George, Sarah Ann(1839 – 1919)
Sarah Ann George was the daughter of Thomas Wilkinson, the ‘father of Brunswick’, and Louisa Wilkinson. In 1856, at Geelong, at the age of seventeen, Sarah Ann married Joseph George, a pharmacist. Joseph had established a pharmacy in Sydney Road, Brunswick, in 1853, and Sarah worked with him as his assistant, eventually becoming registered as a pharmacist herself. She is believed to have been Victoria’s first lady pharmacist, and one of the first to be registered. Sarah first registered in 1882, stating that she had been in business in Victoria before the required registration date of 1876. At this time, she was 43 years old, and her nine surviving children ranged in age from five to twenty-five years. Like her husband, who was a member of council and Mayor of Brunswick from 1884-5, Sarah was active in the Church of England, and interested herself in philanthropic work. She was President of the Boarding Out Committee in Brunswick for thirty years, and also of the Australian Women’s National League both in Brunswick, and in Portland, where she instigated the branch.
Bignell, Margaret Annie(1853 – 1940)
Margaret Annie Bignell was the seventh daughter of William and Elizabeth Blyth, of Hobart. She became Victoria’s first registered female pharmacist, and one of the first women pharmacists to conduct her own business in the state, carrying on her husband’s pharmacy in Lygon Street, Carlton, after his death in 1897. She was known for apprenticing women, and was an activist for the recognition of women pharmacists. Two of her daughters entered the profession. She was a subscribing member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Victoria, and a founding member of the Women Pharmacists’ Association, formed in 1905 to promote the interests of women pharmacists.
Fox, Mary Elizabeth Gertrude(1877 – 1962)
Born at Horton College, Ross, Tasmania, Mary Fox was educated at the Methodist Ladies’ College Launceston, Tasmania. From 1903 until 1941 Fox was head mistress of the Methodist Ladies’ College, Launceston. She was president of the All Australian Women’s Hockey Association in 1925, 1932 and 1938. During the Second World War Mary Fox was a member of the Women’s Land Army.
Biggs, Lucy Blanche(1909 – 2008)
Lucy Blanche Biggs was born on 20 December 1909 in Scottsdale in Tasmania. She completed her medical training at the University of Melbourne, graduating MB BS in 1946. She held appointments at the Bendigo Base and the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospitals before embarking on work as a medical missionary in Papua New Guinea.
Dr Biggs was the first medical Coordinator for the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea from September 1948 to January 1974 working in the northern district of Papua. In 1948 she was appointed by the Australian Board of Missions to Eroro and spent the next twelve years in Eroro in general practice before moving onto St Luke’s TB hospital in 1968. She was transferred to medical administration at Popandetta and resigned in 1974.
Dr Biggs was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire on 1 January 1975 for her work as a medical missionary in Papua New Guinea. Her life in Papua is detailed in her regular newsletters – 110 of them over 25 years – which she published under the title From Papua with love.
Birchall, Ida Lois(1906 – 1994)
Ida Birchall, one of Tasmania’s first female doctors, became the first Tasmanian member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1936. After graduating MB BS from Sydney University in 1933, she worked at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, in 1933 and the Royal Hospital for Women, New South Wales, in 1934. She furthered her medical career with appointments in the United Kingdom at St Mary’s Hospital, Manchester from 1934-1936 and the Women’s Hospital, Nottingham from 1936-1938. She was ultimately honorary consultant to the Launceston General Hospital and to the Queen Victoria Hospital Launceston. A member of both the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Australian Medical Association (AMA), she was chairman of the northern division of the Tasmanian Branch of the AMA in 1964 and had served as honorary secretary of the northern division of the Tasmanian branch of the BMA from 1944-1945. She was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to medicine on 1 January 1969. The Ida Burchill Library in Launceston exists to ‘support and encourage spiritual growth’ and is available for the use of ‘Christian Communities and the wider public communities’.
