Distant Sisters

Australasian women and the international struggle for the vote, 1880–1914

James Keating
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Distant Sisters offers a new history of the connections that women in Australia and New Zealand made with one another, and suffragists across the world, in their pioneer pursuit of the vote and subsequent struggle to sell its merits overseas. Although the Australasian suffrage campaigns occurred side by side and shared a commitment to international outreach, this book is the first to take these parallels seriously. Beyond recovering a forgotten regional history, it uses antipodean stories to explore the rise of suffrage internationalism in the late nineteenth century and, importantly, to understand its political, geographical, and racial limits. Covering the period 1880–1914, it charts the development of an international consciousness among elite and ordinary suffragists alike. Following the conduits that allowed them to think and act across borders, it shows how Australasian suffragists positioned themselves within the emerging international women’s movement and shaped organisations like the International Woman Suffrage Alliance and World’s Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Simultaneously, Distant Sisters unveils the intimate dimensions of internationalism, showing how sentiments ignited by the exchange of letters and newspapers, and preserved in scrapbooks, led the Australasian suffragists to grace British concert halls and receive invitations to the US Oval Office. While often frustrated, their attempts to forge meaningful intercolonial and international connections complicate insular national histories of suffrage and the orthodox Euro-American narrative of fin-de-siècle feminist internationalism. Written in an approachable, case-study driven style, this book will appeal to undergraduates and academic specialists in the fields of feminist history, British imperial history, and Australian and New Zealand studies alike.

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Winner of the inaugural Donna Coates Book Prize 2021, 2021

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