Being a modern woman living in a free society and very use to being able to have my say, I find it hard to imagine what life would have been like before women had the vote.
Voting is compulsory in Australia for everyone over 18, and though some disregard it as something that just has to be done, it is a founding element of a democratic goovernment. Of course, it wasn’t always the case.
Aboriginal men had the vote (as adult male residence of a British Colony) and then lost the vote until the 1967 referendum (side note, the only referendum to be approved by the people in Australian history and by a majority of almost 91%) but women never did, having to rely on a male relation to make the correct decisions for them. Tough if you were a woman alone in the world.
In 1861 South Australia women who owned land could vote which sounded good as those who owned land were business people and active contributors to society, but as much land is family owned it falls to the males in most cases to have land in their names so in practice I wonder how many woman actually qualified. This did allow a small group of women from South Australia and Western Australia to vote in the first Federal Elections in 1901 (the Federal law stated if the state allowed you to vote, you could vote in Federal elections as well).
Though South Australia led the world at that time in giving women the vote, the first country to give women the vote was New Zealand in 1893 which notably included Maori women as well.
I don’t know what sort of world I would live in if half the population of Australia did not have the vote. I don’t think it would be any less humane or free? I know being a single woman alone would be a harder life as there would always be the expectation that a woman should have a man to defense her interests. No worries lads, my Grandmother’s name was Mafalda (Matilda in English) which means Defender of Men and I think that name speaks for me too. Luckily I’m able to exercise this ability in a vote in all three levels of government.
As for what would symbolise this important freedom? I’m not sure. A Suffragette banner or pamphlet from the time would appropriate.