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Some significant dates in the history of women in South Australia

This valuable chronology of events was prepared by the Women's Council of the Liberal Party of Australia (SA Division) in September 1983. We are greatly obliged for their permission to reproduce it here.

It is part of the diverse group of items in the Ephemera Collection of the Mortlock Library of South Australia. Several additions have been made to the original list of events, and it has also been been updated, by the SA Research & Family History team of the State Library of South Australia.

We welcome suggestions for adding to this chronology.


1840

'Poems & Recollections of the Past' by Fidelia S.T. Hill—first book of verse written by a woman published in Australia.

1854

'Clara Morison' by Catherine Helen Spence—first novel about Australia by a woman.

1859

'Song of Australia' composed with words by Caroline Carleton.

1861

Women property owners able to vote in municipal elections.

1866

Mary McKillop, first member and Superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, founded in Penola—first order founded by an Australian.

1875

Education compulsory for both sexes.

1876

Teaching began at University of Adelaide with more than half the initial enrolment being women.

 

Children's Hospital opened in King William Street with Miss E.J.M. MacKenzie, first Lady Superintendent.

1877

Edith Cook (later Hübbe) was the first woman to matriculate at the University of Adelaide.

1878

Catherine Helen Spence began preaching in the Unitarian Church.

 

The Home for Incurables was founded in 1878 to provide care for those who were suffering from a crippling disease without prospect of cure. The Home was the inspiration of Mrs Julia Farr, wife of the Reverend Mr George Farr, headmaster of the Collegiate School of St Peter. Julia Farr arrived in South Australia in 1854 with her husband and their daughter, Eleanora.

1879

Advanced School for Girls opened in Franklin Street—first Government secondary school for girls—Jane Stanes, Headmistress.

1880

First Adelaide Day Care Centre opened by Mrs. L. Corbin as The South Adelaide Creche.

 

Young Women's Christian Association formed.

1881

University of Adelaide admitted women to degrees—the first in Australia.

1884

Married Women's Property Act—married women legally entitled to own and manage property—previously held by husband or trustee.

1885

First Parliamentary Bill for the enfranchisement of women.

 

Edith Dornwell became the first woman graduate of the University of Adelaide and first person to graduate in Science.

1886

Woman's Christian Temperance Union formed—staunch advocates of the enfranchisement of women.

1888

Women's Suffrage League formed with Mary Lee, Secretary.

1890

Working Women's Trades Union formed to reform 'sweated' conditions of female clothing workers—Mary Lee, Vice President, Augusta Zadow, Treasurer.

1891

Laura Fowler became the first woman graduate in medicine in S.A.

1892

Shops and Factories Commission appointed to investigate the 'sweating' system.

1893

District Trained Nursing Society formed at Bowden to provide a free (or low cost) home nursing service for the poor.

1894

Constitution Amendment Act was passed, whereby all South Australian women over 21 became entitled to vote and stand for election for the South Australian Parliament.

 

Factory Act introduced.

 

Augusta Zadow appointed first female Factory Inspector.

1895

Catherine Helen Spence was the first woman in Australia to participate in an offical enquiry when she was appointed to the Commissions of Enquiry into the Adelaide Hospital.

1896

First election in Australia in which women voted—S.A.

 

Augusta Zadow died, and was replaced by Agnes Milne as Factory Inspector.

 

District Trained Nursing Society services extended to country areas.

 

[S.A. Married Women's Protection Act gave women legal protection against husbands.]

1897

Catherine Helen Spence became the first woman political candidate when she stood for the Federal Convention.

 

A Girls' Club for under-privileged girls and women was formed by Lady Victoria Buxton, wife of Governor. Jean Mills, first Honorary Matron.

 

Blanche McNamara became the first female Inspector of Schools in Australia.

1900

Lady Audrey Tennyson, wife of the Governor, moved for the establishment of a maternity home for poorer women, later known as The Queen's Home.

 

Sweating League formed to eradicate the 'sweating' system in male and female occupations.

1901

St. Joseph's Refuge opened at Fullarton.

 

1902

National Council of Women formed.

 

The Queen's Home (now Queen Victoria Hospital) opened by Lady Tennyson.

 

S.A. Co-operative Clothing Factory, established and run by women, opened in Blyth Street, Adelaide. It was the first electric powered clothing factory in the State. Catherine Helen Spence was President of the Board until her death in 1910.

1904

Legislative Council Select Committee into the Alleged Sweating Evil reported—Wages Boards formed as a result.

1905

First Wages Board established to regulate the wages of women and girls.

 

Kindergarten Union formed with Lucy Morice, Secretary.

1906

First free Kindergarten opened in Franklin Street, city.

1907

Kindergarten Training College opened in Adelaide with Lillian de Lissa, Principal.

1909

The School for Mothers (later Mothers and Babies Health Association, now Child, Adolescent and Family Health Service), opened in Franklin Street Kindergarten, due mainly to the efforts of Lucy Morice, Dr. Helen Mayo and Harriet Stirling.

 

Women's Non-Party Political Association (later League of Women Voters) formed to work for the interests of women and children and promote involvement in Government. Catherine Helen Spence, President.

