Dawson, Elizabeth OAM(1936 – 2014)
Social activist, Teacher
Liz Dawson trained and worked as a speech therapist and teacher and her early social activism related to school education. Later in life, she lobbied through the organisation Common Ground to provide permanent, safe and supported homes for the homeless and for low-income families in Canberra. She was nominated as Canberran of the Year and ACT Local Hero in 2012 and was awarded an Order of Australia Medal ‘for her tireless work providing for homeless individuals and their families’ in the Queen’s Birthday honours in 2013.
Liz Dawson was inscribed on the ACT Women’s Honour Roll in 2014.
Gelman, Sylvia(1919 – 2018)
Equestrian, Gymnast, Public speaker, Teacher, Women's rights activist
Sylvia Gelman was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1981 ‘in recognition of service to education, youth and the Jewish community’. She was also appointed Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2003 ‘in recognition of service to the community, particularly through a range of organisations concerned with issues affecting women’. These organisations included The National Council of Jewish Women of Victoria and Australia, the Young Women’s Christian Association of Victoria, and both the national and Victorian branches of the National Council of Women.
Bassat, Nina(1939 – )
Campaigner, Chairperson, Community activist, Community advocate, Community Leader, Jewish community leader, Lawyer, President, Solicitor, Teacher
Nina Bassat is a Holocaust survivor and former lawyer who was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 2004 Australia Day Honours List ‘for service to the community as an executive member of a range of peak Jewish organisations and through the promotion of greater community understanding’. The first woman to be president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, she also served as president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry – the first Holocaust survivor and first woman lawyer to attain that position.
Marginson, Betty May(1923 – 2015)
Activist, Councillor, Mayor, Teacher, Volunteer
Betty Marginson was a pioneer in many fields as a teacher, a student and community activist, local Councillor and advocate for citizens’ and women’s rights. Her academic career spanned the World War II years as an undergraduate student to 1985 when she took her Diploma in Public Policy at the age of 62. As well as raising four children with her husband Ray Marginson, she taught at various State Schools from 1943 to 1982. She was the founding President of the Hawthorn Chapter of the University of the Third Age, becoming President of the Victorian network in 1993. The first woman appointed Mayor of the City of Hawthorn from 1976 to 1977, she was a Council Member from 1972 to 1981. In the wider world, Betty Marginson was President of University College, University of Melbourne from 1986 to 1991, and was a voluntary worker in many fields, including at Heide Park and Art Gallery.
McHenry, Zoe Rosalind(1901 – 1971)
Accompanist, Composer, Musician, Teacher
Zoe McHenry was the great -grand-daughter of Brunswick, Victoria, pioneers Luisa and Thomas Wilkinson, and the grand-daughter of Victoria’s first woman pharmacist, Sarah George. A pianist and music teacher, Zoe Henry was employed in 1943, its inaugural year, by the ABC’s Kindergarten of the Air, as a pianist. Recognising the dearth of appropriate music for children’s activities, Zoe began to compose for the program. She continued to do so after leaving the program in order to care for her father, who was ill. She published several books of music and songs for kindergarten, travelling to London in 1962 to record. Her music is still recorded and used today, including on the ABC’s ‘Play School’.
Wood, Marie(1946 – )
Marie Wood graduated in Arts from the University of Melbourne in 1967, taught at McKinnon High School, Melbourne, and trained briefly as a graduate nurse at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney. In late 1969 she joined the New South Wales Department of Child and Welfare Services as a teacher at Bidura, Glebe, a temporary receiving home for children removed from their families before allocation to foster homes or other institutions. From February to July 1970, she taught girls convicted of ‘exposure to moral danger’ and similar offences at the Department’s Ormond Training School for Girls, Thornleigh, Sydney.
Bryan, Edith(1872 – 1963)
Disability rights activist, Teacher
Edith Bryan was appointed head teacher of the school section of the Queensland Blind, Deaf and Dumb Institution in Brisbane, Australia, in 1901. In 1918 the Queensland government assumed responsibility for this charitable organisation and initially Edith retained her position with the institution.
