In 1903 Louisa Lawson wrote an editorial advising women how to use their new found right to vote. Seemed timely given recent newspaper proprietors exhortations on how we ought wield our pencils at the ballot box.

HOW TO VOTE - To the Women of New South Wales.
FEELING that the reluctance many women express to avail themselves of the powers newly conferred on them is mainly owing to the want of information on the subject, I want to put before you very plainly-- (1) the conditions on which you may vote; (2) what steps it is necessary to take beforehand to secure your vote; (3) and what you have to do at the time of an election.

I am not addressing men. To those who have been used to go to the poll ever since they came of age what I have to say is as the A.B.C. of politics. I do not write for them, but for those who have only just entered that school and are yet in the infant class. I am not going to give you any instructions, nor even offer any advice, as to WHOM you should vote for nor in any way to discuss party politics. You may vote for any candidate you choose ; naturally that will be the one you think is the best man. And though your family and friends should vote for his opponent you can vote for the man of your choice, and no one need know for whom you have voted if you prefer to keep it from them. Even though you should choose the very worst of those nominated no one can prevent your voting for him. Most women, we believe, will choose the best man, and will use every means to learn who that is. But that is a lesson to be studied in a higher class of the school of politics. These papers are only a primer for the newly enfranchised-only to teach you HOW to vote.

First, then, Women of New South Wales, do you understand that you are fully enfranchised? That in every case in which your fathers and brothers and husbands have a vote you have also? Nor for one governing body only, but for two, in some cases for three.

There is the Federal right for the Parliament of the Commonwealth consisting of the Senate, the Upper House, and the House of Representatives, the lower house. For the members of both of these women all over Australia and Tasmania have the right to vote

Then there is the State right for the mem bers of the Legislative Assembly, the members of which the women of this State must help to elect. The women of South Australia and Western Australia have also the vote for their own State Parliaments; but in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania they are not yet fully enfranchised. In New Zealand, which does not belong to the Commonwealth, the women obtained their full rights long before any of the Australian States granted any rights to women.

Beside these two votes many women have a municipal vote for the election of the aldermen who form the town or city council. These three we will take separately.


Women entitled to vote for members of the Commonwealth Parliament must be British subjects, over 21 years of age, and must have resided in Australia for six months, and in the electoral division in which they are voting for one month immediately preceding the issue of the writ for an election. Aborigines and natives of British South Sea Islands have no vote ; neither have prisoners nor lunatics.

To be sure of securing your vote you will have to go to the nearest Post Office, subur ban or country (not the G.P.O ) and ask to see the Electoral Roll. There are separate rolls for men and women, the women's on white paper, the men's on blue paper. When you find your name make a note of the number against it. Also be sure that you know what electorate you live in. If your name is not on the roll ask at the same post office for a form, fill it up and post it ; the form is already addressed and needs no stamp. This should be attended to at once that your name may be put on the additional list.

When you go to give your vote, at the door or in the outer room of the polling place, you give your name and number to the clerk in attendance. He will see that it is all right, and give you a paper which you take to the inner room and present to the deputy return ing officer, who will give you your voting paper, on which you will find the names of all the candidates of all parties who have been nominated for your electorate. You will see round the room compartments like those in a telegraph office. You go to one of them where you will find a pencil, and put a cross against the name of the candidate whom you approve of. If the election is for the Senate you must put a cross against two names, If the election is for the House of Representatives mark ONE only. Fold up your paper so that the number in the corner is visible, but not the names, and put it into the ballot box. And then you come away, having done all you have to do till another election comes round.

It would be well for those going to the poll for the first time to form a party and go together, especially if there is one who knows more about it than the others. There may be one who has voted at a municipal election. But the leader of your party must give her vote when she first goes in and will not be allowed to go into the polling booth again.


To entitle you to vote for the Parliament of New South Wales you must be a British sub ject over 21 years of age, and have lived in the State for the past year, and in the electorate in which you vote for the past three months be fore you apply for your elector's right. Aborigines, natives of South Sea Islands, prisoners and lunatics have no vote.

The first step you must take to secure your vote is to apply for an Elector's Right. If you are in the city you may go to the Electoral Office, 41 Phillip-street. You will find the gentlemen there most kindly and ready to give you any information, and to help you to fill up your application form. If you are in the country you must apply to the Registrar of the electoral division in which you reside, or you may obtain the necessary application forms at any electoral office in the division, and ask there for further information. When you have filled up and sent in your application, if it is all right your Elector's Right will be delivered to you at the nearest post office or the nearest police office, which ever you elect. The elec toral rolls are to be seen at all post offices in the State. You should look for your name and see that it is there. But remember that though your name is on the list that is not all. You must have your elector's right; and if you have secured it your name is sure to be on the roll. If by any chance you do not find it there you must apply to the nearest post office for a form which you will fill in, claim ing to have your name inserted, and post without stamping. You will find it already addressed.

When there is an election you must take your elector's right, and at the door of the polling place, or in the outer room, you give your name and number and show your elector's right to the clerk, who will give you a paper on which you will find the names of all the candidates of whatever party, who have been nominated for your electorate. There are boxes round the room like those in a telegraph office. You go into one of them and there you mark out the names of those you do not approve of, leaving one name and one only un marked. that is, the one you wish to elect. No voting paper may be taken out of the polling booth, and you cannot go in a second time while the poll is being taken.

At a State election you only vote for one member of the Legislative Assembly. The members of the Legislative Council are nom inated by the Governor, not elected by the people, that is, in New South Wales. In South Australia both Houses are elected by the people.

(To be Continued.)

HOW TO VOTE. (1903, July 1). The Dawn (Sydney, NSW : 1888 - 1905) , p. 7. Retrieved September 10, 2013, from

Image from Page 9 - Fashion Notes

Part two for those who can't wait for the next instalment to be posted to
[No heading]. (1903, August 1). The Dawn (Sydney, NSW : 1888 - 1905) , p. 7. Retrieved September 10, 2013, from