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Catherine Helen Spence: Timeline

A guide to Catherine Helen Spence featuring writings about her and a chronological bibliography of her works.

  Timeline

1825

Born 31 October in Melrose, Scotland and educated in Edinburgh

1839

Came to Australia with her family, living with her parents, and after her father died in 1846, with her mother, whom she supported

1842

Became a governess, and was in charge of her own school within four years

1850

Took up journalism and wrote under her brother's name for the Argus in Melbourne as a South Australian voice

1854

First novel Clara Morison published

1856

Left the Church of Scotland to join the Unitarian Church

1859

Became concerned about electoral reform after reading a review by John Stuart Mill of Thomas Hare's system of proportional representation, and wrote a number of publications and articles on electoral reform, which she later called 'effective voting'

1865

Travelled to England, meeting Mill and Hare to discuss her ideas, and met the novelist, George Eliot

1870

Raised the children of her sister after she died, and then for the next 30 years helped to raise several families under her roof

1872

Co-founded the Boarding Out Society and was an official until 1886 when it became the State Children's Council for whom she was an official and an active visitor of children until her death

1877

The first woman to be placed in an official position by a South Australian Government on a local school board, and supported the establishment of the first government secondary school, the Advanced School for Girls, in 1879

1878

Invited to write on social and literary issues for the Register under her own name, as well as many editorials, which she did until 1893

1878

Preached her first sermon at the Unitarian Church

1890

Devoted the last two decades of her life to campaigning for electoral reform and proportional representation, visiting nearly every electorate in city and country

1891

Joined the fight for female suffrage and was vice-president of the Women's Suffrage League of SA

1893

Travelled to Chicago, USA to address an international conference on charity, and other conferences, then lectured and preached to over 100 gatherings across the US, Great Britain and Switzerland

1895

Formed the Effective Voting League of South Australia

1895

Appointed to the Commission of Enquiry into the management and condition of the Adelaide Hospital, the first woman in Australia to participate in an official commission

1897

Appointed as first women member of the Destitute Board, remaining until her death

1897

Stood (unsuccessfully) as a candidate for the Federal Convention held in Adelaide, becoming Australia's first female political candidate

1901

Chaired the management board of the SA Co-operative Clothing Company, a shirt-making factory owned and run by women

1901

Attended the opening of the first Federal Parliament at the invitation of Alfred Deakin

1902

Formed a short-lived South Australian branch of the International Council of Women

1905

Helped form the Kindergarten system, and became vice-president of the Kindergarten Union

1907

Witnessed the donation by her friends the Pethericks of their collection of books which formed the nucleus of the National Library of Australia

1909

Chaired the meeting which formed the South Australian branch of the Women's Non-Party Political Association, which ultimately became the Women's Electoral Lobby

1910

Died at Queen Street, Norwood on 3 April, with her hand in that of her beloved niece, Lucy Morice, and was buried at St Jude's Brighton Cemetery