Women Research Leaders in the Australian Learned Academies, 1954-1976

Patricia Grimshaw and Rosemary Francis


While the presence of women in the academic profession at levels above tutor, demonstrator, research assistant or the first rungs of lectureships was uncommon before the 1980s, individual women of talent nevertheless forged research careers of outstanding excellence. Among these scholars were the women who became the first female fellows elected to one of the four Australian learned academies founded between 1954 and 1976. The period witnessed the election of fourteen women to these academies, the first being Dorothy Hill, elected in 1956 to the Australian Academy of Science that was established two years previously. After Hill two further women were elected to that academy over the next twenty years, five women to the Australian Academy of the Humanities and four to the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, founded in 1969 and 1971 respectively. Two women were among the sixty-four foundation fellows of the Australian Academy of Technical Sciences in 1976. Diverse in the paths that led to their recognition by their male peers as leaders in their research fields, the women were alike in their determination and persistence in pushing the boundaries of knowledge in their chosen disciplines, and the generosity with which they engaged with postgraduate students, fellow academics and the wider public. As the women’s movement inspired more women to pursue advanced research, and the academies to develop a more nuanced evaluation of women’s contributions, many of these first academicians lived to observe the increased rate of entry of women researchers to the academies though gender proportions remained unbalanced.


gender, research, science, humanities, social science, women’s employment, academic profession, learned academies

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