Maybanke Anderson

From ArticleWorld

Maybanke Anderson was born Maybanke Susannah Selfe in Surrey, England, in 1845 but moved to Australia at the age of nine when her family emigrated as free settlers. At the age of 21, she married a timber merchant by the name of Edmund Wolstenholme and they went on to have seven children, four of whom died from a heart condition before the age of five. The marriage dissolved when Edmund, an alcoholic and failed businessman, left his family in 1884 and once the Divorce Amendment and Extension Act was passed in 1892, Maybanke divorced her husband on grounds of desertion.

Coping with desertion

The year after her husband left her, Maybanke operated a girl’s school out of her home, preparing girls for the entrance exam of the University of Sydney. She also started to take part in the promotion of women’s and children’s rights and, believing that the vote was the beginning of all reform, she became active in the women’s suffrage movement. In 1893, as president of the Women’s Suffrage League, she founded the Australasian Home Reading Union, a program which organized study groups in rural areas.

In 1894, Maybanke started publishing the Woman’s Voice, a fortnightly newspaper attempting to draw attention to suffrage issues, which ran for 18 months. In 1895, wanting to help working mothers, she established the first free kindergarten.

Petitioning for political change

Seeing that no progress was being made in the effort to publicise the suffrage movement at state level, Maybanke turned her attention to the federal government and petitioned the 1897 Federal Convention in Adelaide. At the same time, she became involved in the pro-federation movement.

Maybanke resigned from the WSL in 1897 at the age of 52 and in 1899 married her second husband who was the first Professor Philosophy at the University of Sydney, Sir Francis Anderson. Federation was granted to Australia in 1901 and New South Wales’ women were granted the right to vote in 1902. Maybanke died outside Paris in 1927.