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Archer, Robyn
(1948 – )

Advocate, Artistic director, Director, Singer, Writer

Robyn Archer has established an international reputation as a cabaret artist and as an artistic director. She became the first woman to head a major Australian Arts festival when she was appointed Artistic Director of the Adelaide Festival in 1998 and 2000. On 12 June 2000 she became an Officer of the Order of Australia ‘ for service to the development of cultural life within Australia and its resultant international recognition, through her contribution as an artistic director, performer and writer.’
She is currently the Creative Director of the Centenary of Canberra celebrations, which begin in March 2013.

Liangis, Sotiria
(1941 – )

Developer, Philanthropist

Sotiria Liangis is the developer behind a number of commercial properties in Canberra. She was the first Telstra ACT Business Woman of the Year in 1995. In 1996 she was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for ‘for service to the Greek community, particularly the aged and through St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Canberra’. She received the Centenary Medal in 2001, also for service to the Greek community.

With her husband and son, Sotiria Liangis had received a Real Estate Institute of the ACT award in 1994.

Blundell, Madeline Patricia Petrie (Patricia)
(1880 – 1968)

Army Nurse, Matron, Nurse

Patricia Blundell served in in the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) in World War I at Lemnos (Gallipoli), in Egypt, on hospital transports, in military hospitals at Wimereux near Boulogne in France and at military hospitals in England. In 1918 the ship on which she was travelling back to Australia was torpedoed in the Bay of Biscay. After being rescued by the British Navy she reached Melbourne safely on another ship. Before enlisting in 1915, she had gained military nursing experience as matron of Royal Military Hospital, Duntroon.

Boon, Gladys Elizabeth Clare
(1891 – 1948)

Army Nurse, Nurse

Gladys Elizabeth Clare Boon served in the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) at Salonika, Greece from 1917 to 1919 and then briefly in England before returning to Australia. Trained at Orange Hospital, she nursed at Bathurst District Hospital and Wallsend Hospital before her marriage to Arthur Firkin in 1925.

Gallagher, Flora
(1874 – 1938)

Army Nurse, Nurse

Flora Gallagher served from 1915 to 1918 as a nurse in World War I in Egypt, England and France. She was one of three female Gallagher family members from Browns Flat, a farming settlement between Queanbeyan and Bungendore in New South Wales, which later became part of the ACT, who served overseas as nurses in World War I.

Gallagher, Janet Isobel
(1880 – 1957)

Army Nurse, Nurse

Janet Isobel Gallagher was one of three female members of the Gallagher family who served overseas with the Australian Army Nursing Service during World War I. She was a niece of Flora Gallagher and Evelyn Gallagher and like them was born at Browns Flat, a farming settlement near Burbong between Queanbeyan and Bungendore in New South Wales, now within the eastern border of the Australian Capital Territory. She enlisted in 1916 and spent most of the War nursing in India with service also in Egypt and England.

Lawlor, Gertrude Frances
(1883 – 1959)

Army Nurse, Matron, Nurse

Gertrude Frances Lawlor served in 1918 with the Australian Army Nursing Service in India during the latter stages of World War I. She enlisted in 1917 after Canberra Hospital, where she was Matron, closed because of war restrictions. She resumed as Matron when the Hospital re-opened in 1921 and continued in the position until 1928.

McKnight, Alma Alberta
(1886 – 1967)

Army Nurse, Nurse

Alma McKnight served overseas with the Australian Army Nursing Service in Egypt from 1917 to 1919. Before enlisting she had nursed briefly at Duntroon Military College Hospital Canberra after training at Dubbo Hospital.

Dale, Sabina (Sybil) Daffodil
(1896 – 1981)

Mother, Sportswoman, War widow

Sybil Dale, aged 18, was left a widow with a young baby when her husband, Adjutant Charles Coning Dale, 21, was killed on Gallipoli on 7 August 1915. They had married in Melbourne on 10 November 1914, eight days after Dale graduated from Duntroon Military College, Canberra, and a week after he enlisted in the AIF as Lieutenant in C Squadron, 8th Light Horse. Their daughter, Valda Rita Dale, was born on 19 April 1915 at 595 Canning St, North Carlton. Sybil married again in 1924 and together her and her husband raised a family. She also went on to play cricket and hockey for Victoria.

Read a longer essay on Sybil Dale in the online exhibition War Widows of the ACT: A Forgotten Legacy of World War I.

Lindsay, Ruby
(1887 – 1919)

Artist, Cartoonist, Graphic designer, Illustrator

Ruby Lindsay is perhaps Australia’s first female graphic designer. During the early twentieth century, Ruby illustrated books and also hand drew posters and black-and-white illustrations for newspapers such as The Bulletin and Punch.

