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Owen, Mary
(1921 – 2017)

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.

Street, Jessie Mary Grey
(1889 – 1970)

Feminist, Suffragette

Jessie Street was recognised nationally and internationally for her activism in women’s rights, social justice and peace. Street campaigned for equality of status for women, equal pay, the appointment of women to public office and the election of women to parliament. Co-founder of the New South Wales Social Hygiene Association (1916) and Co-founder (1928) and President of the United Associations of Women, she was the only woman on the Australian delegation to the founding conference of the United Nations in 1945 and established the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the Charter of Women’s Rights.

Ryan, Lyndall
(1943 – )

Academic, Educator, Feminist, Historian

Lyndall Ryan was a member of the first Sydney Women’s Liberation Group in 1970. In 1974 she joined the Commonwealth Public Service as a policy analyst on women’s health and child care. She became an academic in 1977 and has held positions in Australian Studies and Women’s Studies at Griffith and Flinders Universities. She was appointed to the position of Foundation Professor of Australian Studies and Head of School of Humanities at the University of Newcastle in 1998.

Levy, Anne
(1934 – )


Anne Levy was the first woman to preside in any house of any Parliament in Australia. She was elected to the South Australian Legislative Council in 1975 where she remained until 1997. In 1986 she became the President of the Legislative Council – the first woman to be a Presiding Officer of a House of Parliament in Australia. She held various Ministerial positions between 1989-1993, including first ever Minister for the Status of Women in Australia.

Read, Robyn

Journalist, Parliamentarian, Political candidate, Politician, Public servant, Tutor, Writer

Robyn Read was an independent member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in the seat of North Shore from 1988 until 1991. She failed to gain re-election in the 1991 by-election. Prior to her parliamentary career, Robyn was a successful local councillor and was Alderman for the North Sydney Municipal Council from 1970-77 and 1987-91 and was also Deputy Mayor from 1974-75.

Geason, Susan
(1926 – )

Editor, Journalist, Women's liberationist, Writer

Most of Geason’s professional life centred on politics and writing, often a combination of both, including positions as a researcher in Parliament House, Canberra; Cabinet Adviser in the New South Wales Premier’s Department; and head of information in what is now the Environment Protection Authority. Since 1988 she has worked as a freelance writer and editor, and from 1992 till 1997, was literary editor of the Sydney weekly newspaper, the Sun-Herald.

Coleman, Marie Yvonne
(1933 – )

Educator, Feminist, Journalist, Medical Social Worker, Public servant, Researcher, Social activist, Statutory Office Holder

Marie Coleman was the first woman to head a Commonwealth Government statutory agency, and the first woman to hold the powers of Permanent Head under the Public Service Act. She was founding Secretary of the National Foundation for Australian Women, one of the NFAW Board of Directors who worked to establish the Australian Women’s Archives Project (AWAP), and remains active in community organisations and public life in her retirement. She was awarded the Public Service Medal in 1989 for contributions to public administration. In 2001 she was awarded the Centenary Medal. In 2011 she was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia.