SCOTT, Rose (1847-1925)


SCOTT, Rose (1847-1925)
social reformer
was born at Glendon, New South Wales, on 8 October 1847. Her father, Helenus Scott, born in 1802, came to Australia in 1821, took up land and became well-known as a breeder of cattle and horses. Losing his money in a depression some 20 years later he joined the government service and became a police magistrate. He died in 1879. Her mother, Sarah Anne Rusden, was a daughter of the Rev. G. K. Rusden and sister of G. W. Rusden (q.v.) the historian. Another relative was David Scott Mitchell (q.v.) the son of her father's sister. Rose Scott was brought up on a station, and owing much of her education to her mother, grew into a beautiful and charming girl with a happy home life. For many years she lived at Newcastle but when her father died she moved with her mother to Sydney. They were presently joined, after the death of her sister, by a brother-in-law with one child, a boy of two years whom Miss Scott mothered. He was to be a great interest for her for the rest of her life. Sheltered in this cultured and comfortable home there appeared to be no likelihood of Miss Scott coming into public prominence. But she was interested in the position of women. In March 1891 she attended a meeting called to discuss the formation of a Women's Suffrage League and was appointed corresponding secretary. The work grew and presently she found that she was giving nearly all her time to it, sending out circulars, interviewing public men, and using her influence with her friends, who included many of the leading politicians and writers of the time. Speaking at committee meetings gave her confidence, and she eventually became a witty and accomplished public speaker. Her mother died in 1896 and Miss Scott was left with a home and sufficient income for her needs. Her interest in votes for women led to much study of the position of women in the community, and she found that young girls were working in shops from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on ordinary days, and until 11 p.m. on Saturdays. Some of these girls were asked to come to her house on Sundays and describe the conditions in which they worked, and there leading politicians such as B. R. Wise (q.v.), W. A. Holman (q.v.), W. M. Hughes and T. Bavin (q.v.) met and discussed the drafting of the bill which eventually became the early closing act of 1899. Other reforms advocated and eventually brought in were the appointment of matrons at police stations, of women inspectors in factories and shops, and improvements in the conditions of women prisoners. This entailed an immense amount of correspondence, all written in her own hand. When the women's suffrage act was passed on 1 August 1902 the league for women's suffrage was disbanded and a new organization, the league for political education, was formed. In 1907 Miss Scott organized a branch of the London Peace Society and was its president for 10 years, and she took interest in and worked for all the women's movements of the time. She was an advocate for the testator's family maintenance act (1916), the woman's legal status act (1918), and was active in the establishment of children's courts. She was also for many years international secretary of the national council of women in New South Wales. When she retired in 1921 a presentation of money was made to her which she used to found a prize for women law students at the university. Another subscription was made to have her portrait painted by Longstaff. This now hangs in the art gallery at Sydney. She died after a painful illness, borne with courage, on 20 April 1925.
Miss Scott was a very important figure in her time and did much to improve the status of women. Her home meant a great deal to her and here she met leading men in the arts and letters, distinguished visitors from other lands, politicians of all parties, and clergy of all denominations. She realized that you could hope for no reforms unless you were quite clear about what was needed, and could produce the facts and the necessary evidence for them. Her advocacy of women's suffrage and pacifism brought her some unpopularity and even misrepresentation, but she had a sense of humour, was never too vehement, and was always willing to admit that there were two sides to a question. She was far too fond of the right to pursue the expedient, but she could be a tactician on occasions, though often she disarmed opposition simply-by her reasonableness and sincerity. She was a good leader, able to show initiative and ready to co-ordinate the ideas of other people, she had a fine intellect and great powers of work, she commanded the loyalty of her associates, and the combination of these qualities made her one of the great personalities of her period.
Miles Franklin, The Peaceful Army, p. 90; The Lone Hand, November 1910; The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 April 1925; The Bulletin, 30 April 1925; The Argus, Melbourne, 20 February 1937.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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