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Elizabeth Braham (Beeton Braham)

Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women logo

Awarded for service to Human Rights

Born: 1849

Died: 5 November 1917

Entered on roll: 2008

Elizabeth Beeton Braham was an activist ahead of her time. In a period of severe inequality she was a determined and passionate role model for generations of Tasmanian women. (Kim Simpson, Researcher, Heritage Tasmania, 2008)

Elizabeth Braham (nee Smith) was born in Windsor, Berkshire, England around 1849. The daughter of a painter and glazier, she grew up in Windsor and Chelsea. In 1871 she was still living with her parents and worked as a machinist.

Elizabeth married Charles Beeton Braham, a grocer’s assistant, at the Edith Grove Independent Chapel in Chelsea on 1 January 1873. They had two daughters, Minnie, born in Pimlico, London around 1874 and Hilda Louise born in Dalston, London around 1876. In 1891, the family immigrated to Tasmania. They lived in the Wynyard area, where Elizabeth became local president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).

The WCTU at that time was primarily dedicated to prohibition, but also had a broader agenda of ‘home protection’ and was involved in a wide range of social and political reform activities, mostly relating to the welfare of women and children. Importantly, the WCTU became a major supporter of the campaign for women’s suffrage in Tasmania as it was believed that power at the ballot box was the only way to achieve their goals.

Elizabeth voluntarily served in the WCTU, at both regional and state level, over 25 years and was passionate about prohibition. In the 1890s Tasmania was in the midst of a depression, with the government relying on taxes from the sale of alcohol for revenue, prohibition did not receive widespread support from the government. Elizabeth supported the introduction of a local option bill to the Tasmanian parliament, which would have allowed local communities the choice of prohibition. She was said to have travelled widely across the state promoting the necessity of ‘being up and doing’ on the question of temperance reform. Elizabeth was also President of the Launceston branch of the Child Protection Society.

In 1900, Elizabeth and her family returned to Britain for four years, where Elizabeth continued her union work. After their return to Tasmania, Elizabeth resumed her voluntary work with the WCTU and became President of the Launceston branch in 1906. After Jessie Rooke’s sudden death that same year, Elizabeth became acting state President and was soon elected to the position, a role she held for six years. Elizabeth was known for her ability and power as a public speaker and delivered a paper on ‘How to Interest the Parents’ at the triennial Australasian conference of the WCTU.

Elizabeth and her husband supported their daughter Hilda’s chosen career in midwifery, allowing her to open a private hospital in 1913 in the family’s residence at 78 Canning Street, Launceston. The hospital operated from April 1913 to April 1916.

Elizabeth died at the family home ‘Mentone’ in Erina Street, Launceston on 5 November 1917. She is buried at Carr Villa Cemetery.

Photograph reproduced courtesy of the Archives Office of Tasmania Ref. No. NS1591/1/1.

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