Kay Brownbill, Isobel Redmond and Vicki Chapman add to firsts for women in politics

Kay Brownbill and Isabel Redmond created two female firsts for South Australian Liberal MPs.
Image courtesy State Library of South Australia and South Australian Parliament House

Kay Brownbill (Liberal Country League) unleashed off another wave of South Australian political firsts in 1966 when elected to the federal House of Representatives for the seat of Kingston.

Heather Southcott was the first Australian Democrats woman elected to the House of Assembly in 1982.

In 1986, Janine Haines, a former maths and English teacher, created a first by being elected leader of the Australian Democrats party.

Her deputy was Natasha Stott Despoja, the youngest woman elected to federal parliament (a record taken by the Greens’ Sarah Hanson-Young in 2008) and, later, the youngest to lead a political party.

Ruby Hammond was the first Aboriginal woman candidate for the state parliament in 1988.

The Liberal Party’s Isobel Redmond broke another barrier as leader of the opposition (2009-13). Vicki Champman became the state's first deputy premier for the Liberal government in 2018.

In 2010, Kelly Vincent of the Dignity for Disability Party (SA) was the first Australian politician elected on the platform of rights for people with a disability.

At the time of her election, Vincent was the youngest woman in an Australian Parliament and the first South Australian parliamentarian to use a wheelchair.

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Advanced School's Emily Dornwell excels as Adelaide University's first female graduate

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19th Century concept of women as property feeds into ongoing domestic violence

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Mary Lee a prime mover in Social Purity Society, Women's Suffrage League, women's union

A widow who'd given birth to seven children, Mary Lee, 58, migrated from Ireland to South Australia with a daughter in 1879 to care for a sick son. Lee campaigned passionately for women when they had few rights and poor work conditions. Her campaigns started as ladies secretary of the Social Purity Society, which had the age of consent for girls raised from 12 to 16. She was important in forming the South Australian Women’s Suffrage League in 1888. As secretary, Lee steered campaigns, petitions and deputations. At an 1889 meeting in Adelaide Town Hall on sweated labour, Lee called for women’s trade unions to address long hours and low pay in the clothing and boot trades. Lee was founding secretary of the Working Women’s Trade Union (1890–92). Through the 1890s depression, Lee served on the United Trades and Labour Council's distressed women and children’s committee. In 1896, Lee was appointed the first and only female official visitor to the Lunatic Asylum (1896–1908). Mary Lee’s final years were impoverished but she remained defiant and proud of her achievements.

Muriel Matters: actor becomes London activist for women's voting and helping poor children

Muriel Matters, a teenager in 1895 when South Australia achieved the world first of giving women both the right to vote and to stand for election to parliament. Matters went on to take up the fight for those rights in Britain. But, as with South Australian suffragettes, Matters took up wider concerns such as gender equality, access to education, and poverty.  Born in Adelaide’s inner-city Bowden, Matters studied music at Adelaide University but went to London in 1905 to further an acting career.

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