Like South Australian women’s rights pioneer Catherine Helen Spence before her and Roma Mitchell several decades later, Augusta Zadow has a lasting legacy worth celebrating on International Women’s Day.
Augusta was an advocate for women's rights in the workplace and became South Australia's 'First Lady Inspector of Factories' in 1895. She was a woman ahead of her time, with many of the working conditions women enjoy today attributable to her advocacy.
Born in Germany, Augusta met her husband Christian, a tailor and political refugee, in London. The couple married in 1871 before emigrating to Australia with their young son in 1877.
Augusta became an advocate for women working in clothing factories and was a major contributor to the establishment of the Working Women's Trades Union in 1890. She was also a delegate to the United Trades and Labour Council of South Australia.
An outspoken supporter of women's suffrage, following the franchise of women in South Australia in 1894, she was appointed by SA Premier Charles Kingston as a factory inspector to monitor working conditions for women and children.
She inspected, without leave, the working conditions of 400 factories but died suddenly within 16 months possibly from a work-related illness.
Augusta is buried in Adelaide’s West Terrace Cemetery. Her gravestone was built with 1,000 threepenny subscriptions from factory workers and bears the inscription ‘Self-denying Efforts on Behalf of the Struggling and Oppressed’.
The inaugural Augusta Zadow scholarships were introduced in 1994 to commemorate the centenary of the Factories Act and Women's Suffrage in South Australia in recognition of her work.
SafeWork SA's annual Augusta Zadow Awards were introduced in 2005 and have since granted about $400,000 to help meet the costs of a work health and safety initiative that benefits working women, research or further education.
This year’s awards will open in May with entries closing in August. Winners will be announced in October, as part of National Safe Work Month celebrations.
International Women's Day is celebrated globally on 8 March annually as a focal point in the women's rights movement, bringing attention to issues such as gender equality and violence and abuse against women.