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Sweet, Georgina (1875 - 1946)


22 January 1875
Brunswick, Victoria, Australia
1 January 1946
Academic, Philanthropist, Zoologist and Women's rights activist


Georgina Sweet was Australia's first female Acting Professor (Biology, University of Melbourne, 1916-1917). She was Associate Professor of Zoology at the University of Melbourne from 1920 to 1924. Sweet's research included the zoology of Australian native animals and the parasites infesting Australian stock and native fauna. She was appointed OBE - Officer of The Order of the British Empire (Civil) - 3 June 1935, for services to women's movements.


Georgina Sweet was born in Brunswick, Melbourne, the eldest daughter of George Sweet and his wife Fanny (née Dudman). Both parents were born in England. George was a tradesman and later ran the Brunswick Brick, Tile and Pottery Company.

Georgina Sweet was the University of Melbourne's first female Associate Professor. She was a member of the Royal Society of Victoria and the Australian Association for Advancement of Science. She was highly intelligent and ambitious enough to use her talents. She won the University of Melbourne's MacBain scholarship and completed her Bachelor of Science, then a Masters and finally her Doctorate in 1904. Though Sweet reportedly never felt disadvantaged by her sex, she was a strong supporter of women's rights. She pushed for the admission of women to the University senate and worked to establish the University Women's College. She served as Australian president of the YWCA (1927-1934); vice-president of the world YWCA from 1934; foundation member of the Victorian Women Graduates' Association; and first president of the Pan-Pacific Women's Association (1930).

Having inherited some wealth from her father, Sweet's philanthropic gifts were largely directed toward the University of Melbourne and the Methodist Church. Publicity material from the University states that Sweet left 'a generous bequest to endow fellowships in geology, zoology and medicine'. In fact, her original gift of £22,500 is now worth over half a million dollars to the institution with a further $200,000 in accumulated income. The Georgina Sweet bursary in social studies was established in 1946, the year of her death, in her memory.

Sources used to compile this entry: 'Sweet, Georgina (1875 - 1946), Biographical Entry', in Bright Sparcs, Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, 2002,; Lemon, Barbara, 'In Her Gift: Activism and Altruism in Australian Women's Philanthropy, 1880-2005', PhD thesis, School of Historical Studies, University of Melbourne, 2008; MacCallum, Monica, 'Sweet, Georgina(1875-1946)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006,

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Archival resources

Museum Victoria

  • Georgina Sweet - Records, 1896 - 1930; Museum Victoria. Details

National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection

  • Papers of various Australian women, MS 842; Rapke, Julia; National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details

The University of Melbourne Archives

  • Georgina Sweet - Records, 1896 - 1946; The University of Melbourne Archives. Details
  • WEBB, JESSIE STOBO WATSON, 1922, 97/37; Webb, Jessie Stobo Watson (1880 - 1944); The University of Melbourne Archives. Details

The University of Melbourne Central Registry

  • Georgina Sweet - Records, 1892 - 1946; The University of Melbourne Central Registry. Details

Helen Morgan and Barbara Lemon

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National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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