Bridges, Edith Lilian
(1862 – 1926)

Mother, War widow

Lady Bridges was the initial president of the Friendly Union of Soldiers’ Wives and Mothers, set up by her friend Lady Helen Munro Ferguson, wife of the Governor General, early in World War I to provide support for families of soldiers of the first AIF. The shock of the death of her husband, Major General Sir William Throsby Bridges, Commander of the first AIF, less than a month after the landing at Gallipoli and the prolonged and very public commemorative ceremonies associated with the return of his body to Australia and his reburial in Canberra, affected her health to the extent that the following year she retired from public life.

An adopted child, Edith’s life was punctuated by tragedy including the loss of her first-born son soon after birth, the drowning of one of her seven-year-old twin girls in a boating accident on Sydney Harbour and the death of a 17-year-old son at boarding school in England. During World War I in addition to the loss of her husband, she worried constantly about her son Major Noel Bridges DSO, who fought at Gallipoli and the Western Front and was wounded in Flanders in 1918. Born Edith Lillian Francis in 1862 near Moruya, Lady Bridges died in Melbourne in 1926, aged 64, and was buried in St John’s Churchyard, Canberra.

Read a longer essay on Lady Bridges in the online exhibition War Widows of the ACT: A Forgotten Legacy of World War I.

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.

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.

Holt, Lillian Rose
(1945 – 2020)


Lillian Holt was a member of the first generation of Aboriginal high school and university graduates and had an impressive track record of full time work, study and concomitant achievements. She traversed new terrain in order that younger ones might follow.

Lillian worked or studied full time since the age of 17. She worked as an educator in Aboriginal affairs and education “25 hours a day, eight days a week”! She was appointed as a University of Melbourne Fellow in 2003 -2005, prior to that she was Director of the Centre for Indigenous Education, University of Melbourne.

Lillian Holt passed away on her birthday in February 2020, at the age of 75.

Women on Farms Gatherings
(1990 – )

Social support organisation

The first Women on Farms Gathering was held in Warragul, Victoria, in 1990. The Gatherings have been held annually in different rural locations across the state since that time, with organisation handed over to an autonomous committee of local women each year. Women from Queensland, Tasmania and New South Wales attended the fifth gathering in Tallangatta in 1993, and the movement spread to Queensland and New South Wales in 1993, and Tasmania in 1994. Held over a weekend, the Gatherings bring together rural women to learn new skills, share stories and, especially in the beginning, to reaffirm their identity as farmers. They were a vital thread in the women in agriculture movement, providing a public collective space for women to build an alternative knowledge about their disadvantaged position in farming, and fostering a political voice.

McConnel, Ursula Hope
(1888 – 1957)

Anthropologist, Photographer

Ursula McConnel is recognised as an influential anthropologist of the Cape York Peninsula and a talented amateur photographer. McConnel used her photographs to illustrate publications of her research in magazines and ethnographic journals such as Oceania and Walkabout. She was also a collector of Indigenous artefacts.

Content added for original entry by Lee Butterworth, last modified 11 June 2009

As one of the first students of A. R. Radcliffe-Brown’s Australian tenureship, Ursula McConnel conducted ethnographic fieldwork as a participant-observer in western Cape York Peninsula between 1927 and 1934. She worked chiefly among the Wik peoples, particularly the Wik Mungkan based at Aurukun Mission. As part of her anthropological study McConnel amassed a substantial material culture collection of over five hundred artefacts. Together with Donald Thomson’s collection from the same area, it forms a unique record of Wik Mungkan material culture from that period. In 2006 a large collection of professional papers belonging to Ursula was discovered and donated to the South Australian Museum.

Hutchison, Ruby Florence
(1892 – 1974)


Ruby Hutchison was the first woman elected to the Legislative Council in Western Australia, and the first to take her place in any Australian Council. She was the only female member of the Chamber during this period. Her work enabled the introduction of the first law to enable women to serve on juries, and she founded the West Australian Epilepsy Association to fight discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities.

Forde, Mary Marguerite Leneen
(1935 – )

Commissioner, Governor, Lawyer, Solicitor, University Chancellor

Mary Marguerite Leneen Forde was admitted as a solicitor in Queensland in 1970, one of only six women in her graduating class. After a distinguished legal career, she was appointed Governor of Queensland a position she held from 1992 until 1997. When she was appointed, she was only the second woman to hold the position of governor of an Australian state and the first to take on the role in Queensland. In 1998 Forde was appointed to Chair the Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions. Her report was handed down in May 1999.

Go to ‘Details’ below to read an essay written by Leneen Forde for the Trailblazing Women and the Law Project.

Ward, Elizabeth (Biff)

Feminist, Social activist, Writer

Born in New South Wales in 1942, Elizabeth (Biff Ward) was an active protester and a key member of the Women for Survival anti-nuclear group. She was instrumental in the organisation and running of the Pine Gap Peace Camp in 1983. Biff lived in Adelaide from 1984 to 1996, and in that time was the first Equal Opportunity Officer at the South Australian Institute of Technology and also worked as a workplace trainer with Trish Fairley and Peter Lee. She published the book Father-Daughter Rape in 1984 and Three’s Company in 1992.

