Innovative Women in Australia's History
We often hear about men being the leaders and pioneers in Australia's history, but what about the women who were breaking barriers and making history on their own? Women in Australia have been making waves for centuries, and their contributions to society deserve recognition.
Innovation and contributions to society know no gender, but history hasn't always been kind to recognising women's accomplishments. In Australia, there have been many trailblazing women whose remarkable work and achievements have changed the course of history.
Lottie Lyell was an Australian actress, writer, and producer. She co-wrote and starred in several films with her partner, Raymond Longford. Both of them created and championed the character of "The Sentimental Bloke," one of the most beloved figures in Australian cinema history. At the time, Lyell's contributions went largely unacknowledged because she was a woman. However, in recent years, historians and film enthusiasts have recognized her for her vital role in Australia's early cinema industry. In 2020, the National Film and Sound Archive honoured her with the Ken G Hall Film Preservation Award for her significant contribution to the Australian film industry.
Enid Lyons is most known for being the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives in Canberra. Lyons was also an author and journalist, having worked at the Burnie Advocate in Tasmania. She used this platform to discuss political issues, social topics, and promote women's rights in Australia. After winning the seat for Darwin in 1943, she was dedicated to fighting for greater social issues and improving the quality of life for working-class Australians. In honour of her extraordinary contributions, a federal electorate division in Tasmania has been named in her name, and in 1980, she became the first female member of the Order of Australia.
Evelyn Scott was the first woman to sit on the Brisbane City Council in 1949 and the first female Lord Mayor in Queensland in 1962. She was a staunch advocate for women's rights, encouraging the Queensland parliament to legalise abortion and advocating for equal pay for equal work. Scott was a trailblazer in her willingness to challenge gender norms; she refused to wear hats, gloves, or carry a purse, demanding that she should be known for her work and not her style. After her death in 1987, the track that runs beside the Brisbane River was named the Evelyn Scott Track in her honour.
Edith Cowan was the first woman to be elected to an Australian Parliament in 1921. She used her platform to fight for social welfare issues, women's rights, and better conditions in mental asylums. Despite facing criticism for her gender and concern that she wouldn't be respected because she was a woman, she continued to fight for her causes. Her work laid the foundations for greater acceptance of women in Australian politics and paved the way for future female politicians. To honour her accomplishments, Cowan University in Perth, and a federal electorate division in Western Australia both have been named after her.
Mary Reibey was a convict who arrived in Australia from England in 1792. Despite the obstacles she faced as a convict, she eventually found a way to become one of the most successful businesswomen in early Australian history. She became a respected leader in the trading industry, and her entrepreneurial spirit helped her build a mini empire that included ships and properties. Reibey used her success to give back to society, donating generously to charitable causes.
Germaine Greer is a feminist author and academic best known for her groundbreaking book, The Female Eunuch, which was published in 1970. The book challenged traditional gender roles and sparked a crucial conversation about women's rights that continues to this day. Greer's work has had a significant impact on feminist theory, and she continues to be an outspoken advocate for women's rights.
Catherine Hamlin was an Australian obstetrician and gynaecologist who dedicated her life to helping women in Ethiopia suffering from childbirth injuries. She co-founded the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia, which has helped countless women recover from childbirth injuries that can ruin their lives. Hamlin's work has saved and improved the lives of countless women and has earned her international recognition and praise.
Ruby Payne-Scott was an Australian physicist who made significant contributions to the field of radio astronomy. She was one of the first women to work in this field, and her work helped establish radio astronomy as a legitimate area of scientific research. Payne-Scott's achievements were all the more impressive given the sexist attitudes prevalent in the scientific community during her time.
These women's stories of innovation, bravery and resilience are a testament to their impact on Australia's society and history. Their courage and determination in the face of adversity are inspiration for women today, as we continue to fight for the equal representation of women in all fields
These women are just a few examples of the countless women in Australia's history who have broken barriers, challenged norms, and fought for their rights. Their contributions have had a lasting impact on Australian society, and they continue to inspire women today to pursue their dreams and make a difference in their communities. The diversity of their achievements serves as a reminder that women can excel in any field they choose. We must never forget their hard work and dedication, and we need to continue championing women's rights and fight for true equality.
By recognising these groundbreaking women's achievements, our society can celebrate their work and inspire future generations to continue supporting gender equality.
18 Sep 2023