IN FEBRUARY 1902 – just thirteen months after the Australian colonies federated to become the world’s newest nation – a tall, slender woman from Portland, Victoria, was standing outside the door to the Oval Office in Washington DC. She had been summoned to the White House as somewhat of a curiosity. Intelligent, inquisitive, and quite often irreverent, the young woman waited until she was bidden to enter. When the door opened she saw President Theodore Roosevelt, sitting with his feet up on the desk. He rushed to greet the elegantly attired woman, grabbing her hand and pumping it up and down in his vice-like grip. ‘I am delighted to meet you,’ he shouted. ‘You’re from Australia; I’m delighted to hear that.’[i]
And with that enthusiastic embrace, Vida Goldstein became the first Australian to meet an American President at the White House. Goldstein was in Washington as Australia and New Zealand’s sole delegate to the International Woman Suffrage Conference. Goldstein addressed huge American audiences on one of the most controversial global issues of the day: ‘Votes for Women’.
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