In Adelaide she was associated with Friendly Street Poets, publishing Three’s Company. Currently she is organising tours in Vietnam. Biff is a proud member of the Vietnam Veteran’s Federation.

Stark, Amy Gwendoline
(1910 – 1994)

Aviator, Servicewoman

Gwen Stark gained her pilot’s licence shortly before the outbreak of World War II and was one of the first women appointed to a position in the Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force. She served in the first instance as assistant section officer and later as recruiting officer for New South Wales. Before the war, she was active in the Australian Women’s Flying Club, which became the New South Wales branch of the Women’s Air Training Corps, and was its commandant in 1940. After World War II she went to Europe and worked with the Berlin Air Lift at a Royal Air Force station in Germany for several months. In 1964 she became the federal president of the Australian Women’s Pilots’ Association and was appointed to the Order of the British Empire on 8 June 1968 for her services to aviation.

Stones, Elsie (Margaret)
(1920 – 2018)

Botanical artist

Margaret Stones was one of Australia’s foremost botanical artists. She undertook professional art training at Swinburne Technical College and the National Gallery of Victoria Art School in the 1940s. At the invitation of John Stewart Turner, Stones attended lectures and demonstrations in the School of Botany at the University of Melbourne, and joined their summer expeditions to the Bogong High Plains, 1948-1950. In 1951 she left Australia for London to further her botanical knowledge, working independently for the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and other botanical institutions for more than 30 years. From 1958 she was the principal contributing artist to Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, producing more than 400 watercolours. Her most important project during the 1960s and 1970s was the illustrations for The Endemic Flora of Tasmania, and from 1975 her work on the Flora of Louisiana project. Commenting on Margaret Stones’s botanical knowledge and experience, Tasmanian botanist Dr Winifrid Curtis ‘recalled that Stones never needed to be told, but invariably knew, which sections to draw in order to facilitate correct taxonomical classification’. A genus has been named after her, Stonesia and a Tasmanian species, Stonesiella.

Miethke, Adelaide Laetitia
(1881 – 1962)

Educator, Feminist, Peace activist, School inspector, Social activist, Women's rights activist, Women's rights organiser

Adelaide Laetitia Miethke began training as a teacher in 1899, and soon became active in women teachers’ and union affairs. She was the first woman vice-president of the South Australian Public School Teacher’s Union in 1916, and in 1924 gained both her Arts degree and her position as the first female inspector of high schools. She was South Australian state president of the National Council of Women from 1934, and national president, 1936-1942. Miethke was appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (Civil) on 1 February 1937 for her role as President of the South Australian Women’s Centenary Council, particularly in organising the Pageant of Empire on 27-28 November 1936. Miethke went on to work with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and establish the School of the Air for outback children.

Irving, Sybil Howy
(1897 – 1973)


Sybil Irving was the founder and Controller of the Australian Women’s Army Service. On 2 January 1939 she was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire, for social welfare services in Victoria. Throughout her life Irving was a faithful member of the Church. Her Funeral Service on 30 March 1973, and a Memorial Service on 23 February 1975 were held in Christ Church, South Yarra, Victoria.

Vasey, Jessie Mary
(1897 – 1966)

Community worker

Jessie Vasey founded and became President of the War Widows’ Guild of Australia. For her work in the field of social welfare she was the recipient of both the CBE (8 June 1963) and OBE (8 June 1950).

Conyers, Evelyn Augusta
(1870 – 1944)

Matron, Servicewoman

Evelyn Conyers was appointed to the Order of the British Empire – Commander (Military) on 22 March 1919 for nursing service with the army during World War I. She had previously been awarded the Royal Red Cross on 3 June 1916.

Appleford, Alys (Alice) Ross
(1891 – 1968)

Nurse, Nursing administrator, Servicewoman

During World War I Alice Ross-King (as she was then known) was a Sister in the Australian Army Nursing Service. Mentioned twice in despatches, she was awarded the Military Medal on 28 September 1917 and the Royal Red Cross Medal on the 4 June 1918. She married Lieutenant-Colonel Sydney T Appleford of the Australian Army Medical Corps on 21 August 1919. They had four children. She assisted her husband in establishing a first-aid military unit and during the 1930s became involved with the Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachments. Appleford enlisted in the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service during World War II. She was promoted to the rank of Major in September 1942 and awarded the Florence Nightingale medal by the International Red Cross in 1949.

Alice Appleford died on 17 August 1968 at Cronulla, Sydney and is buried in Fawkner Cemetery, Melbourne.

Martin, Catherine Ellen
(1918 – 2009)


Catherine Martin was a journalist for the West Australian newspaper from 1957, specialising in medical reporting. She was born in the United Kingdom but emigrated to Western Australia and lived there for most of her life.