1911

Liberal Women's Educational Association was formed (foundation of today's Liberal Party Women's Council).

 

Female Law Practitioners Act passed enabling women to practise Law.

1913

Dr. Helen Mayo and Harriet Stirling established a Babies' Hospital in Winchester Street, St. Peters.

 

First Medical Inspector appointed for State Schools—Dr. Gertrude Halley.

1914

Dr. Helen Mayo elected to the Council of the University of Adelaide. First woman elected to a University Council in Australia, she served continuously for 46 years.

 

Red Cross established in South Australia by Lady Maria Galway, wife of Governor.

1915

Kate Cocks appointed South Australia's first woman police constable. Kate Cocks and Annie Ross founded the South Australian Women Police Branch—first in British Empire. Kate Cocks became the first Principal of Women Police in S.A.

 

Dr. Helen Mayo, Harriet Stirling and Annie Hornabrook established the Babies' Hospital Association, and Mareeba Hospital in 1917.

1916

Mary Kitson became the first female graduate in Law in South Australia and the first woman in British Empire to be made a Notary Public.

1917

Lydia Longmore, first female Inspector of lower school grades. With volunteer teachers began Education Department correspondence lessons for outback and isolated children in 1918.

 

S.A. Women's Agricultural Bureau founded.

1919

Susan Grace Benny became the first Australian woman Local Government councillor, for Seacliff Ward, Brighton Council.

1920

Mary Edwards began first Mothers' Club at Norwood School.

1924

Adelaide Miethke, Inspector of Schools, played a major role in establishment of girls' technical training in S.A.

 

Dr. Constance Davey became the first psychologist appointed to the Education Department.

1925

Adoption of Children Act.

1927

Agnes Goode J.P. (Liberal) became the first woman pre-selected as a Parliamentary candidate in South Australia.

1929

Country Women's Association formed.

1936

Women of South Australia donated substantial funds through Women's Centenary Council, chaired by Adelaide Miethke, for Royal Flying Doctor Service.

1937

Home for unmarried women and their babies opened by the Methodist Social Welfare Department at Brighton, later became Kate Cocks Memorial Babies' Home.

1938

[First meeting of the S.A. International Women's Day Committee.]

 

Marie Skitch became the first woman endorsed by the Australian Labor Party as a Parliamentary candidate.

1939

Women's University College of St. Ann opened—Helen Mayo prominent in its establishment.

1943

War-time Child Centres opened for women working in war-time industry in South Australia.

1946

[First celebrations for International Women's Day in S.A.]

1947

Matron Vivien Bullwinkle became an associate of the Royal Red Cross and received the Florence Nightingale Award in recognition of her war-time service.

1950

First School of the Air broadcast—established due to efforts of Adelaide Miethke. Molly Ferguson became first full-time teacher.

1951

SA Medical Women's Society initiated an equal pay claim for women medical practitioners employed within the public hospital system.

1955

Nancy Buttfield (LCL) became the first South Australian woman elected to the Federal Parliament—Senate.

1957

Doris Taylor established Meals on Wheels service for aged pensioners.

1959

Jessie Cooper (LCL) became the first woman elected to the South Australian Legislative Council.

 

Joyce Steele (LCL) became the first woman elected to the South Australian House of Assembly.

1961

The oral contraceptive pill was introduced in Australia.

1965

Roma Mitchell appointed to the Supreme Court—first female judge in the British Commonwealth.

 

Molly Byrne became the first ALP woman elected to the South Australian House of Assembly.

1966

Kay Brownbill (LCL) became the first South Australian woman elected to the Federal House of Representatives.

 

Joyce Steele (LCL) became Opposition Whip, the first woman to hold that position in the South Australian Parliament.

 

Women sworn in for jury service for the first time.

 

[Formation of the Council of Aboriginal Women of S.A.]

1967

[Referendum gives (Aboriginal) Indigenous persons the vote.]

 

[Formation of National Council of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, including Women's Council, in Adelaide.]

1968

Joyce Steele (LCL) became the first woman to achieve Cabinet rank in South Australian Parliament as Minister of Education in Hall Government 1968-70.

1969

Abortion Law reform—Criminal Law Consolidation Act Amendment allowing terminations to be performed under certain circumstances.

 

S.A. women awarded equal pay for the same work as men.

 

[First Women's Liberation groups in Australia formed, in Adelaide.]

1970

Family Planning Association formed in S.A.

1972

Women's Electoral Lobby formed in S.A.

 

[First International Women's Day March in streets of Adelaide.]

 

Female teachers no longer forced to resign on marriage.

1973

Maternity and Paternity leave granted to South Australian employees, permanent and temporary, of Commonwealth Public Service.

 

S.A. Council for Children's Film & Television formed.

 

Nursing Mothers' Association of Australia (S.A. Branch) formed.

 

South Australian women awarded equal pay for work of equal value.

1975

United Nations International Women's Year.

 

Sex Discrimination Act—first in Australia.

 

Mary Beasley became first Commissioner for Equal Opportunity.

 

Anne Levy became first ALP woman elected to the South Australian Legislative Council.

 

Family Relationships Act.

