Title First women in Australian parliaments: historical note.
Database Library Publications
Date 01-06-1997
Source RESEARCH NOTES (INFORMATION AND RESEARCH SERVICES)
Author LARMOUR, Consie
WILSON, Janet, (DPS)
Citation Id MVF30
Cover date 1 June, 1997
Item Printed Item: 044451
Key Item No
Major subject Franchise (Right to vote)
Women in politics
Pages 2p., table
Text online yes
Volume no.55


First women in Australian parliaments: historical note.

D e p a r t m e n t o f t h e P a r l i a m e n t a r y L i b r a r y

Information and

Research

Services

RESEARCH NOTE Number 55, June 1997 ISSN 1328-8016 First Women in Australian Parliaments—Historical Note I have always held that the extension of the franchise to women would not benefit them [but]...I do not think [it] will result in any harm.1Although New Zealand was the first country in the world to accord the vote to women in 1893, South Australia led the world in not only enfranchising women in 1894 but also making them eligible to sit in Parliament. By 1909 all Australian States and the Commonwealth had enfranchised most women (see table). Property qualifications applied initially for some upper houses. Federally, Aboriginal women (and men) were not accorded the vote until 1962 and even then enrolment provisions limited their electoral participation. Although Australia was seen as a pioneer of women's political rights, it had the greatest time lag of all western democratic countries between the eligibility of women to stand for the national legislature and their actual election to it—41 years. The sequence of women's enfranchisement in Australian legislatures was as follows: South Australia The Constitution Amendment Bill 1894 gave women both the right to vote and to sit in Parliament.2 Although it was the first Australian State and the first legislature in the world to give women the right to sit in Parliament, it was the last of the Australian States to elect a woman to its lower house, in 1959. Western Australia Women won the right to vote in Western Australia, through the Constitution Acts Amendment Act 1899, but they did not win the right to sit in the State Parliament until 1920, 1. Senator Fraser, speaking on the Commonwealth Franchise Bill, 10 April 1902, Hansard, p 11556. 2. Women's right to nominate for the Legislative Council was clarified by the Constitution Act Amendment Act 1959, deemed to have come into operation on 1.1.1959. with the passage of the Parliament

(Qualification of Women) Bill. Edith Cowan (Nationalist) was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1921, becoming Australia's first woman Parliamentarian. The first time a woman was elected to the Legislative Council was in 1954.

Commonwealth Parliament With Federation in 1901 women of some States had the right to vote and others did not. The Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 gave women both the right to vote in Federal elections and the right to sit in Federal

Parliament. In 1943 the first women entered the Commonwealth

Parliament: Dame Enid Lyons was elected to the House of

Representatives and Dorothy Tangney was elected to the Senate.

New South Wales Women in New South Wales gained the right to vote through the Women’s Franchise Act 1902 but did not gain the right to sit in the lower house until 1918, when the Women’s Legal Status Bill was passed. The first woman was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1925. Women gained the right to sit in the Legislative Council through the Constitution (Amendment) Act 1926 and were first represented in the upper house in 1931, when MLCs were appointed by the Governor, for life. The Constitution and Parliamentary Electorates and Elections

(Amendment) Act 1978 provided for a popularly elected upper house and women were elected to the Legislative Council at its first election in 1978.

Tasmania Women gained the right to vote in 1903 with the passage of the

Constitution Act Amendment Bill, but did not gain the right to sit in the State Parliament until 1921 under the Constitution Act. The first women were not elected to the House of Assembly until 1955, over a decade after Dame Enid Lyons was elected to the Federal Parliament. The first woman was elected to the Legislative Council in 1948.

Queensland The Elections Acts Amendment Act 1905 gave women the right to vote in State elections. Women received the right to sit in Parliament through the Elections Act 1915. The first woman was elected to the Queensland

Parliament in 1929. The Legislative Council was abolished in 1922 and had been an appointed, rather than directly elected, chamber; no women ever sat in the Council.

Victoria Although Victoria was the first State in which a strong women's suffrage movement was organised, it was the last of the States to grant women's suffrage. Women gained the right to vote finally with the passage of the Adult Suffrage Bill 1908 but did not gain the right to sit in the State

Parliament until 1923 through the Parliamentary Elections (Women Candidates) Act, again the last State to do so. The first woman was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1933, at a by-election, and no women were elected to the Legislative Council until 1979.

ACT and NT Women were always able to vote and be represented in the Territories’ elected bodies.

