Molly Byrne, Anne Levy lead Labor women into House of Assembly and Legislative Council

 

In 1965, Molly Byrne led the way for Labor female parliamentarians as a member of the House of Assembly for the seat of Tea Tree Gully.

Anne Levy in 1975 was first Labor woman in the Legislative Council and, in 1986, its president. This made her the first presiding office of any house of parliament in Australia. 

Barbara Wiese (1985) was the first Labor woman and Legislative Council member to be a minister, from 1985 to 1994, mainly in the tourism portfolio

June Appleby (1985, House of Assembly) and Carolyn Pickles (1989, Legislative Council) were the first women government whips.

Labor’s Penny Wong, a minister in the federal government of Adelaide’s Julia Gillard, was the first Malaysian-born and openly gay minister.

 

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South Australian Film Corporation's Lottie Lyell Award 100 years after 'Woman Suffers'

The South Australian Film Corporation launched an award in 2018 to commemorate Lottie Lyell’s trail-blazing impact on the Australia screen industry and to give significant financial support to a female-driven screen project. The annual $20,000 Lottie Lyell Award will be for a female film practitioner, based in South Australia, to develop or deliver a work – feature film, TV series, documentary, script or game – that’s bold, ambitious and full of promise. The award marked a century since Lottie Lyell starred in Australia’s first feminist film The Woman Suffers, also the first feature made by Southern Cross Feature Film Co, the first production company founded in South Australia. Screen pioneer Lyell was a writer, producer, director, editor and art director, and an accomplished horsewoman who did all her own stunts. Together with her partner in work and life Ray Longford, she made 28 films. They had been working together since 1909 as actors in a touring theatre company. Longford directed her in the film of The Fatal Wedding in 1911. Their second film, The Romantic Story of Margaret Catchpole, established her as Australia’s first female film star. Lyell became Longford’s partner in the making of their films and in their private life. The Woman Suffers, filmed in Adelaide when Lyell was 27, was their 13th film together since 1911. The next year they made The Sentimental Bloke, the most successful Australian film of its day. She appeared in all of Longford’s films as director up until On Our Selection, made in 1920 ( he is credited as co-writer). Lyell died of tuberculosis in 1925, aged 35. 

Roma Mitchell becomes Australia’s first female QC, supreme court judge, state governor

Roma Mitchell set a series of firsts for Australian women as a judge, Queen's Counsel, chancellor of Adelaide University and a governor of South Australia. She was also a pioneer of the Australian women’s rights movement. Mitchell served on many committees and contributed actively to many organisations, particularly those concerned with education, heritage, arts, equal opportunities and human rights. She was patron of the Centenary of Women's Suffrage in 1994.

 

 

South Australian govt opens Advanced School giving girls first chance for secondary education

The Advanced School for Girls, in Franklin and then Grote streets, opened in 1879 as the first government secondary school. Before that, boys could get a secondary education at private schools but there was none for girls. The Education Act 1875, making education compulsory for all, acknowledged women’s changing role, especially for them to fill the need for well-educated teachers. The Advanced School provided almost two thirds of Adelaide University's earliest female graduates. 

South Australia's women achieve Jeremy Bentham's wish for their legal equality

Jeremy Bentham’s desire to correct the legally inferior position of women prompted him to choose, at age 11, a life as a social reformer. Bentham wanted complete legal equality between sexes yet he thought women were inferior in “strength of intellectual powers” and “firmness of mind”. But South Australian women achieved legal equality by being the first in the world to gain both the right to vote and stand for parliament in the 1890s – plus honours in education – by being intellectually strong.

 

Helen Mayo lowers infant mortality with Mothers and Babies Health Association

Helen Mayo took maternal and infant health and welfare in South Australia and Australia to new heights. After matriculating at the Advanced School for Girls in 1895, she topped her class in medicine at Adelaide University. Mayo gained wider knowledge from two years working in infant health in England, Ireland and India. Returning in 1906, she started a private practice and was clinical bacteriologist at Adelaide Hospital (1911-33), honorary clinician at Adelaide Children’s Hospital and clinical lecturer at Adelaide University. In 1909, Mayo addressed an interstate conference on South Australia’s high infant mortality and the need to educate women for motherhood. That year, she and Harriet Stirling (daughter of Edward Stirling) founded the School for Mothers in Adelaide. Despite criticism that spinsters Mayo and Stirling couldn’t teach mothers, the school flourished from a Wright Street cottage. It became the Mothers’ and Babies’ Health Association (MBHA). By 1927, it had branches throughout South Australia and a training school for maternal nurses. Because Adelaide Children’s Hospital wouldn’t treat infants aged under two, Mayo and her group in 1914 rented a St Peters house as a hospital for infants. Mayo set up strict anti-infection protocols later for what became the 70-bed Mareeba Hospital, run by the state government at Woodville. Mayo also served on Adelaide University’s council (a first for Australian women) 1914-60, set up a women’s club and St Ann’s boarding college there, and encouraged a students’ union. She also founded the Lyceum Club for professional women. 

Janine Haines impacts as leader of Australian Democrats with balance of power at federal level

Janine Haines’ election to the senate in 1980 started a high-profile phase for South Australian women in federal politics. In 1986, Haines was elected leader of the Australian Democrats who gained the balance of power in the senate. Haines used this to negotiate changes in areas such as health care and equal opportunity for women. She furthered the senate’s role as a house of review. In 1990, Haines resigned to contest (unsuccessfully) the South Australian seat of Kingston.

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