Following an increase in class numbers as a direct result of introduction of the Blind, Deaf and Dumb Instruction Act of 1924, which made the education of deaf children compulsory, it was deemed appropriate in 1926 that a male should take control of the school. Edith retained charge of the deaf section of the school until she retired in 1937, after which she continued to work for the deaf community.
An active member of the Queensland Adult Deaf and Dumb Mission which she had helped to establish in 1902, Edith chaired a parent support-group which she had also promoted. The mission named Edith Bryan Hostel in her honour.
McConnel, May Jordan(1860 – 1929)
Nurse, Suffragist, Teacher, Union organiser
May Jordan McConnel was the first paid female union organiser in Queensland, elected Secretary of the newly-formed Tailoresses Union on 5 August 1890. The Brisbane Women’s Union met for the first time on 27 August 1890 and discussions focused on securing fair wages, fair hours and equitable conditions in the workplace for women. In Brisbane on 17 December 1893, May delivered an address to suffrage supporters, celebrating New Zealand women’s success in attaining the right to vote. In February 1894, a public meeting was held and the Woman’s Equal Franchise Association, a strong supporter of women’s suffrage, was founded. May was elected as Treasurer. In 1910, the McConnel family left Brisbane for the United States, leaving their Indooroopilly house, ‘Robgill’, as a gift to Queensland. This house became the Methodist Church’s first institutionalised home for orphans in the state – the original Queen Alexander Home for Children. The family never returned to Australia and May died in California in 1929.
Robinson, Nellie Elizabeth(1915 – 1992)
Mayor, Radio presenter, Teacher
Nellie Robinson was elected as Alderman to the Toowoomba Council in 1961. In 1967 she was elected mayor of Toowoomba, thus becoming Queensland’s first female mayor. Nellie served the state for 14 years. The Queen’s New Year Honours list in 1979 made her an officer of the Order of the British Empire for “distinguished service to local government”.
O’Sullivan, Bridget (Bid)
Radio Broadcaster, Teacher
Bridget ‘Bid’ O’Sullivan was the first teacher of the School-of-the-Air in Queensland. She delivered her first lesson on 25 January 1960 to 14 boys and girls from remote stations across the state using two-way radio communication. The broadcast was delivered from the Royal Flying Doctor Service residence in the North Queensland town of Cloncurry. Bid retired in 1963 and that same year was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her “…outstanding services and devotion to the children of Queensland in the field of education”.
The Queensland Department of Education, Training and the Arts offered the Bid O’Sullivan Teaching Scholarship annually from 1999 to 2012 to assist Year 12 students from rural and remote areas.
Potter, Norah Mary(1849 – 1927)
Religious Sister, Teacher
Mother Patrick Potter was born in Ireland and educated at Cloontagh National School and Longford Convent School. In 1866 she began her novitiate as a Sister of Mercy at Athy Convent, Kildare. Upon arrival in Australia in 1868, Mother Patrick joined the Queensland Sisters of Mercy congregation which had been established by Mother Vincent Whitty, making her profession of vows at Brisbane’s All Hallows Convent in 1869. Appointed to All Hallows’ school, Mother Patrick contributed greatly to the religious, academic and cultural development of the students. In 1879 she was elected to the administration of the Brisbane congregation of Sisters of Mercy, where she acted as Superior or assistant, for the next 48 years.
Cooper, Leontine Mary Jane(1837 – 1903)
Journalist, Scholar, Teacher, Women's rights activist, Writer
Leontine Cooper was Queensland’s most significant writer addressing the rights of white women during the movement for woman suffrage in that state. By the late 1880s she had emerged as one of the key activists who contributed to progressive movements in Australian political life and Australian feminism. Cooper wrote short stories for the Boomerang and in the mid 1890s edited Queensland’s only women’s suffrage newspaper, the Star. For a short time she edited Flashes, a society newspaper, and for a while wrote ‘Queensland Notes’ for Louisa Lawson’s feminist journal, the Dawn.
In 1889 Leontine Cooper led a breakaway group from the Woman’s Equal Franchise Association, which became known as the Queensland Woman’s Suffrage League. Cooper was concerned that the women’s suffrage movement should not be ‘captured’ by the Labor Party, and become subject to party politics. Leontine founded and served as inaugural president of the Brisbane Pioneer Club in 1899 which, like its London namesake, was a progressive women’s club.
