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Women's Political Association

The Women's Political Association (WPA) had its origins in the Melbourne Women's Progressive League, founded in July 1902. It changed its name to the Melbourne Women's Political Association in 1903, moving into the national arena as the Women's Federal Political Association in preparation for the election scheduled for December. Its president, women's suffrage campaigner, Vida Goldstein (1869-1949), used her newspaper, Woman's Sphere, to outline a 13-point platform designed to appeal to women across the political spectrum. It called for: adult suffrage; equal pay for equal work; legal equality; amendment of laws regarding children, educational and penal reform; uniform federal legislation on working conditions, old age pensions and food adulteration; municipalisation or nationalisation of coal-mines; a tax on unimproved land values; and the extension of local government and federal powers with the object of abolishing State parliaments. Although the association attracted only 1000 members, it was regarded warily by the established parties, with the labour movement canvassing options of establishing women's branches, and the conservative parties founding the Australian Women's National League, which quickly grew to a membership of 16 000, in the following year.

The association supported Goldstein in her unsuccessful federal election campaigns in 1903, 1910, 1913 and 1914. As the Women's Political Association of Victoria, it was also active in a wide range of activities that aimed at encouraging and educating women to use their new political rights, convening an elected Women's Parliament in which intending candidates could hone their skills. It continued to campaign on a range of social issues, using its newspaper, Woman Voter, to publicise its cause. Although the WPA was in decline prior to World War I, it continued to conduct social action campaigns. However it was largely subsumed by the anti-war Women's Peace Army, founded by Goldstein, Cecilia John (1877-1955) and Adela Pankhurst (1885-1961) in 1915, and folded in 1919.

Shurlee Swain