The Mary Lee Project

While we were setting up WomenVote, we discovered Mary Lee

A relentless campaigner for women’s suffrage in South Australia and mother of 7 children, it was Mary Lee who organized a 122 metre long petition in support of women’s suffrage which was presented to Parliament when she was 73.  Women in South Australia (notably including Indigenous women) were granted the right to vote in 1894, the first jurisdiction in Australia to grant women the right to vote, as well as the right to stand for election.

In 1896, South Australian Premier Charles Kingston acknowledged that the achievement of women’s suffrage in Australia was largely due to Mary Lee’s “persistent advocacy and unwearied exertions.”

Mary Lee died in poverty in 1909. 

Inspired by John Birmingham’s 25 January 2019 article “The nation-builders we constantly fail to recognise”, and Scott Morrison’s planned $50m commemoration of James Cook’s voyage to Australia, it occurred to us: what notable Australian women should be memorialized?

Our suggestion is Mary Lee, with honourable mention to the Ngarrindjeri women at the Point McLeay mission who insisted on registering and voting in the 1896 South Australian election despite resistance.

Heroines all.


The Mary Lee Project

Send us your suggestions of Australian women who should be memorialized, and together, we can start a movement to recognise and commemorate these women and their achievements. Learn more about Mary Lee