Sort by (Relevance)
Whitworth, Judith Ann AC
(1944 – )

Medical researcher

Emeritus Professor Judith Whitworth AC MB, BS, MD, PhD, DSc, FRACP, FAATSE, FAAHMS is an internationally renowned medical researcher in the fields of kidney function and blood pressure. From 1968 to 1991 she worked as physician and nephrologist in hospitals in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney and overseas in Paris and London. In 1997 she was the first woman to be appointed Chief Medical Officer of Australia, and from 1999 to 2009 she served as Director of the John Curtin School of Medical Research and Howard Florey professor of Medical Research at the Australian National University (ANU). Whitworth has had an extensive involvement in national organisations and professional bodies over many decades. In honour of her longtime support to women in science the Judith Whitworth Fellowship for Gender Equity was established in 2014, based at the ANU. She was the ACT Australian of the Year for 2004.

Judith Whitworth was inscribed on the ACT Women’s Honour Roll in 2004.

McGuire, Ethel Clarice MBE, JP
(1923 – 2011)

Social worker

Described in obituaries as ‘a ruthless battler, hard to beat’, and ‘a fiery champion of the battlers’, Ethel McGuire was a founding member of the Australian Association of Social Workers. She married in 1953 requiring her to resign from her permanent position in the Commonwealth public service, but she returned as a full-time temporary officer by the early 1960s, eventually becoming Assistant Director of the Welfare Branch in the Department of the Interior. Ethel was the driving force in the establishment of social welfare services in Canberra and in 1963 was instrumental in the creation of the ACT Council of Social Service. She played key roles in numerous Catholic voluntary and professional activities including marriage guidance, adoption, the development of the Marymead Child and Family Centre and the formation of Catholic Social Services in Canberra. She was renowned for her formidable advocacy for people, especially children, in need.

Ethel Clarice McGuire was inscribed on the ACT Honour Walk in 2020.

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.

Caldicott, Helen Mary
(1938 – )

Medical practitioner, Nuclear disarmament activist

Helen Caldicott has achieved an international reputation as a tireless campaigner against nuclear power and weapons. Trained as a medical practitioner, she is acutely aware of the effects of radiation on living beings and on the environment. While living in the United States of America from 1977 to 1986, she formed the organisation called ‘Physicians for Social Responsibility’, serving as its president from 1978 to 1983. In the belief that women had a special role to play in the peace movement, she established Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament in 1986 and became a full-time anti-nuclear activist. She addressed anti-nuclear and peace rallies in Australia and around the world and wrote a number of books on the topic of nuclear disarmament.

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.

Mayo, Florence Josephine
(1886 – 1965)

Single mother, War widow

During World War I, Queanbeyan citizens, at a public meeting held soon after news that her husband, Private John Charles Mayo, had been killed in action at Bullecourt in 1917, decided to provide a home for Florence Mayo and her two young daughters. Raising money proved more difficult than expected and Florence, described as ‘a plucky woman’, partly financed her land and weatherboard cottage by taking out a mortgage. She lived in Queanbeyan for the rest of her life.

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

Love, Glenora Clara
(1887 – 1963)

Mother, War widow

On 27 April 1915, two days after the landing, Glenora Clara Love’s husband, Corporal Alfred Herbert Love, 14th Battalion AIF, was killed in action at Gallipoli. Glenora had had a troubled marriage but when she eventually received her husband’s diary, she read his last words to his ‘Dear Wife’. He wanted her to know, he wrote, that his ‘last thoughts were of her and of Essie my darling daughter’. Glenora’s marriage had been marked by two episodes when her husband had deserted her but once he began his diary on the day that he sailed from Australia he wrote only loving words of their relationship. The couple had a daughter, Esther, aged 8, and in 1912 had lost a son soon after birth. Glenora remarried two years after his death but the concerned letters she wrote to the Repatriation Department testify to her devotion to furthering her daughter Esther Love’s future.

