Margaret Battye

9 August 1909
Subiaco, Western Australia, Australia
16 November 1949
Subiaco, Western Australia
Barrister, Lawyer, Political party organiser, Solicitor and Women's rights activist

Margaret Battye was the only child of Nellie May (née Robertson) and Charles Battye, a librarian. She graduated from the University of Western Australia (LL.B., 1931; B.A., 1933) and was admitted to the Bar in 1933. In June of 1933 she reputedly became the first woman to represent a client in a Western Australian court of law, and in so doing, according to the presiding magistrate, 'created legal history' by being the first woman to appear before him as a barrister. She won the case. From 1936 she practised on her own as a barrister and solicitor, and from 1939 worked for the Council for Civil Liberties.

Battye was active in several Western Australian women's organisations, including the local branch of the Australian Federation of University Women, the Women's Services Guilds, the Perth Business and Professional Women's Club, the Karrakatta and the Soroptomist Clubs. She acted as honorary legal adviser to almost all the women's organisations in Perth during the 1930s and 40s. She was also active in the Liberal Party of Australia's Western Australian division and was given responsibility for the foundation of the State women's committee. She chaired a national committee for the United Nations' commission into the status of women

She became ill with Grave's disease and passed away in 1949.

Sources used to compile this entry: 'Creating Legal History: Miss Margaret Battye's Debut', Perth Daily Mirror, 24 June 1933, p. 15,; 'Nationality of Women: Address by Margaret Battye', The West Australian, 28 July 1936, p. 5,; 'Miss Battye Remembered', The Daily News (perth), 28 January 1950, p. 13,; Medcalf, M., 'Battye, Margaret (1919-1949)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006,

Prepared by Nikki Henningham