News & Events

Down with women

June 20, 2019

While women were becoming more evident in the committee rooms of charities in Melbourne, a bank of opposition was welling up among the old colonists.

At the 1937 general meeting, five new council members were due to be elected. Of the council, Lucy Coppin was standing for re-election and her friend, Annie Todd was also a candidate.

We learn through The Argus, that a determined effort was being made to prevent the election of women by the Association secretary. The secretary had circulated a letter to life governors “which takes the unusual and objectionable form of advising voters which of the candidates should be elected.”

The opinion piece goes on to say, and should there be any doubt, a second letter is forwarded “definitely asking voters to blackball the two ladies who are on the list.”

At that time, over 100 cottages controlled by the council were occupied, and the majority by women.

“It does not seem unreasonable to suggest that two members of the council should be women,” the opinion piece says.

“Miss Lucy Coppin was elected to the council in 1934, and there is no evidence that her presence has been in any way disturbing. The occupants happy and contented, and the cottages appear to be well managed. Miss Coppin’s ability and kindliness are well known.”

According to the paper, Miss Todd was one of the best known and best loved women in the Presbyterian missionary and social service.

“Her ability, energy, tact and sympathy are outstanding. She is one of the supporters of the homes, her father was a member of council, and her grandparents provided two of the cottages.”

A month after the protest, the two women were elected to the council.

Annie Todd (1879-1954) was the daughter of OCAV Councillor John Todd (1831-1903) and Mary Anne Laidlaw. Mary Anne was the oldest daughter of Robert Laidlaw and Anne Gordon who endowed the Laidlaw Cottages in 1891.

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