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

Reid, Jessie Beatrice
(1875 – 1958)

Single mother, War widow

When her husband, Lt John Cecil Drury Reid, was killed near Messines on the Western Front on 10 June 1917, Jessie Beatrice Reid was left a widow with three young children. On 29 August 1917, she was granted £3-10-0 per fortnight widow’s pension, their son, Stanley Francis, nearly 4, received 20 shillings per fortnight; daughter Joan Innes, aged 2, 15 shillings per fortnight and Margaret Lyle, not yet one year old, 10 shillings per fortnight. Jessie, aged 43, devoted the next twenty years of her life to their upbringing and education.

Read a longer essay on Jessie Reid 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.

King, Jackie
(1975 – )

Director, Executive

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.

Harcourt, Alison
(1929 – )

Academic, Community stalwart, Statistician

Alison Harcourt (nee Doig) is an inspiring pioneer in mathematics, statistics and computer science. As a woman in an almost exclusively male field, her groundbreaking work from the 1950s on was often overshadowed. In recent years, however, the importance of her contributions has begun to be acknowledged more widely.

She is perhaps best known for developing integer linear programming – a basis of efficient computer processing – in a paper published with Ailsa Land in 1960. About 3000 academic journal articles have cited the paper since. This technique became know as Branch and Bound method and has numerous practical and mathematical applications. Earlier, Alison had been among the first users of CSIRAC, Australia’s first digital computer.

As well as her significant academic achievements, Alison is a stalwart in community organisations. For over 30 years Alison has been a volunteer deliverer for the Kew (and later Boroondara) Meals-on Wheels service. She has also played an active role in many other community organisations, including the Melbourne Film Festival (which later became the Melbourne International Film Festival) (secretary, 1955 – 56); the Kew Primary School Parents’ Association (secretary, 1980 – 84); a Council of Adult Education book group leader (secretary, 1998 – 2015); and a study group at the Leo Baeck Centre for Progressive Judaism (coordinator, 1999 – 2014).

Stralia, Elsa
(1881 – 1945)


Elsa was a famous soprano and was well-known in Australia, Europe and America. She gave herself the professional name Elsa Stralia in honour of her country of birth, Australia.

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.

Australian Women in Agriculture Movement
(1990 – )

Political organisation, Social action organisation

The Australian Women in Agriculture Movement had its beginnings in the state of Victoria. It involves a number of interconnected organisations, networks and community groups that emerged in Australia in the 1990s, although its roots spread back through the previous decade. It was driven by the desire of farm women for visibility and recognition of their contribution, for a greater role in decision making, and for a hearing for their broader concerns, which focussed on community, social justice and the environment, as well as productivity

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’.

Mitchell, Sibyl Elyne
(1913 – 2002)

Cattle Farmer, Community worker, Skier, Writer

Elyne Mitchell is an Australian writer who is best known for the Silver Brumby series of children’s books.

Dow, Hilda May
(1897 – 1991)

Community worker, Pharmacist

Hilda Dow (nee Grey) was the daughter of police magistrate Charles Grey, and sister of Royal Melbourne Hospital Lady Superintendent Helene Grey, OBE. Hilda Grey became a student of the Victorian College of Pharmacy in 1919. In 1929, she was working at Poynton’s pharmacy in Morwell, when she purchased the pharmacy at Chiltern in Victoria. She was elected to the Pharmaceutical Society of Victoria as a member in 1930 Hilda apprenticed her husband, Roy Dow, and the two ran the pharmacy in Chiltern until 1968, when they closed the doors. In 1988 Mrs Dow donated the pharmacy, which had been operating on the site since 1859, intact to the National Trust, and it is now a museum. Hilda Dow was a foundation member of the North East branch of the National Trust, a member of the hospital committee and board, of the Infant Welfare Centre and the Red Cross, and a member and office bearer of the Chiltern Branch of the County Women’s Association.