Cribb, Estelle(1877 – 1947)
Estelle Cribb was a first day pupil at Ipswich Girls Grammar School (IGGS) in 1892. She was the first woman to study for a Master of Arts, with Honours in Mathematics, from the University of Sydney. She graduated in 1901. After obtaining an Honours Diploma in Education, she was appointed Mathematical Mistress at IGGS in 1903. She held the position for 35 years, retiring in 1938. Estelle Cribb was an active member of the IGGS Old Girls’ Association, serving as President for 12 years. She was much loved and when she died on 5 November 1947 a memorial fund was established by the Old Girls’ Association. In 1952 commemorative gates were unveiled at the front of IGGS, which still commemorate her
Don, Ruth(1902 – 2003)
Teacher, Trade unionist
Ruth Don was the first Senior Mistress of a Queensland high school, as well as the first female Principal of the Domestic Science High School and of Brisbane’s Office Training College. She also became the Queensland Teachers Union’s first female president. Ruth was founding president of the Forum Club in Brisbane.
Archdall, Martha Caroline Christine(1851 – 1949)
With her husband, clergyman Mervyn Archdall, Martha pushed for the establishment of a deaconess institution at Balmain, New South Wales, in 1885. Bethany was opened in 1891 with Canon Archdall as director. It was Martha who opened a parish school, and by 1900 Bethany had schools at Balmain, Lewisham, Dapto and Bega.
Eagle, Robin Ann(1951 – )
Environmentalist, Feminist, Poet, Teacher
Robin Eagle has been active in the South Australian Women’s Movement since 1976 and a lesbian feminist activist in Victoria before then. Born in Hopetoun, Victoria, she joined the Women’s Liberation Movement in Victoria in 1975. A dedicated community worker, she helped establish and run many community groups. She is on the Board of Management for the Women’s Studies Resource Centre in Adelaide, South Australia 1999-2013. Robin has published a book of poetry.
McCulloch, Deborah Jane(1939 – )
Lecturer, Poet, Teacher
Deborah McCulloch was an English teacher and later a lecturer at Salisbury CAE. She had became involved in the women’s movement in 1971. She was a member of Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) when it started in South Australia. She was appointed as the first Women’s Adviser to the Premier of South Australia in 1976 by Don Dunstan.
Sylvia Kinder was active in both the Adelaide Women’s Liberation Movement and the Sydney Women’s Liberation Movement. As a teacher she was involved with the South Australian Institute of Teachers (SAIT) which questioned sexist teaching practices within schools. She helped bring changes in education standards designed to reduce gender discrimination, including the use of non sexist language in school and equal opportunities for girls. Sylvia was a member of the Australian Women’s Education Coalition (South Australian Branch). She was involved in the establishment of the Adelaide Women’s Liberation Movement, Women’s Studies Resource Centre, Adelaide Women’s Liberation Movement Archives and the Hindmarsh Women’s Community Health Centre. She was a member of International Women’s Year National Advisory Committee 1974-1976. She wrote a book about the women’s liberation movement in Adelaide.
Jones, Marilyn Fay(1940 – )
Marilyn Jones has been described as ‘the greatest classical dancer Australia has produced’. She studied at the London Royal Ballet School and danced with the Royal Ballet from 1957-1958 before joining the Australian Ballet on its formation in 1962. In 1963 she married fellow principal dancer Garth Welch and they had two sons, Stanton and Damien, who also became dancers. She danced with the Australian Ballet until 1978, when she took up the position of artistic director of the Company from 1979 until 1982. In 1991 she founded the Australian Institute of Classical Dance and became its artistic director. Other appointments have included director of the National Theatre Youth Ballet from 1996-1998 and director of the National Theatre Ballet School, Melbourne, from 1995-1998. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire on 1 January 1972 for her services to Australian ballet.