Campbell, Enid Mona(1932 – 2010)
Academic, Lawyer, Professor
Professor Enid Campbell, a leading Australian scholar in constitutional law and administrative law, was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (Civil) on 16 June 1979 for services to education in the field of law. Campbell, who was the first female dean of a law faculty in Australia, was bestowed with the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa by the University of Tasmania in 1990.
Miller, Annie Emily(1857 – 1926)
Annie Miller’s contribution to the Red Cross Society in Launceston, Tasmania was acknowledged with her appointment as Officer of the Order of the British Empire on 15 February 1918. Her major work was as Secretary of the Red Cross, Northern Tasmania from 1914 until her death in 1926. She held the position also, of Secretary to the Fund Raising Committee of the Children’s Section of the Launceston Public Hospital.
Sources used to compile this entry: A biographical register, vol II, p 104.
Helen Nicholls, née Sprent, became a prominent worker for charitable causes in Tasmania after her marriage to Herbert (later Sir Herbert) Nicholls on 3 January 1905. As the wife of a politician, judge and later Lieutenant-Governor of Tasmania and mother of five children, she devoted much of her time to charitable causes, one of which was the Red Cross Society. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1918 for her services to the Red Cross Society.
Guy, Margaret Frances(1910 – 1988)
Nurse, Nurse educator, Nursing administrator
Margaret Guy qualified as a nurse in 1937, and served with the Army Nursing Service during World War II. The recipient of a number of grants (Rotary, Fulbright, and the first Churchill Fellowship awarded to a woman) she undertook studies in the UK and USA in nurse education and administration. She was one of four founders of the New South Wales College of Nursing in 1949. At the time of her appointment to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, New South Wales, in 1948, she was the youngest matron in Australia. Margaret Guy is remembered as a skilful administrator and passionate educator. She was appointed OBE – Officer of The Order of the British Empire (Civil) – 10 June 1961, for her work as matron of the Canberra Community Hospital.
Miller, Mabel Flora(1906 – 1978)
Barrister, Lawyer, Politician
Mabel Miller, who served in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) during World War II, was an active public figure in Hobart for twenty years. She was the first woman to be elected to the Hobart City Council in 1952 and later, in 1955, one of the first two women to be elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly as the Liberal member for Franklin. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for distinguished public service on January 1st, 1967.
Joyce, Eileen Alannah(1908 – 1991)
Eileen Joyce was taught the piano at St Joseph’s Convent at Boulder where her prodigious talent was first recognised. She went on to establish a career in England where her concert performances in glamorous gowns, and studio recordings, would make her one of the most popular pianists of her time.
The Joyce family moved to Western Australia and settled in Boulder where Eileen had her first music lessons at St Joseph’s Convent. Because of her prodigious talent, a fund-raising committee in Kalgoorlie-Boulder assisted her to take up a scholarship at the Loreto Convent in Perth.
Hearing her play the renowned musicians Percy Grainger and Wilhelm Backhaus recommended she should study abroad. In 1926, after a tour of country towns and a farewell concert at His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth, Eileen went to Leipzig in Germany, then London to study and where her stellar career was launched.
In 1933 she made the first of many studio recordings in London. She was so successful her record sales during the 1940s are reputed to have rivalled those of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, amongst others. She returned to Australia in April 1936 for a national tour and a series of concerts for the ABC. On the Easter Saturday she gave a recital at the Kalgoorlie Town Hall, and the following day played for the nuns at St Joseph’s.
During the war Eileen played for the troops, and in the bombed out cities of England with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, all helping to endear her to the people. Eileen always dressed the part of the glamorous concert pianist. She commissioned her gowns from leading fashion designers, the most famous being Norman Hartnell who designed the coronation gown for Queen Elizabeth II.
In later life Eileen was awarded many honours for her contribution to music, receiving an Honorary Doctor of Music from the Universities of Cambridge (1971), University of Western Australia (1979), and the University of Melbourne (1982). In 1981 she was made a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and Saint George at Buckingham Palace.
