s early feminists, Rose Scott, was apparently inspired to the cause by Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

220px-Rose-Scott-1883-crop

Image of Rose Scott c 1883 per Wikipedia

The list of organisations she was actively involved in is long.  It includes The Prisoners’ Aid Association, the National Council of Women in New South Wales and the Women’s Political Education League. The well-connected Miss Scott was renowned for the salons she held in her home.  She was active in industrial issues and influential in shaping legislation to improve working conditions.  The Australian Dictionary of Biography entry, from which the following paragraph is extracted, mentions her opposition to Federation and the Olympic Games.

Rose Scott had strenuously opposed Federation and in 1900 wrote and spoke against Empire involvement in the South African War. Always a staunch opponent of competition and aggression, she became president of the Sydney branch of the Peace Society in 1908. As well as her involvement in post-suffrage feminist reform campaigns, including the Testator’s Family Maintenance and Guardianship of Infants (1916), Women’s Legal Status (1918) and First Offenders (Women) (1918) Acts, she took part in cultural activities and was a foundation member of the Women’s Club established in 1906 by Dr Mary Booth. She was president of the New South Wales Ladies’ Amateur Swimming Association from 1908 until 1911 when she clashed with its leading swimmer, Fanny Durack, over her competing at the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games—she objected to the Olympics on pacifist grounds, also to women appearing in competitions when men were present.

Papers relating to her not insignificant contributions are held at the State Library of New South Wales.

In 1921, a few years before her death, Rose Scott gave an address to the Feminist Club in Sydney where they were honouring her with a luncheon.  She concluded with these words.

My time for active work has now drawn to a close. The advice I give to you who are now to carry on the work is: Avoid distinctions of class and creed, party politics, and squabbles with men. Such things limit one’s outlook and dim one’s vision. Learn to distinguish between the good and the evil in every reform, and remember woman’s cause is man’s. Never descend to personal abuse. Be sure of your facts, and remember that every cause demands patience and self-sacrifice. And, above all, be loyal to your sex.

Her obituary appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 22 April 1925.  She was 78 years old.

Rose Scott



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