Anna Stout

Biography

Anna Stout

Anna was strongly influenced by her Presbyterian parents who were committed to the prohibition movement and heavily involved in other social reforms.

She shared these values with her husband Robert Stout, a barrister and member of Parliament, whom she married in 1876. He became Attorney-General in 1878 and was Premier from 1884 to 1887. Anna commuted between Dunedin and Wellington while raising six children.

She became involved in voluntary work and in 1885 became a foundation member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Anna and Robert were dedicated to the advancement of women, championing calls for equal political, legal, social and educational rights. Anna was particularly concerned for the education of Maori women. A public clash with her husband over her support for greater rights for Chinese immigrants showed that she had a strong will of her own.

In April 1892 Anna Stout was elected president of the Women’s Franchise League in Dunedin, one of the leading local suffrage organisations. When the NCW was established in 1896, she became a vice-president. Her links to the main body of politically active women in this country were weakened as a result of a public falling-out with the NCW in 1897. This did not end her involvement in wider issues affecting women here and overseas. While in England between 1909 and 1912 she became involved in the British suffrage movement, establishing close ties with the Pankhursts and other feminist leaders.

Anna Stout’s opposition to the ‘double standard of morality’ was highlighted during a trial in Wellington in 1918. She observed how unfair it was that five women were charged with running a brothel while their clients went free. In 1922, at the height of a wave of public concern over the incidence of venereal disease, she opposed the reintroduction of compulsory medical examination of women suspected of prostitution, publishing a pamphlet criticising the medical authorities.

During the 1920s Anna Stout suffered from poor health and became less active in public affairs. She died on 10 May 1931 at Hanmer Springs, aged 72.

Adapted from the DNZB biography by Raewyn Dalziel

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