Honouring A Victorian Trailblazer For Women And Girls

22 January 2020

An inspirational trailblazer who holds a special place in Australia’s history books will be honoured by a new memorial at the Castlemaine General Cemetery.

Minister for Women Gabrielle Williams today joined Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards at the Cemetery to unveil the memorial honouring Frances “Fanny” Finch.

Fanny Finch became one of the first women to vote in Australia in 1856, exploiting a loophole in Municipal Institutions Act of 1854 which granted suffrage to rate-paying “persons”.

The ballots of Fanny Finch and another unnamed woman that voted were later disallowed and the Act was amended in 1865 so that only men could vote.

Fanny Finch was born in London and had African heritage. As a single mother, she ran a restaurant and lodging house at Forest Creek and was also involved in sex work. Her restaurant was trashed on numerous occasions by police, motivating her to vote and become a strong advocate for fairness.

Women in Victoria finally received unconditional suffrage in 1908, more than 50 years after Fanny Finch cast her momentous ballot.

The memorial has been funded thanks to a $4,000 contribution by the Andrews Labor Government.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Women Gabrielle Williams

“Fanny Finch is a trailblazer and her story ought to be told to thousands of Victorians. This is an important way of making sure it can.”

“We still have so much more to do to achieve gender equality in Victoria, but bit by bit we’re getting it done because it’s 2020 and women and girls deserve every opportunity to succeed.”

“The stories of women are often overlooked in historical accounts. It’s critical that we remember and celebrate them.”

Quotes attributable to Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards

“Fanny fought hard to make Victoria a fairer place for women and girls – both of her generation and for many generations to come.”

“I congratulate the Castlemaine General Cemetery and Fanny’s descendants for their hard work in paying Fanny the homage she deserves and bringing her memory back to life.”

Reviewed 29 June 2020

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