Mary Cecil Tenison Woods

CBE, OBE, LLB

Born
9 December 1893
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Died
18 October 1971
Ryde, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation
Academic, Barrister, Child welfare advocate, Lawyer and Solicitor
Alternative Names
  • Kitson, Mary (birth name)
Jurisdiction

Mary Tenison Woods (née Kitson) was the first woman to graduate in law in South Australia. She was admitted to the bar on 20 October 1917. Her application to become a public notary in 1921 led to a change in the law: the existing Act did not include women as 'persons'.

When Mary married in 1924 her partners did not wish to work with a married woman. Mary left the firm and formed a new partnership in 1925, in what may have been the first female practice in Australia.In the mid 1930s, Mary moved to Sydney and worked as a legal editor.

Following the failure of her marriage to Julian Tenison Woods, she moved to Sydney with her son, where she worked as a legal editor. In 1941 she became a member of the Child Welfare Advisory Council (NSW), held many honorary positions and served on a number of boards. Mary lectured at the university on legal aspects of social work and wrote several legal textbooks on a range of subjects.

In 1950 Tenison Woods was appointed chief of the office of the status of women in the division of human rights, United Nations Secretariat, New York. During her term two major conventions were adopted: the Convention of the Political Rights of Women (1952), the first international law aimed at the granting and protection of women's full political rights, and the Convention of the Nationality of Married Women (1957) which decreed that marriage should not affect the nationality of a wife.

On 13 June 1959 Mary Tenison Woods was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for public service, especially with the United Nations. Previously she had been appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire on 8 June 1950 for services to child welfare.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Biographical cuttings on Mary Cecil Tenison Woods, barrister, legal author and editor and child welfare reformer], 1733285; National Library of Australia Newspaper Microcopy Reading Room; 'Mary Tenison Woods - Social and Political Activist', in Golding Centre for Women's History, Theology & Spirituality, ACU National, http://dlibrary.acu.edu.au/research/whits/Requestedtranscripts/reqtranscript06.html; 'Tenison Woods, M C (1893-1971)', Trove, National Library of Australia, 2009, http://nla.gov.au/nla.party-557757; O'Brien, Anne, 'Mary Tenison Woods', in Radi, Heather (ed.), 200 Australian women, Women's Redress Press Inc, Broadway, NSW, 1988, pp. 197-198; O'Brien, Anne, 'Tenison Woods, Mary Cecil (1893-1971)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006, http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A120213b.htm; Press, Margaret M., Three women of faith : Gertrude Abbott, Elizabeth Anstice Baker and Mary Tenison Woods, Wakefield Press, Kent Town, SA, 2000, 143 pp; Radi, Heather (ed.), 200 Australian Women: A Redress Anthology, Women's Redress Press, Sydney, 1988, 258 pp. Also available at http://nla.gov.au/nla.arc-78644; Tenison Woods, M. C. (Mary Cecil) and Jelbart, J. M. (John McClure) (eds), Digest of commercial legislation : being a complete digest of Acts of Parliament, Regulations, Rules and Orders of the Commonwealth and all states of Australia which relate to commerce, Butterworth, Sydney, 1946; Tenison Woods, M. C. (Mary Cecil), Juvenile delinquency : with special references to institutional treatment, Melbourne University Press in association with Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1937, 80 pp; Tenison Woods, M. C. (Mary Cecil) (ed.), Digest of war legislation in Australia : being a complete digest of acts of Parliament, regulations, rules and orders, by-laws, proclamations and notices of the Commonwealth and all States of Australia relating to or affected by the existing state of war and including reported decisions of the courts there on, Butterworth & Co (Australia), Sydney, 1939-1945; Tenison Woods, M. C. (Mary Cecil), Ex-servicemen's legislation, being the Re-establishment and Employment Act, 1945, Butterworth, Sydney, 1945; Tenison Woods, M. C. (Mary Cecil) (ed.), Butterworths' digest of commercial legislation 1947 being a complete digest of Acts of Parliament, Regulations, Rules and Orders of the Commonwealth and all States of Australia which relate to commerce including notes on decisions of the courts, Butterworth, Sydney, 1947, 356 pp; Tenison Woods, M. C. (Mary Cecil), Capital issues and economic organization regulations : ... as amended to date and continued in force by the Commonwealth Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1946, Butterworth, Sydney, 1947, 94 pp; Tenison Woods, M. C. (Mary Cecil), Landlord and tenant Commonwealth regulations, Butterworth, Sydney, 1947, 124 pp; Tenison Woods, M. C. (Mary Cecil), Price regulations : consolidated and annotated, being prices regulations as amended to date and continued in force by the Commonwealth Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1946, Butterworth, Sydney, 1947, 144 pp; Tenison Woods, M. C. (Mary Cecil) (ed.), Butterworth's commercial legislation service : being a complete digest of acts of Parliament, regulations and orders of the Commonwealth and all States of Australia including notes on decisions of the courts, Butterworth, Sydney, 1948, 494 pp; Tenison Woods, M. C. (Mary Cecil), Landlord and tenant and land sales control legislation of New South Wales : being the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act, 1948 and War Service Moratorium Regulations, Butterworth (Australia), Sydney, 1948, 178 pp.

Prepared by Anne Heywood and Larissa Halonkin