X Marks the Spot

Written by Anthony Douglas on 06 April 2019.

Things look quite different from a distance - whether in space or in time.  Today, we’d be embarrassed to be labelled a ‘wowser’, but if we knew our story better, we would perhaps rejoice.

In the late 19th century, throughout Australia, a new organisation was formed. It was called the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and, you guessed it, the main agenda was to restrict the sale and consumption of alcohol. They had some success, enabling the restriction of liquor licences and bringing in the six o’clock closing hour in pubs.

Oh dear, we think. Such fuddy-duddies. Couldn’t they have thrown their energy into something more helpful, like evangelism? Did they have to add to the church’s reputation for only being interested in spoiling people’s fun?

So perhaps we should recognise their motives. Firstly, they wanted to see alcoholics saved through Christ, and knew that ready access to alcohol was standing in their way. Secondly, they were campaigning against domestic violence: the vast majority of incidents were fuelled by excessive drinking. Saving souls, protecting the vulnerable - sign me up to be such a wowser!

X VoteThese were smart women. They knew how to achieve their objectives, and they quickly worked out that the single largest change they could make would be to give women the vote. Throwing their weight behind the campaign for female suffrage, they were the decisive factor in its success. In South Australia, for instance, they gathered two thirds of the signatures on the petition to parliament that won the day. The reason for Australia’s world-leading adoption of female suffrage was the dedicated compassion of Christian women.

Who knew a cross could be so powerful?

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