Mary Lee (1821-1909) - Let her name be honoured.

Who was Mary Lee? Let's hope that after 1994 that question won't need to be asked again. Let's hope too that soon everyone will know of Mary Lee and her great contribution.

As Charles Tucker, the Mayor of Adelaide, said at the Testimonial presentation to Mrs. Lee on her 75th birthday, (St. Valentine's day,) 1896,

"you fought against great difficulty, prejudice and other opposition, but by your courage and persistency carried the point." "You were the motive power in bringing about Women's Suffrage and your name will be honoured for that."
(Sufferage - a vote, a view expressed by voting. Men in South Australia recieved the vote in 1856)

Mrs Mary Lee : MLSA B57233But her name, though honoured at the time, was hardly mentioned after her death in 1909 and her work scarcely remembered in all the years until the 1970s when Helen Jones, a South Australian historian, ‘found her out.' She has said, "Mary Lee worked single-mindedly for political and social reform. Her qualities of leadership, conviction and perseverance matched the social and political climate of late nineteenth century South Australia." (Helen Jones, 'Mary Lee', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol 10, 1891 - 1935, p50)

In 1986, the Jubilee Year of South Australia, Mary Lee's name was commemorated on one of the plaques set in the footpath in North Terrace, Adelaide, to honour South Australians who had served this State. Most people who saw her name would have walked on not knowing who she was.

However, during the thirty years she lived in Adelaide from 1879 to 1909, Mary Lee was very well known and served the community, working on the committees of many charitable and benevolent societies.

Now, as we celebrate the Centenary of the passing of the Women's Suffrage Bill on 18 December 1894, it is time to remember Mary Lee and honour her for this her most important activity, the campaign that she worked on tirelessly for almost seven years.

The passing of that Bill changed the colony's Constitution and made South Australia the first Australian colony to grant the vote to all women on the same basis as men, and the first place in the world where a woman's right to stand for election to Parliament was established.