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‘She deserves a statue’: Australia’s first female MP barely recognised in her home town

‘She deserves a statue’: Australia’s first female MP barely recognised in her home town

On this day, 100 years ago, a woman by the name of Edith Dircksey Cowan beat Western Australia’s attorney-general to develop into the first female member of parliament in Australia and the 2nd in the British Empire.

But, even in her home town of Geraldton on the Mid West coast, now not many other folks know about this champion of ladies’s rights.

Early Newspaper

Surprise victory

At the age of 59, the Nationalist’s victory came as a surprise, when she beat Thomas Draper who, in a twist of fate, was the one to amend the state’s electoral act to allow ladies to stand for parliament.

Whereas elected in March, Cowan did now not make her inaugural speech till late July and was now not afforded the traditional admire of an uninterrupted speech, with many opposing the presence of a woman in parliament.

“I know many other folks think perhaps that it was now not the wisest thing to carry out to send a woman into parliament, and perhaps I may serene remind individuals that certainly a number of the reasons why ladies and men also regarded as it advisable to carry out so was because it was felt that men need a reminder typically from ladies beside them that will make them realise all that can be accomplished for the race and for the home,” Cowan said.

She stood for ladies and adolescents, and in her maiden speech, she made it clear she wanted change.

“As a woman, I desire class consciousness of every kind to be eliminated,” Cowan said.

“Better … to ranking on all together and work for the total of the neighborhood than to be talking about class consciousness in an age and time love this.”

Tragic early lifestyles

Old photo of Edith Cowan, she is not smiling or looking at camera. She wears a dark dress and a white neck piece.

At 18, Edith Brown married James Cowan, the registrar of the Supreme Court docket of Western Australia.(

Equipped: State Library of WA


Cowan did now not have an easy start in lifestyles.

Born on August 2, 1861, at Glengarry, near Geraldton, her mother died during childbirth when she was correct seven years aged.

When she was 15, her father, Kenneth Brown, an alcoholic with a history of abuse, shot his 2nd partner dead in their home in Geraldton.

He was chanced on responsible of execute and hanged for his crime.

Geraldton historian Rita Stinson grew up in the same condominium on Glengarry Station where Cowan was born.

She said Cowan’s tough childhood arguably influenced her activism for ladies and adolescents.

“The things that she fought for, for ladies have been way past her time,” Mrs Stinson said.

“This was much less popular — she was a firm advocate of state faculties introducing intercourse education.”

Paving the way for ladies today

Cowan supported the establishment of the College of Western Australia and fought against the levying of university charges.

Previous to entering parliament, she advocated for day nurseries for ladies in employment. Cowan also helped in the enchancment of the Childhood’s Safety Society, leading to the establishment of the Childhood’s Court docket in 1906.

In 1915, she was appointed certainly a number of the first justices of the courtroom. She also campaigned for ladies to be appointed for the characteristic of justice of the peace.

She successfully moved for the 2nd reading of the Ladies’s Legal Status Invoice, which eventually allowed ladies to develop into lawyers and solicitors.

Cowan fully served one term in parliament, losing the seat of West Perth in both 1924 and again in 1927.

Calls for extra recognition

Old picture, black and white, of Edith Cowan wearing fancy dress. She is half smiling and there is writing on the photo.

Edith Cowan was now not re-elected after one term.(

Equipped: State Library of WA


In Perth, Edith Cowan College is named after Cowan and she features on Australia’s $50 brand.

But in her home town, Geraldton, the fully tribute to the woman who paved the way for thus many others is a small park exterior the police station called “Edith Cowan Square”.

Mrs Stinson said she deserved extra than a square, which is the favoured situation for protests and activism.

“All my lifestyles, Edith Cowan has been certainly one of my heroes,” she said.

Pass over Westralia involves town

The unusual musical, Pass over Westralia, will tour Western Australia, detailing the lifestyles of Geraldton born Beryl Mills, who was the first Pass over Australia.

Geraldton-based creative producer Jody Quadrio said this manufacturing would allow them to highlight other prominent ladies in the location’s past, love Edith Cowan, who may now not be recognised locally.


Jody Quadrio says she would love to verify extra of Geraldton’s prominent ladies celebrated.(

ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Laura Meachim


“There are now not a lot of ladies who are recognised in history,” she said.

“There are so many ladies who have contributed to a quantity of causes, and there are quantity of things in society that [are] in place today because they labored hard for it.”

Despite growing up in Geraldton, Quadrio said she did now not know Cowan was from the town till taking on the unusual challenge.

“She deserves a statue, Edith Cowan,” Quadrio said.

‘She deserves a statue’: Australia’s first female MP barely recognised in her home town