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Big Petition Sculpture (East Melbourne)




The Big Petition sculpture is a 20-metre-long scroll which folds onto itself and appears to submerge itself underground before reappearing again on the other side of a pathway. It was unveiled on 3 December 2008 to commemorate the centenary of women's suffrage in Victoria. The sculpture refers to the "Monster Petition" calling for women to be granted the right to vote, which was signed by 30,000 Victorian women over a period of six weeks in 1891. The original petition, which consists of sheets of paper glued onto lengths of calico fabric, is 260 metres long and is held by the state's Public Record Office.

When suffragists campaigned for the vote in the late nineteenth century, critics said that women had no interest in political rights. Leading activists including Marie Kirk, Vida Goldstein and Annette Bear-Crawford, working with organisations such as the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Victorian Women's Suffrage Society sought support from both men and women throughout Victoria. A giant petition with 30,000 signatures, later to be known as the Monster Petition, was offered up to Parliament in 1891, as evidence of widespread support for equal voting rights for women.

The bulky document, carried into the legislature by several attendants was claimed to be the largest petition presented to the Victorian parliament to that date.

Yet the continuing opposition of the parliament, which knocked back numerous Bills, meant that women had to wait another seventeen years before they were given voting rights in Victoria with the passage of the Adult Suffrage Act in 1908.

Victoria was the last Australian State to grant women the suffrage, and even then most indigenous women would be denied political rights until 1962.

The Great Petition Sculpture by Susan Hewitt and Penelope Lee in 2008 references the Monster Petition of 1891 and the artwork celebrates the individual and collective efforts of Victorian women and their fortitude in claiming the right to vote. It is a permanent acknowledgement of those who united to bring about change.

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1-33 Parliament Place,  East Melbourne 3002, Victoria, Australia. View Map Map opens in new browser window
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Map: 2F Ref: K2



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