'The Keystone of the Arch': University Education and the Leadership of Early Women Graduates

Alison Mackinnon


Women who graduated from Australian universities in the earliest years often felt a sense of mission in passing on the benefits of their education to subsequent generations. As teachers, medical doctors and welfare reformers they began the long process of transforming the lives of women and children. We can take pride today in their achievements in educating women and girls, an area in which Australia excels. In the areas of economic participation, health and political empowerment their efforts often blazed a trail but there is still a long journey for later women graduates to continue. A focus on early women graduates raises questions both about the timeframes we might consider as ‘early’ and about leadership. Did participation in a professional area where no women had previously worked, for instance in public hospitals or legal practice, constitute leadership or does such a term require an active grasping of activities which we now see as constituting leadership?


women graduates, higher education, university education, university women, educational leadership, leadership cohort

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