 

The Hindmarsh Women's Community Health Centre was the first community controlled women's health service to be established in SA.

1976

Rape Crisis Centre opened.

 

Family Court (S.A. Registry) commenced operations under the Family Law Act 1975.

 

The offence of 'rape within marriage' recognised in law under the Criminal Law Consolidation Act Amendment Act, 1976.

 

Deborah McCulloch appointed first Women's Adviser to the Premier.

 

Office of child-care established within the Department of Social Security to administer Federal funding for children's services, including day-care, pre-schools and family support.

1977

Janine Haines became the first Australian Democrat Senator, appointed to fill a casual Senate vacancy for South Australia .

 

Permanent part-time work introduced in S.A. Public Service.

1978

Unpaid maternity leave granted to women in the S.A. Public Service.

 

Women's Information Switchboard established.

 

National Women's Advisory Council established with Judith Roberts first representative from S.A.

1979

United Nations International Year of the Child.

 

Maternity leave approved by S.A. Industrial Commission for five industrial awards, covering 50,000 women employed in the private sector. Leave also granted to some women employed under Federal awards.

1980

Janine Haines became the first Australian Democrat woman elected to the Senate (having been appointed to fill a casual vacancy in 1977.

1981

Establishment of the Adelaide Women's Community Health Centre—first women's community health centre to be incorporated under the S.A. Health Commission Act.

 

Home for Incurables renamed the Julia Farr Centre.

1982

Justices' Act amended to give adequate protection to women trapped in violent domestic situations.

 

S.A. Health Commission becomes Australia's first major Statutory Authority with equal numbers of women and men appointed as commissioners.

 

Heather Southcott became first Australian Democrat woman elected to the S.A. House of Assembly.

 

Meredith Crome became the first woman President of the Local Government Association.

 

Introduction of amendments to Sex Discrimination Act to prohibit discrimination on the ground of pregnancy and to recognise that sexual harassment is a form of discrimination.

1983

Wendy Chapman became the first female Lord Mayor of Adelaide.

 

Rosemary Crowley became the first ALP woman elected to the Senate.

 

Adelaide University established Australia's first research centre for women's studies with a full-time director, Susan Magarey.

 

Mary Beasley, a member of the state Public Service Board, was appointed Acting Chairman, the first time a woman had held such office in Australia.

1984

The South Australian Health Commission established the Dale Street Women's Community Health Centre, Elizabeth Women's Community Health Centre and the Southern Women's Community Health Centre.

 

Dr Lois O'Donoghue CBE AM (her Aboriginal name is Lowitja) was honoured as Australian of the Year in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the welfare of Aboriginal people.

1985

Barbara Wiese became the first woman in the ALP and the Legislative Council to hold the office of Minister. Her portfolios included Tourism, Local Government, Youth Affairs.

 

June Appleby of the ALP became Government Whip in the House of Assembly, the first woman in the South Australian Parliament to hold that office.

 

Mary Beasley was appointed South Australia's Ombudsman, the first woman Ombudsman in Australia.

1986

Anne Levy of the ALP became the President of the Legislative Council, the first woman to be a Presiding Officer of a House of Parliament in Australia.

 

Janine Haines appointed Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats.

1989

Carolyn Pickles of the ALP became the first woman to hold the office of Government Whip in the Legislative Council.

1990

Janine Haines became Parliamentary Leader of the Australian Democrats—first woman to lead an Australian political party.

 

Dr Lois O'Donoghue CBE AM became the inaugural Chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and held that position until 1996.

1995

Julia Farr Centre changed to Julia Farr Services (JFS) to reflect the changing focus and range of services.

1996

Natasha Stott Despoja at 27, became the youngest woman ever elected to the Federal Parliament, representing the Australian Democrats and South Australia in the Senate.

1997

Dame Roma Mitchell became the first woman in Australia, and only the fourth Australian, to be invested with the Cross of Merit with Crown, by the Soverign Military Order of St John, (also known as The Order of Malta) in honour of her dedication to the sick and underprivileged.

 

Senator Meg Lees was elected leader of the Australian Democrats and Senator Natasha Stott Despoja was elected deputy leader.

1998 Muriel Chaplin became the first woman in the world to be appointed Grand Master of an Independent Order of Odd Fellows Fraternity Grand Lodge.

2000

Dame Roma Mitchell, former Governor of South Australia;  pioneering judge and lawyer, died at the age of 86.

2007

Julie Bishop became the first female deputy leader of the Liberal Party of Australia.

2008

Sarah Hanson-Young of the Australian Greens, became the youngest member of the federal parliament, breaking the previous record set by Natasha Stott-Despoja.

2009

Isobel Redmond of the Liberal Party of South Australia was appointed Leader of the Opposition and held the post until January 2013.

2010

Julia Gillard of the Australian Labor Party became the first female Prime Minister of Australia. She was deposed by Kevin Rudd in June 2013.

The Australian Labor Party’s Penny Wong was the first Malaysian born and openly gay minister appointed to the Australian parliament.

Kelly Vincent of the Dignity for Disability Party (SA) was the first Australian politician to be elected on the platform of rights for people with a disability.

 
   
 
 

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