• Entry type: Person
  • Entry ID: AWE0011

Owen, Mary

(1921 – 2017) Mary Owen
  • Nationality Australian
  • Born 8 February, 1921, Balwyn Victoria Australia
  • Died 23 March, 2017, Victoria Australia
  • Occupation Trade unionist, Women's liberationist


Mary Owen was founding Coordinator of The Working Women’s Centre Melbourne, 1975-1986, when it was absorbed into the Australian Council of Trade Unions. She was a staff member of AAESDA (Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors & Draughtsmen of Australia), 1965 -1975 and a member of La Trobe University Council 1983-1990. She was appointed Deputy Chancellor of La Trobe University 1989. A founding member of Emily’s List, Mary Owen was also a Member of the Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) for over forty-three years. She represented WEL on many Government committees, making a significant impact on policies advancing the status of women, especially the fight for equal pay.

In 1986 the first Mary Owen Dinner was organised in Melbourne to celebrate Mary’s retirement. Held annually, the event lasted twenty years. There was always a female keynote speaker and the audience, normally in the order of 600 women, wearing the feminist colours of purple, green and white, was a sight to behold. The last dinner was held in 2005.

Mary Owen was a very early supporter of the Australian Women’s Archives Project, which began as a community based organisation’s response to a request from Mary Owen for help with conserving the records of her long and varied contribution to public life.

Born in 1921, Mary was a woman who effected change – and made Australia a better, more equal place for all of us coming after her. She died 23 March, 2017.


  • 2001 - 2001

    Inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women

  • 1984 - 1984
  • 1977 - 1977

Published resources

  • Book
    • Getting Equal: the History of Australian Feminism, Lake, Marilyn, 1999
  • Edited Book
    • Women We Know, Harper, Jan and Lee, Jenny, 1988
    • A decade of Mary Owen dinners, Waterfield, Dorothy, 1995
    • Working Women: Discussion papers from the Working Women's Centre, Melbourne, Owen, Mary and Shaw, Sylvie, 1979
    • Living generously: women mentoring women, Scutt, Jocelynne A., 1996
  • Article
  • Book Section
    • The Political Participation of Women, Owen, Mary, 1980
    • Women's Rights in the Workplace: What's being done to improve them?, Owen, Mary, 1983
  • Conference Paper
    • Stress in the Workplace, Owen, Mary, 1982
  • Journal Article
    • Edna Minna Ryan, Owen, Mary, 1997
    • Why have a Working Women's Centre?, Owen, Mary, 1979
    • I confess I'd rather work for a few reforms, Owen, Mary, 1977
    • Discrimination - what does it mean?, Owen, Mary, 1978
    • What Choice for Women?, Owen, Mary, 1979
    • What came out of Copenhagen? The definition and relevance of education for women in developing countries, Owen, Mary, 1980
    • The Working Women's Centre, Owen, Mary, 1981
    • Making Affirmative Action Work, Owen, Mary, 1984
    • Women: a wastefully exploited resource, Owen, Mary, 1984, https://trove.nla.gov.au/version/52021989
  • Resource
    • 100 Years of Women's Suffrage 1908-2008: Reflection and Celebration, RMIT University Students from School of Architecture and Design and School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, 2007
    • Trove: Owen, Mary, http://nla.gov.au/nla.party-474560

Archival resources

  • The University of Melbourne Archives
    • Mary Owen Dinner 1986
    • Women's Electoral Lobby
    • Owen, Mary
    • Working Women's Centre Papers
  • State Library of Victoria
    • Papers of Mary Owen, 1951-2017, [manuscript].
  • National Library of Australia, Manuscript Collection
    • Papers of Edna Ryan, 1948-1993 [manuscript]
  • National Library of Australia
    • [Biographical cuttings on Mary Owen, co-ordinator of the Working Women's Centre, Melbourne, 1981, containing one or more cuttings from newspapers or journals]

Digital resources

Related entries

  • Sponsored
    • National Foundation for Australian Women (1989 - )
  • Founded
    • Working Women's Centre Melbourne (1975 - 1984)
  • Member
    • Women's Electoral Lobby Australia (1972 - )
  • Foundation Member
    • EMILY's List Australia (1996 - )
  • Published by
    • Sisters Publishing Ltd (1979 - 1983)