Why was the role of women in Australian settlements so important?
As in most societies of the 18th and 19th centuries, women were expected to tend to the household chores, and in Australia it was no exception. Women arrived in Australia as early as the 18th century, and during the island's days as a penal colony, more than 25,000 women were imprisoned between 1799-1868. Many of the women eventually earned their freedom and stayed on to become full-fledged citizens, developing their skills and improving their situation after regaining their freedom. The government provided a bounty (stipend) for migrating couples and single women. Pioneer women--including those from the upper class--helped to form many of Australia's rural towns, working alongside the men in addition to tending to the home and educating and raising their children. Women were an important part of the work force as well, staging the First Female Worker's Riot in 1827 because of poor factory conditions and food deprivation.
Most importantly, Australian women became the first in the world to earn the right to run for elective political office during the 1890s. Women who owned property were first alloweed to vote in South Australia in 1861. Australian women led the world's suffrage movement, founding the first women's suffrage group as early as 1884.