Despite self-government in 1856, most Tasmanians couldn't vote.
Miners, for example, were disenfranchised because they rarely owned property. They usually lived and worked on Crown land. In consequence, some electorates only had about 100 voters.
While male suffrage finally became a reality for the Assembly in 1900, Tasmanian women remained barred from voting booths. "We don't want old women at the polls!" declared Dr Crowther MHA.
Henry Rooke MHA couldn't countenance barmaids being able to vote, and others maintained that women had representation through their husbands.
The biggest impediment was the Upper House. Many efforts by champions of women's suffrage such as William McWilliams and Inglis Clark, made regularly in the Lower House through the 1880s and 90s, were frustrated by Legislative Councillors.
Part of the problem was the matter really wasn't a big issue for women here - though strongly advocated by both the National Council of Women, and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.
Two of the local leaders of these organisations were Jessie Rooke (no relation to the MHA) and Ida McAulay. Both were passionate advocates for the vote.
Jessie was head of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Aside from being opposed to alcohol and gambling, they advocated "traditional family values" and roles for women, whilst pushing powerfully for equal pay and votes for women.
When Jessie and Ida formed the Women's Suffrage Association in Launceston in September 1903, an amendment to the Australian Constitution had recently granted women a vote in Federal elections. Thus the organisation was more to advise them about how to use their vote.
Tasmanian women voted for the first time at the Federal election of December 1903. Large numbers turned out, and many, like 91-year old Catherine Dean at the Albert Hall, were waiting at the door for booths to open.
The right to vote in a Federal election didn't automatically carry over to state elections, but there was strong pressure to harmonise the laws.
The Legislative Council finally bowed to the inevitable in October 1903, passing Premier Propsting's constitutional amendment allowing our women to vote in state elections. However it was a grudging and ill-mannered acceptance, agreed only after ensuring that the right of women to vote did not extend to the Upper House, and did not also give the right to stand for parliament.
Then new rolls had to be prepared. This took time and meant they missed the West Launceston by-election of December 9, 1903. Tasmanian women thus first voted in the two Legislative Council elections held on May 3, 1904, where they had the satisfaction of trouncing the 88-year-old Legislative Council President Sir Adye Douglas in the seat of Launceston. He'd opposed their voting.
Women did not gain the right to stand for parliament until 1922. The Legislative Council also held out on allowing every adult to vote in Upper House elections until 1968!