Johnson, Lyn
(1940 – )

Cheesemaker, Dairy Farmer, Rural leader, Women in Agriculture Movement

Lyn Johnson, in partnership with her husband Rob, was a dairy farmer in Gippsland in Victoria. Together they planned and led study tours for dairy farmers to the USA, Canada, the UK and Europe, starting the Tarago River Cheese Company on their return. The successful organisation and activism of American rural women inspired. Lyn’s own active commitment to the movement, and to women at the grass roots level in particular. Her work to have women’s role in agriculture acknowledged, and their voice heard, has included involvement in the organisation of the First International Women in Agriculture Conference, and the Women on Farms Gatherings.

Dunn, Dorothy Joan
(1937 – )

Community activist, Farmer

Dorothy Dunn lost her husband in the 1979 Streatham, Victoria bushfires. She decided to continue to run their farm on her own, and quickly realised that farming in Australia was seen as a male profession. The contribution of women was invisible, and they had little influence in decision making at any level. In 1992 she attended a meeting of similar minded women in Ballarat, Victoria, convened by Liz Hogan, a Project Officer with the Rural Women’s Network. Out of the meeting, the peak body Australian Women in Agriculture was formed, with Dorothy as inaugural president. Her presidency and long history of work as an advocate for the role of women in agricultural policy making was recognised with an AO in 1999.

The Knickers Fund
(1998 – 2006)

Philanthropic organisation

The Knickers Fund was  a philanthropic fund initiated and ultimately administered by the Central Victorian Women in Agriculture Inc. from 1998 to 2006. The fund aimed to give ‘women in tragedy a glimpse of humour and of caring’, from farm women to farm women, to enable them to buy the small, and otherwise impossible, comforts which helped them face the demands of a particularly challenging time, such as economic crisis, or the aftermath of floods after drought.  

Central Victorian Women in Agriculture Inc.
(1994 – 2006)

Social activist organisation

The Central Victorian Women in Agriculture group was formed in the aftermath of the First International Women in Agriculture Conference.  Many of its original members had helped to organise the conference, and the organisation aimed to support women of Central Victoria to achieve the goals highlighted by the conference:   to establish a supportive network, stimulate women to recognise and value their skills and abilities, to give women the chance to gain confidence and make a difference in their industry and community, to encourage and provide knowledge and practical skills, and to strengthen Australian agriculture through strong partnerships. The organisation was successful in its aims, its members going on to positions on industry boards, as representatives of state and national organisations, and in local government , and it was wound up in 2006. 

Chambers, Joy
(1942 – )

Farmer, Social activist

Joy Chambers was born in the Strathbogie ranges, into a faming family, and married a central Victorian farmer. After her retirement from teaching, and acting on her belief that the important role women played in agriculture should be recognised and encouraged, she took an active role in what became known collectively as the Women in Agriculture movement. She became a member of FarmAdvance, and was on the steering committee of the 1994 First International Women in Agriculture conference, working on publicity. After the conference, Joy was a founding member of the Central Victorian Women in Agriculture Group (CVWiA). She organised the workshops for the 1997 Bendigo Women on Farms Gathering, which the CVWiA organised, and instigated the Knickers Fund, which the group administered. Joy was active in the anti-GM (genetically modified foods) lobby, and the broadacre family farm has been granted organic accreditation.. 

Dietrich, Laurene
(1951 – )

Community worker, Feminist

After an early career in teaching, Laurene Dietrich moved into the area of community development, working on a number of projects which reflected her commitment to social justice and equity, particularly in regard to rural women. She was the first equal opportunity officer at the Bendigo campus of La Trobe University, and was employed to work on the organisation of the First International Women in Agriculture Conference

Carmichael, Grace Elizabeth Jennings
(1867 – 1904)

Nurse, Poet

Grace Carmichael worked as a nurse and poet, and during her lifetime contributed many poems to newspapers and published her own book of verse in 1895. Grace is best known by her pen name Jennings Carmichael. The Australian poets Henry Lawson and Henry Tate have both written poems about her.