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Votes for Women! The Story of Nellie, Rose, and Mary by Mark Wilson

Title: Votes for Women! The Story of Nellie, Rose, and Mary.

Three women standing in front of a blue sky. They are wearing shades of purple, white, and green and two are wearing hats. Votes for Women by Mark Wilson.

Author: Mark Wilson

Genre: History

Publisher: Lothian/Hachette Australia

Published: 29th June 2022

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 32

Price: $26.99

Synopsis: From award-winning author and illustrator Mark Wilson, a stirring story of the women who first won the right to vote in Australia – inspired by real people and historical events

In 1890, Rose Birks and her stepdaughter, Nellie, two strong-willed and determined women, began writing letters and attending meetings to help improve the lives of women and children in their home city of Adelaide. They soon found themselves part of a movement that would change the lives of women everywhere. Through their friendship with the famous female suffragist Mary Lee, they petitioned politicians and lawmakers – and in 1896 they became the first women in Australia to vote in an election. Votes for Women! tells their story.


In the late nineteenth century, first wave feminism began to take hold in Western countries, fighting for suffrage for women (at the time, white women were the focus), so that they could participate in the electoral and democratic process in their countries. South Australia was the first Australian colony to grant women the right to vote, leading to the nation-wide granting of white women getting the vote in 1902, shortly after Federation. In South Australia, three women were instrumental in bringing about these changes – and these women – whose names we know – are the focus of the new book by Mark Wilson. Rose Birks, and her stepdaughter, Nellie were amongst some of the first women to write letters and attend meetings with their friend Mary Lee as they petitioned lawmakers and politicians, and eventually, won women the right to vote. As a result, these women became the first women in Australia to vote!

Mark Wilson’s new book for primary school aged readers gives a simplified yet informative and engaging account of the suffrage movement 1890s South Australia. Books like this are important because they teach us about a slice of our history but also give names and character to the people that other history books and other accounts might leave out or ignore – not all, but there will be some that do. Mark Wilson has given these women identities beyond ‘the suffragettes’ and books like this can be a great starting point to teach kids about women’s voting rights, or a good steppingstone to do further research into the issues or people within the book.

The informative text is accompanied by exquisite watercolour illustrations that give the story life, allowing the combination of images and text to tell the story of Rose, Nellie, and Mary. I found this book engaging and feel that all the books coming out that celebrate the diversity of our history and people will help inform people about everything we don’t know about our country, and books like this one are not just for children. Anyone can read a book like Votes for Women and discover something new and interesting that they didn’t know about before. That is the power of literature – it can entertain and inform us in so many ways, and this book will be perfect for history and social sciences classes across all age groups.

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