Victorian historical figure Frances ‘Fanny’ Finch will be honoured with a public memorial in the Castlemaine cemetery as the first woman recorded to cast a vote in an Australian election.
Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards today announced funding of $4,000 from the Andrews Labor Government for a headstone at the newly discovered site of Frances Finch’s previously unmarked grave.
The public memorial will be established for Mrs Finch in partnership with her descendants and the Castlemaine Cemetery Trust.
London-born businesswoman and single mother of four Frances Finch was the first woman recorded to cast a vote at an Australian election when she voted at the Hall of Castlemaine (now the Theatre Royal) on 22 January 1856, exploiting a loophole that was yet to discriminate against gender or race.
Pre-dating the 1891 Victorian Women’s Right to Vote Petition, the Municipal Institutions Act of 1854 granted suffrage to rate paying ‘persons’.
A successful businesswoman of African heritage, Mrs Finch was a ratepayer and noted as voting in this election by the Argus, who described her as ‘the famous Mrs Fanny Finch’. The loophole was eventually closed in 1865 when ‘persons’ was changed to ‘men’.
Funding will go towards a headstone to be placed on the grave of Mrs Finch, to commemorate her early part in the story of Victorian women’s suffrage.
For further information about how the Labor Government is supporting gender equality, visit vic.gov.au/women.
“This tribute will honour Frances Finch, who recognised her rights and claimed them 50 years before women were given the vote – it’s a wonderful story of a woman who set her own path and refused to accept society’s limits.”
“We know too many stories of exceptional Victorian women have been lost and we’re happy this memorial will celebrate Frances’ life.”
“We’re proud that this woman who claimed a milestone in the history of Australian suffrage did so in Castlemaine – her story of courage and defiance is one we will honour with this memorial.”