Marshall, Dorothy May(1902 – 1961)
Teacher, Welfare worker
During World War II Dorothy Marshall was appointed by the Commonwealth government as South Australian superintendent of the Australian Women’s Land Army. Previously a schoolteacher she assisted with the School Patriotic Fund of South Australia and was foundation secretary of the Women’s War Service. Following the war Marshall became a camp welfare officer with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). Following the dissolution of the UNRRA she joined the International Refugee Organisation (IRO) as a welfare officer in the British zone of Germany. For her services to child welfare, Marshall was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire on 5 June 1952. Following her return to Adelaide she was appointed to the Department of Agriculture and initiated a bi-monthly bulletin WAB News.
Rowe, Marilyn(1946 – )
Marilyn Rowe, the first graduate of the Australian Ballet School to be appointed its director in 1999, was recruited into the Australian Ballet Company in 1965 after completing the course in 1964. She was a principal artist with the Australian Ballet and later became ballet director, deputy artistic director and in 1984 director of the Dancers Company, a post she held until 1990. She has been on the Board of the Australian Ballet since 1994. She has directed and coached many of the leading dancers of the Australian Ballet and has produced and directed major contemporary and classical works. Other positions include that of Life Governor of the Berry St Child and Family Care since 1985. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1979 for her services to ballet in Australia.
Gum, Daphne Lorraine(1916 – 2017)
Daphne Gum, a trained primary school teacher who developed an interest in working with children with disabilities, became the director of the Spastic Centre established by the Crippled Children’s Association of South Australia in 1946 at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital. Following a temporary move to prefabricated classrooms at Kintore Avenue, the centre finally found a permanent and more spacious home in 1951 on the Anzac Highway at Ashford, and was known as the Ashford House for Cerebral Palsy Children.
Daphne Gum was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1960 for her work with children affected by cerebral palsy. She maintained her connection with her old school, the Methodist Ladies College, serving as president of the Old Scholars Association from 1979-1980 and wrote a history entitled A rich tapestry of lives, to celebrate the school’s ninetieth birthday.
de la Hunty, Shirley Barbara(1925 – 2004)
Athletics coach, Commonwealth or Empire Games Gold Medalist, Lecturer, Olympian, Teacher, Track and Field Athlete
Champion sprinter and hurdler, Shirley Strickland (as she was then known), became the first Australian female to win an Olympic medal in a track and field event at the London Olympic Games in 1948.
Shirley de la Hunty was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) on 26 January 2001 for service to the community, particularly in the areas of conservation, the environment and local government, and to athletics as an athlete, coach and administrator. She had been appointed a member of the Order of the British Empire (Civil) (MBE) for services to athletics on 1 January 1957.
Gibbs, Mary Elizabeth
In October 1972, two armed men abducted teacher Mary Gibbs and her students. 20-year-old Gibbs was in charge of the one-teacher primary school at Faraday, a farming district near Castlemaine, Victoria. The men left a ransom note and placed their hostages in the back of the van and drove to the forest. To help settle the young children Gibbs pretended the incident was a game and sang songs to them during the long cold night. Near dawn, she realised the men had left the front of the van. She urged the children to kick the van door with her. Luck was with them, the door came free and they were able to make their escape.
After this incident, the then Liberal Victorian Government closed one-teacher schools. Mary Gibbs received the George Medal on 22 January 1973 for bravery during a child hostage incident.
Cramer, Mary Therese( – 1984)
Charity worker, Community worker, Teacher
Mary Cramer, a teacher before her marriage to John (later Sir John) Cramer, in January 1922, brought her formidable organising skills to rearing their four children and to her public activities. On the election of her husband as mayor of North Sydney in 1939, she assumed the duties of lady mayoress. Known for her natural sense of humour, she organised a Voluntary Aid Detachment for North Sydney at the beginning of World War II, and also the first group of the Women’s Australian National Service in Sydney and became its first commandant. Her husband later became a founding member of the Liberal Party of Australia and a Minister for the Army from 1956-1963. She was president of the New South Wales division of the Red Cross Society and of the Mater Misericordae Hospital Advisory Board at North Sydney. Despite recurring illness, she maintained her public activities and was appointed as Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire on 12 June 1971 for distinguished public service, which had covered four decades. According to the report in The Sydney Morning Herald on 26 May 1994 on the death of Sir John Cramer, ‘Sir John with his late wife Dame Mary, had left an indelible mark on the lower North Shore’.