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Vida: A Woman for Our Time

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Blazing her trail at the dawn of the twentieth century, Vida Goldstein remains Australia’s most celebrated crusader for the rights of women. Her life – as a campaigner for women’s suffrage in Australia, Britain and America, an advocate for peace, a fighter for social equality and a shrewd political commentator – marks her as one of Australia’s foremost women of courage and Blazing her trail at the dawn of the twentieth century, Vida Goldstein remains Australia’s most celebrated crusader for the rights of women. Her life – as a campaigner for women’s suffrage in Australia, Britain and America, an advocate for peace, a fighter for social equality and a shrewd political commentator – marks her as one of Australia’s foremost women of courage and principle. Vida first came to national prominence as the first woman in the Western world to stand for a national Parliament, in Victoria, for the Senate, in 1903. As a fighter for equal rights for women, and as a champion of social justice, she quickly established a pattern of working quietly against men’s control of Australian society. Her work for the peace movement and against conscription during the heightened emotions of the First World War showed her determination to defy governments in the name of fairness and equity. Vida came to adulthood when Australia was in the process of inventing itself as a new nation, one in which women might have opportunities equal to those of men. Her work for her own sex, especially her battles for equality in politics, illuminated issues that persist to this day.


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Blazing her trail at the dawn of the twentieth century, Vida Goldstein remains Australia’s most celebrated crusader for the rights of women. Her life – as a campaigner for women’s suffrage in Australia, Britain and America, an advocate for peace, a fighter for social equality and a shrewd political commentator – marks her as one of Australia’s foremost women of courage and Blazing her trail at the dawn of the twentieth century, Vida Goldstein remains Australia’s most celebrated crusader for the rights of women. Her life – as a campaigner for women’s suffrage in Australia, Britain and America, an advocate for peace, a fighter for social equality and a shrewd political commentator – marks her as one of Australia’s foremost women of courage and principle. Vida first came to national prominence as the first woman in the Western world to stand for a national Parliament, in Victoria, for the Senate, in 1903. As a fighter for equal rights for women, and as a champion of social justice, she quickly established a pattern of working quietly against men’s control of Australian society. Her work for the peace movement and against conscription during the heightened emotions of the First World War showed her determination to defy governments in the name of fairness and equity. Vida came to adulthood when Australia was in the process of inventing itself as a new nation, one in which women might have opportunities equal to those of men. Her work for her own sex, especially her battles for equality in politics, illuminated issues that persist to this day.

30 review for Vida: A Woman for Our Time

  1. 5 out of 5

    Theresa Smith

    ‘Anyone who has sought to bring about social or political change has been forced to recognise that in Australia the way of the reformer is always hard.’ This was such an informative and entertaining biography. Prior to reading this book, I had not heard of Vida Goldstein. She was such a force to be reckoned with: political activist, women’s suffragist, pacifist, and above all, social reformer; an absolute inspiration. This book is so much more than a biography, the history contained within it was ‘Anyone who has sought to bring about social or political change has been forced to recognise that in Australia the way of the reformer is always hard.’ This was such an informative and entertaining biography. Prior to reading this book, I had not heard of Vida Goldstein. She was such a force to be reckoned with: political activist, women’s suffragist, pacifist, and above all, social reformer; an absolute inspiration. This book is so much more than a biography, the history contained within it was absorbing, spanning beyond the Victorian border into greater Australia, the US, and England. Every single freedom and right we enjoy today as Australian women and girls is a direct result of the tireless work by pioneering activists like Vida. I found this to be a very humbling read as well as an entirely inspirational one. Written in the style of narrative non-fiction whilst retaining its integrity as a biography, Vida is a necessary read for anyone with an interest in Australian history. Thanks is extended to Penguin Random House Australia for providing me with a copy of Vida for review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    Who was Vida Goldstein? ‘Vida Goldstein was the first woman in Australia – indeed the first woman anywhere in the western world – to stand for election to a national parliament.’ Vida Jane Mary Goldstein (18/4/1869-15/8/1949) was born at Portland, Victoria, the eldest child of Jacob Robert Yannasch Goldstein and his wife Isabella, née Hawkins. The family moved to Melbourne in 1877. Vida matriculated from the Presbyterian Ladies’ College in 1886. Vida’s mother was a suffragist, a teetotaller and w Who was Vida Goldstein? ‘Vida Goldstein was the first woman in Australia – indeed the first woman anywhere in the western world – to stand for election to a national parliament.’ Vida Jane Mary Goldstein (18/4/1869-15/8/1949) was born at Portland, Victoria, the eldest child of Jacob Robert Yannasch Goldstein and his wife Isabella, née Hawkins. The family moved to Melbourne in 1877. Vida matriculated from the Presbyterian Ladies’ College in 1886. Vida’s mother was a suffragist, a teetotaller and worked for social reform. Vida’s public career began, about 1890, when she helped her mother collect signatures for the Woman Suffrage Petition. In 1899, after the death of her friend Annette Bear-Crawford, she was the undisputed leader of the radical women’s movement in Victoria. Vida Goldstein became a capable and effective public speaker. In 1903, she became the first woman in the Western world to stand for a national parliament: she was an unsuccessful candidate for a Victorian seat in the Australian Senate. Vida Goldstein stood for election to the Australian Parliament four more times: in 1910 and 1917 for election to the Senate, in 1913 and 1914 for election to the House of Representatives. While she was unsuccessful on each occasion, her efforts helped pave the way for others. Vida Goldstein had an international reputation as well. In February 1911 she visited England at the invitation of the Women’s Social and Political Union. Her speeches drew large crowds. In this biography, Ms Kent describes the times and the context in which Vida Goldstein was working. She worked for the peace movement, against conscription during World War I, and stood for equal pay and equal rights. She was a woman of principle. Highly recommended. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  3. 4 out of 5

