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The National Library of Australia is committed to preserving and sharing the stories that have shaped Australia. Our priority for this year is to highlight the voices of women who have championed equality.

The papers of the Australian Federation of Woman Voters are part of the long story towards equality for women. This collection features a treasure trove full of the letters, notes, names, stories and voices of Australian women who were instrumental in progressing women’s rights in the post-suffrage world of the 20th century. Not happy with merely voting, they wanted to see women elected, to work for legislative change in areas that would improve the lives of women and their families, and to see women become leaders in their own right. 

Established in 1921, for the 60 years until its disbandment in 1981, the federation was a leading voice in progressing the cause of equality for women in Australia and across the globe. Leaders of the federation included notable figures such as Ruby Rich, Jessie Street and Bessie Rischbieth, all of whom were tireless campaigners who believed that getting the vote was but a stepping stone in the pursuit of equality.

The papers include speeches and correspondence from dozens of women, their names pencilled into the margins of speeches, letters, forms and notes. These women are not widely known – but they deserve to be. By digitising this collection, the work towards equality undertaken by these women will not be lost.

With your support, we can bring this important archive online, ensure these women and their stories will continue to inform and inspire future generations.

'Let us remember that the price of the privilege of democracy is that all citizens shall participate fully in public life – women as well as men.'
—Ruby Rich, 1 December 1967

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Former National Librarian Sir Harold White with two members of the Australian Federation of Women Voters.