Catherine Helen Spence

Catherine Helen Spence (1825-1910) was a respected South Australian novelist, social commentator, Unitarian preacher, educationist and worker for the welfare of children. From 1859 she advocated proportional representation in parliament. Australiaís first female political candidate, she ran for the Federal Convention in 1897. She joined the fight for womenís suffrage in 1891 and promoted the political education of women. Courtesy Australian Dictionary of Biography


5 March 1897

First female political candidate

The first female candidate in Australia is Catherine Helen Spence. She stands for election to the Federal Convention but is unsuccessful, being placed 22nd out of 33 candidates. She is told in advance that, even if she wins, she cannot sit in the House. Her platform includes political reform, including what she calls ‘pure democracy’ achieved through one person one vote. She is the first and strongest advocate for proportional representation.


Catherine Helen Spence.