Janet Wilson Politics and Public Administration Group Consie Larmour Social Policy Group

Information and Research Services

Phone: 06 277 2626 Fax: 06 277 2532

Views expressed in this Research Note are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Information and

Research Services and are not to be

attributed to the Department of the

Parliamentary Library. Research Notes provide concise analytical briefings on issues of interest to Senators and Members. As such they may not canvass all of the key issues.

© Commonwealth of Australia

Australian Women: Eligibility to Vote, to Sit and First Women Elected to Australian Parliaments

Parliament

Date eligible to vote (assent or commence-

ment date)

Date of first election eligible to vote

Date eligible to sit

(assent or commence-ment date)

Date of first election eligible to stand

Date first woman elected

Name

Party

Electorate

(single-member unless otherwise specified)

SA House of Assembly

21.3.1895

25.4.1896

21.3. 1895

25.4.1896

7.3.1959

Joyce Steele

LCL

Burnside

SA Legislative Council‡

21.3.1895

22.5.1897

1.1.1959

1

7.3.1959

7.3.1959

Jessie Cooper

LCL

Central No. 2

2

WA Legislative Assembly

18.5. 1900

24.4.1901

3.11.1920

12.3.1921

12.3.1921

Edith Cowan

Nationalist

West Perth

WA Legislative Council‡

18.5. 1900

29.8.1900

3.11.1920

13.5. 1922

8.5.1954

Ruby Hutchinson

ALP

Suburban

House of Representatives

12.6.1902

16.12.1903

12.6.1902

16.12.1903

21.8.1943

Dame Enid Lyons

UAP

Darwin (Tas)

Senate

12.6.1902

16.12.1903

12.6.1902

16.12.1903

21.8.1943

Do rothy Tangney

ALP

WA

3

NSW Legislative Assembly

27.8.1902

6.8. 1904

21.12.1918

25.3.1922

30.5.1925

Millicent Preston-Stanley

Nationalist

Eastern Suburbs

4

NSW Legislative Council - appointed

N/A

N/A

27.1.1926

N/A

23.11.1931

5

23.11.1931

Ellen Webster Catherine Green

ALP ALP

N/A N/A

NSW Legislative Council - popularly elected

10.8.1978

7.10.1978

10.8. 1978

7.10.1978

7.10.1978 7.10.1978 7.10.1978 7.10.1978

Virginia Chadwick Marie Fisher Deirdre Grusovin Dorothy Isaksen

Liberal ALP ALP ALP

N/A N/A N/A N/A

Tas House of Assembly

29.2. 1904

29.03.1906

14.2.1922

25.3.1922

19.2.1955 19.2.1955

Milly Best Mabel Miller

Liberal Liberal

Wilmot

6

Franklin

7

Tas Legislative Council†

29.10.1920

8

3.5.1921

14.2.1922

2.5.1922

8.5. 1948

Margaret McIntyre

Independent

Cornwall

Qld Legislative Assembly

1.1.1907

18.5.1907

23.11.1915

16.3.1918

11.5.1929

Irene Longman

Progressive Nationalist

Bulimba

Vic Legislative Assembly

31. 3.1909

16.11.1911

12.5. 1924

26.6.1924

11.11.1933

9

Lady Millie Peacock

UAP

Allandale

Vic Legislative Council‡

31.3. 1909

12.5.1924

12.5.1924

4.6.1925

5.5.1979 5.5.1979

Gracia Baylor Joan Coxsedge

Liberal ALP

Boronia Melbourne West

1 . A legal challenge to the nomination of women resulted in legisl ation, with backdated provisions, to enable women to stand for election. 2 . First elected in two-member district. 3 . Fourth elected at an election where four were elected (usual three plus a casual vacancy). Elected by preferential voting: PR introduced in 1949. 4 . Fifth elected in five-member district. Legislative A ssembly had multi-member electorates between 1918 and 1926. 5 .

Until 1934 members of the Legislative Council were appointed by the Governor; from 1934 to 1978 they were elected by both chamb ers.

6 . Elected fifth in six-member district. 7 . Elected first in six-member district. 8 . Vote extended only to women who had served as nurses in WWI ( Constitution (War Service Franchise) Act 1920. 9 . By-election to replace her late husband, a former Premier. ‡ Property qualifications applied. Removed in 1973 in South Australia (Constitution Act Amendment Act 1973 , assent 22.11.73); removed in 1963 in Western Australia ( Constitution Acts Amendment Act (No. 2) 1963, assent 17.12.63); removed in Victoria in 1950 ( Legislative Council Reform Act 1950 , assent 11.10.50). † Property and ex-service qualifications applied; removed by Constitution Act 1968 (assent 20.12.68).