    LC

    Fascinating account of the life of an extraordinary woman. Goldstein was certainly a trailblazer for her time (and frankly, looking at the ultra conservative state of Australian politics, would probably be considered much the same were she alive today) and achieved so much, without ever having been elected (if only she had been!). Interesting too, to hear of other renowned figures of the time, whom she rubbed shoulders with. Overall, I wish there were more politicians of a similar ilk serving in Fascinating account of the life of an extraordinary woman. Goldstein was certainly a trailblazer for her time (and frankly, looking at the ultra conservative state of Australian politics, would probably be considered much the same were she alive today) and achieved so much, without ever having been elected (if only she had been!). Interesting too, to hear of other renowned figures of the time, whom she rubbed shoulders with. Overall, I wish there were more politicians of a similar ilk serving in Australia today - as Vida herself stated, being progressive is not a crime.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Janine

    Vida Goldstein, the subject of this 2020 biography by Jacqueline Kent, did not receive a full-length biography until 1993, when Janette Bomford published her book That Dangerous and Persuasive Woman: Vida Goldstein. Kent has written other biographies, but she is best known for her biography of Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard The Making of Julia Gillard (2009) and a smaller work Take Your Best Shot: The Prime Ministership of Julia Gillard (2013). Gillard remains a touchston Vida Goldstein, the subject of this 2020 biography by Jacqueline Kent, did not receive a full-length biography until 1993, when Janette Bomford published her book That Dangerous and Persuasive Woman: Vida Goldstein. Kent has written other biographies, but she is best known for her biography of Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard The Making of Julia Gillard (2009) and a smaller work Take Your Best Shot: The Prime Ministership of Julia Gillard (2013). Gillard remains a touchstone throughout this biography of Vida Goldstein as well, with Kent inserting present-day comments drawing parallels between Goldstein and Gillard’s experiences in parentheses in various places throughout the text. This connection comes to the fore in the epilogue, where Kent claims that Vida and her colleagues would have been “delighted to see Julia Gillard confirmed as the country’s first woman prime minister” which she follows with a four-page summary of Gillard’s prime ministership. This presentism is foreshadowed in the subtitle ” A woman for our time”. Kent’s biography has a lightness of touch that was less evident in Bomford’s more academic book. This is partly because of the parenthesized present-day asides, but also because Kent has a good eye for the visual image and the lively event. I’m not sure, though, that she has moved our understanding of Goldstein forward by much beyond what Bomford had already told us. But through the striking cover, the title with its present-day hook and the engaging writing style, Kent has probably broadened awareness of Vida Goldstein to a wider audience. For my complete review, please visit: https://residentjudge.com/2020/10/31/...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Esmeralda Rocha

    Pretty middling. I wanted so much more critique and context and it was just superficial and anecdotal. The repetitive threads drawn to Julia Gillard grated. But still an interesting enough protagonist to merit the read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Niki Searson

    This was a great read and really should be considered essential reading. So important to learn how our privilege has come about and who was busy sacrificing and fighting to make it happen. We often have a tendency to take it for granted. Such an inspirational and altruistic lady, an advocate for those in need well and truly before her time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    Interesting and important Australian story we can all learn something from. The section at the end on 21st century issues and Julia Gillard detracted greatly - would have given it four stars if not for that.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Owens

    A fabulous read, great history of the difficult road for women in Australia in all facets of life including to enter politics as well. An amazing ladŷ.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Olwen

    Deftly written biography about an amazing woman. Vida helped blaze the trail for women in government.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Julia

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alice

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

  13. 4 out of 5

    Prue McDonald

  14. 4 out of 5

    Polyxena

  15. 4 out of 5

    Meg Wilson

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tony Bergen

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary Dale

  18. 4 out of 5

    Maxine Jones

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sally

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jessica B

  21. 5 out of 5

    Toni

  22. 5 out of 5

    Emily Bell

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  24. 5 out of 5

    Erin Cooper

  25. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Lee

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alicen

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laurence Hunt

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Chase

  30. 4 out of 5

    Claire

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