10. Bessie Mabel Rischbieth (1874-1967), women’s rights advocate
Bessie Rischbieth was born in South Australia and settled in Perth after her marriage. She became involved in the social welfare and women’s rights groups that were active in the early 1900s. For many years she was either President or Vice President of the Women’s Service Guild.
Like her contemporary, Edith Cowan, Bessie Rischbieth was active in campaigns for a public hospital for women, kindergartens and for women police and justices of the peace. In 1920 she became editor of a new paper, The Dawn, published by the Women’s Service Guild. She used this paper to promote a coordinated federal women’s organisation, called the Australian Federation of Women Voters, of which she was President from 1921-1942.
In 1923 she led the first Australian delegation to the Rome Congress of the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance. She was the leader and member of many subsequent delegations to various congresses.
Bessie Rischbieth was always a forceful and determined woman. Her leadership style was increasingly challenged after World War II, when the Federation of Women Voters was eclipsed by new feminist groups. However, she maintained her involvement in social issues to the end of her life.