Fanny Finch grave to be marked

For many long years the grave of Fanny Finch, first woman ever known to have voted in Australia, has lain unmarked at Castlemaine Cemetery following her untimely death in 1863.
But now, thanks to a state government grant, the resting site of this fascinating local figure in Australia’s political history is soon to be marked with a headstone and plaque.
“There are a lot of people now starting to realise that we have this remarkable woman resting in Castlemaine cemetery,” Bendigo West MP Maree Edward said, announcing the $4000 grant at a special gathering at Fanny’s unmarked grave on Friday.
Among those attending was Fanny Finch’s own great, great granddaughter, Bendigo’s Jan Trewartha, and Castlemaine Cemetery Trust members including Debra Tranter whose keen interest in history and research led to the recent location of Fanny’s unmarked grave.
“Fanny Finch is such a significant woman in Australia’s political landscape,” Debra said, noting that recent findings by La Trobe University PhD researcher Kacey Sinclair, have greatly increased current interest in Fanny Finch – and in the number of visitors keen to see her final resting place at Castlemaine Cemetery.
Back in the roaring gold rush days, Fanny Finch was a local businesswoman and in January 1856 she made use of a loophole that enabled ratepaying ‘persons’ to vote.
As a ratepayer who owned property – she ran a restaurant and, it’s understood, a brothel – Fanny used that loophole to vote in what became a historic act recorded by Melbourne newspaper The Argus.
The loophole was closed in 1865 when ‘persons’ became ‘men’ and Victorian women over the age of 21 (excluding indigenous women) would not receive full unconditional suffrage until 1908.
Fanny, a strong-willed and fascinating character of African heritage, and a single mother of four, sadly died at the early age of 48 but her story and place in history are today finding new life.
“It has created a lot of interest and if you mention the name Fanny Finch now a lot of people know the name,” cemetery trust secretary Denis Cox said, graveside, on Friday.
“I’m very proud,” Fanny’s great, great granddaughter, Jan Trewartha, told the Express as the funding was announced.
“To find her and to know where she is buried means so much. She did many things in her short life.”
The public memorial to Fanny will now be established in partnership with the cemetery trust and her descendants, who are assisting with the wording, and the headstone will commemorate her early part in the story of Victorian women’s suffrage.
“To see that she had rights in that environment would have been extraordinary,” Ms Edwards said.
“Castlemaine has a history of being progressive and defying the odds and it started way back in 1856.”

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