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Australia Grave of Tasmanian women's rights campaigner Jessie Spinks Rooke restored

06:50  16 september  2021
06:50  16 september  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

Dilapidated grave a source of inspiration

  Dilapidated grave a source of inspiration Restoring the dilapidated grave of one of Australia's most famous suffragettes has been a source of inspiration for those championing women's rights.It is the resting place of Tasmanian Jessie Spinks Rooke, a determined and passionate suffragette who travelled the world championing women's rights at the turn of the last century.

Jessie Spinks Rooke (1845–1906), temperance advocate, was one of the first Tasmanian women to gain prominence for philanthropic activities outside the state. Contemporaries believed she was 'a well-born Scotch woman ', while it is now thought that she was born in north-western Tasmania . She married Dr Charles Rooke , the Port Health Officer in Burnie. She was best known for her work in the Woman ' s Christian Temperance Union, and was elected Australian president. The primary advocate of women ' s suffrage in Tasmania , she believed that temperance control could only be secured with the

Jessie Spinks Rooke (1845-l906), Christian temperance reformer, was born at Emu, in north-western Tasmania , daughter of Sophia (born Francis) and John Spinks , shepherd with the Van Diemen's Land Company. She moved to the mainland and married Charles Rooke , medical practitioner. She was instrumental in the establishment and development of the Tasmanian Women ' s Suffrage League, which aimed to inform women about their right to vote in federal elections, to educate women 'on the question of voting' and how their vote might be 'a power for good'. She had great faith in education

a person smiling for the camera: Harvey Jones is completely at peace with spending his days hanging out with the dead as a grave restorer. (ABC News: Jessica Moran) © Provided by ABC NEWS Harvey Jones is completely at peace with spending his days hanging out with the dead as a grave restorer. (ABC News: Jessica Moran)

Harvey Jones has been restoring graves along Tasmania's north-west coast for the last 15 years.

He is one of the last people still plying the unique trade.

Day in, day out, he spends his time with the dead, and considers the job to be a privilege.

"I enjoy it. It's a fair old challenge," Mr Jones said.

"Putting them back together and cleaning them up, sometimes you're not really sure how you're going to do it so you might leave it for a week or two and have a think and then come back to it."

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Jessie Spinks Rooke (10 September 1845 – 4 January 1906) was a suffragette and temperance reformer in Tasmania , Australia, and one of the first Tasmanian women to gain recognition outside Tasmania .In 1896 Rooke toured Tasmania with suffrage… They arrange public meetings of women collecting campaign funds, distributing pamphlets and collecting signatures on a petition calling for the vote to be extended to women that was presented to the Tasmanian parliament at the end of 1896. In 1898 she toured Tasmania again with South Australian Elizabeth Nicholls, they visited 30 towns

One of his favourite things is chatting to the families left behind.

"Every time I'm at a cemetery, people come and chat to me and tell me their stories, it's a real privilege to be able to talk to so many people about their passed loved ones, who they were and what they achieved," he said.

He said he never feels uneasy working in a cemetery.

"Death is something we all have to face, and I believe those who have died deserve to be respected … and restoring their graves is my way of showing that respect."

"I bring my grandchildren along with me some weekends and I like to teach them to have that deep respect for those who've gone before us as well … what they've achieved in life and done for us should never be forgotten and the younger generations need to hear those stories."

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Jessie Spink Rooke (10 September 1845 – 4 January 1906) was a suffragette and temperance reformer in Tasmania , Australia, and one of the first Tasmanian women to gain recognition outside Tasmania . They arranged public meetings of women , collecting campaign funds, distributing pamphlets, and collecting signatures on a petition calling for the vote to be extended to women . The petition was presented to the Tasmanian parliament at the end of 1896. In 1898 Rooke toured Tasmania again with South Australian Elizabeth Nicholls.

Who was Jessie Rooke?

One of the latest graves to be restored was that of Jessie Spinks Rooke, a key warrior for women's rights in Tasmania.

Rooke (1845-1906) is known as a powerhouse for fighting for women to have the right to vote in the state.

According to the Tasmanian government, she moved to the island state in the early 1890s and in 1896 set out on a "Votes For Women tour of Tasmania" with the suffrage superintendent for the colony — Georgina Kermode.

Records from the Department of Communities state that "not even the onslaught of severe winter weather could deter them from the 200-mile journey by draughty train and rickety coach".

The Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies said as state president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, Rooke led the campaign for suffrage in Tasmania until 1903.

"Tasmanian women became eligible to vote in House of Assembly elections in 1904 following a change to the eligibility criteria from 'man' to 'person' in the Constitution Act 1903. Although this allowed women to vote they were still not eligible to stand for election to either House," according to the Tasmanian Parliamentary Library.

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Women were granted the right to stand for election in 1921.

Rooke then helped form the Women's Suffrage Association, which aimed to educate women in their duty as voters and encouraged them to vote.

"Jessie obviously contributed a lot, when people are that passionate, they lay their lives on the line and that would have been tough going," Mr Jones said.

"In a man's world, to push that hard, I respect that so much, just the passion, when you start reading about her, that's what ignites me … she fought so society can evolve and change for the better," he said.

"How could they possibly live like that? You can't believe now that women were treated like that, it's just unbelievable."

A grave in disrepair

It was a chance encounter in the middle of the Wivenhoe cemetery in Burnie almost a year ago, when Tasmanian activist Rodney Croome stumbled across Jessie's dilapidated grave.

"In September last year I was trying to find the grave of my father's grandparents and I just happened to see the grave of Jessie," Mr Croome said.

"I knew about her work fighting for women to have a vote in high school.

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"It actually made me quite sad to see it, it had just fallen into disrepair … she had no children so I just think it had been forgotten.

"I took a photo and posted it online and that's how we got the ball rolling on getting it restored … many people value her contribution to Tasmania."

Rooke's grave took more than a year to fix

Repairing the grave was no easy feat and it took thousands of dollars and more than 12 months to do so.

"The grave had sunk pretty badly into the ground, the steel work was all deteriorated, it looked like you'd take it to the tip," Mr Jones said.

"In some areas of the grave it had dropped 200 millimetres into the ground, so we dug around it and got some jacks and jacked it back into place the best we could, and lined it all up."

The cement slab also needed to be completely replaced.

"We took the headstone away as well and did the lettering and cleaned it all up," he said.

The City of Burnie Lions Club fundraised nearly $6,000 for the project.

"When Harvey agreed to take on the restoration, we were thrilled, the project was then largely left to him after that," Vicki Russell from the Lions Club said.

"Jessie almost feels like family to me now … she is a unique human being who saw an absence of justice and really stuck with it until she achieved her goal.

"Sadly, she died before she had the chance to vote in an election."

"I hope that by restoring Jessie's grave, we're able to honour her legacy and make her story known to more Tasmanians," Mr Croome said.

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