Woman McIntyre, Margaret Edgeworth

Community Leader and Parliamentarian

Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

Born in 1886, Margaret McIntyre was the elder daughter of Sir Tannatt William Edgeworth David, geologist and explorer, and Lady Caroline David, a campaigner for social reform and women's education and first woman principal of Hurlstone Teachers' Training College in New South Wales. Educated at home she graduated with a BA from the University of Sydney in 1907 and two years later married William Keverall McIntyre with whom she was to have four children. After some years of travel, in 1919 the family settled in Launceston where William established a practice in obstetrics and gynaecology.

McIntyre expressed public admiration for women who could 'have an easy social life' but chose instead to devote themselves to public affairs (Examiner, 12 June 1947). Building on her mother's example, and freed by her husband's income from the full load of domestic responsibilities, she was a member, and more often an office-bearer in a wide range of philanthropic, cultural and progressive education organisations in her local community. Like many women of her generation, her move from the local to the national stage was achieved through her involvement in the National Council of Women (NCW) and the Girl Guides Association, in which she rose to the position of Acting Chief Commissioner in 1948.

McIntyre's conception of the role of women in national life developed over time. Speaking at a patriotic gathering in Launceston on the eve of World War II, she argued that it was time for women to use more influence in national affairs 'as the world has been run by men for so long, and they do not appear to have made a very good job of it'. At this stage, she saw the primary site for women's influence as the home, where they could show their children that 'life can really be much more satisfying if we are trying to put things into it rather than grab things out of it'. However, she did add, that 'a few women of the right type would have a very healthy effect on our Parliaments' (Examiner, 7 December 1938).

During the war as the deputy president of the Launceston Women's Voluntary National Register, Launceston McIntyre was responsible for organising training schemes for women who wanted to be involved in the war effort. Her wartime experiences led her to argue for women to have 'more say in the running of the country' (Examiner, 1 May 1947). Although, in 1943, she had refused an invitation from the Women for Canberra movement to stand for the Federal Parliament in the electorate of Bass (Mercury, 14 July 1943), five years later she was prepared to nominate as an independent for the Tasmanian Legislative Council seat of Cornwall. She told the NCW that her primary motivation for nominating was her opposition to Communism which threatened 'all the ideals of womankind' that the organisation valued (Examiner, 29 April 1948). Her convincing victory made her the first woman to enter the Tasmanian Parliament, but she had little time to fulfil her potential as a parliamentarian, dying in an air crash in September of that year.

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