Australia, associated in our memory…as the abode of strange beasts and barbarians, sends us a full, up-to-date representative woman, widely alive to all the refinements of life, and fully cognisant of the rights of her sex — Boston Woman’s Journal

Vida by award-winning biographer, Jacqueline Kent is a fascinating and illuminating account of one of Australia’s nearly forgotten feminists, Vida Goldstein, making this a gem of a book for those interested in the history of Australia and Australian feminists.

Vida Goldstein was an important feminist in Australian history who seems to have slipped from public consciousness. Australian women were granted the Federal vote in 1902, and the following year Goldstein ran for a Federal seat making her the first woman in the British Empire to do so. She was well-known internationally in the suffrage movement and after unsuccessfully standing for Parliament a number of times, she dedicated her life to Christian Science.

Goldstein was an activist for the rights of women, equal pay and equal rights, social equality and justice and was vocal in her belief in worldwide peace notably working against the push for conscription in the First World War.

During her lifetime, Goldstein’s notable friends included Miles Franklin, Adela Pankhurst and George Bernard Shaw.

Kent’s biography of Goldstein is immensely readable. I particularly enjoyed the comparisons made between Goldstein and Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

Throughout this intriguing biography, Kent uses humour to explain the somewhat comical and absurd situations Goldstein experiences in Australian politics. The thorough explanations of the historical context gives readers a clear perspective of Goldstein’s career and life.

To sum up, this was an immensely readable and fascinating account of an important woman in Australian history. Highly recommended.

Many thanks to Penguin Random House Australia for a review copy.

Publisher’s Blurb:

Vida Goldstein was an advocate for women’s rights, a campaigner for peace, fought for the distribution of wealth, and a trail-blazer who provided leadership and inspiration to innumerable people.

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 the 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. 

Jacqueline Kent has written acclaimed biographies of Julia Gillard, pianist and social activist Hephzibah Menuhin, and pioneer book editor Beatrice Davis.