Young Women’s Christian Association of Tasmania(1885 – 2000)
The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) became active in Hobart, Tasmania, in 1885 and by 1888 the movement had spread to Launceston.
During the 1930s, the Hobart branch of the YWCA dis-affiliated itself from the national movement.
Rivett, Eleanor Harriett (Nell)(1883 – 1972)
Eleanor (Nell) Rivett worked in girls’ education in India from 1907 to 1947 with the London Missionary Society. She was the secretary of the Bengal Women’s Education League and the Bengal Advisory Board on Women’s Education.
Eleanor was educated at the University of Melbourne and graduated with both a Bachelor and Master of Arts.
Bird, Carmel(1940 – )
Carmel Bird’s first collection of short stories was published in 1976. Since this time she has produced novels, essays, anthologies, children’s books and also guides for writers. In the 1980s and 1990s she worked as a literary editor for Fine Lines, Australasian Post and other literary journals.
Carmel graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Tasmania and, after obtaining her teaching diploma, worked for a time as a teacher.
Dwyer, Vera Gladys(1889 – 1967)
Vera Dwyer was the daughter of journalist George Lovell Dwyer and his wife Margaret Jafe (Shield). She was born in Hobart, Tasmania, on 23 February, 1889.
From a young age she contributed regularly to the Australian Town and Country Journal. Her first book, With Beating Wings, was written when she was in her teens and was sponsored by author Ethel Turner.
In the 1930s Vera contributed articles to The Sydney Morning Herald and was a member of the Fellowship of Australian writers. Vera’s published works included children’s books, as well as adult fiction.
Vera married Captain Warwick Coldham Fussell at St Leonards, New South Wales, in 1915. They divorced in 1925.
Rae-Ellis, Vivienne(1930 – 2015)
Actor, Author, Newspaper columnist, Writer
Vivienne Rae-Ellis was born in Tasmania, however lived in England from 1987. She published books in many genres including children’s fiction, biography and adult fiction and she also conducted oral history interviews for the National Library of Australia.
Prior to her writing career, Vivienne worked as an actress, a newspaper columnist, a scriptwriter and a public relations officer.
Tasmania Law Reform Institute(2001 – )
The Tasmania Law Reform Institute is Tasmania’s principal law reform body. Established on 23 July 2001 through a signed agreement between the State Government, the University of Tasmania and the Law Society of Tasmania, it is based in the Faculty of Law at the University’s Sandy Bay campus. Its functions include the review of laws with a view to:
- modernising the law;
- eliminating defects in the law;
- simplifying the law;
- consolidating any laws;
- repealing laws that are obsolete or unnecessary;
- creating uniformity between laws of other States and the Commonwealth.
Commissioner, Lawyer, Solicitor
Robin Banks is the (2016) Tasmanian Equal Opportunity Commissioner, a position she has occupied since 2010.
Robin Banks was interviewed by Nikki Henningham in the Trailblazing Women and the Law Oral History Project. For details of the interview see the National Library of Australia CATALOGUE RECORD.
Barrister, Lawyer, Magistrate, Senior Counsel, Solicitor
Magistrate Tamara Jago (appointed to the bench in 2016) holds the distinction of being the first woman in Tasmania to be made Senior Counsel. Honoured by the 2010 achievement, she understood her promotion to be an important one for Tasmanian women, but also believed it went a long way to dispelling the myth that Legal Aid lawyers are ‘second rate options’. Furthermore, having spent the bulk of her career working as a Legal Aid lawyer in north-western Tasmania, she believed her appointment proved there was talent in regional centres, and that moving to big cities in order to ‘make it’ wasn’t always necessary. Taking silk while working as a Legal Aid Lawyer in regional Tasmania, was ‘something special,’ said Jago, the mother of three young children. ‘At Legal Aid there are criminal lawyers that are just as good as anyone else or better.’
Tamara Jago was interviewed by Nikki Henningham in the Trailblazing Women and the Law Oral History Project. For details of the interview see the National Library of Australia CATALOGUE RECORD.