Nancy Buttfield the state's first female parliamentarian as Liberal senator in 1955


South Australia’s first female parliamentarian, Nancy Buttfield, was the daughter of Ted Holden, primary founder of the Australian car industry.

Although brought up in the privileged surroundings of the family’s home, “Kalymna” on Dequetteville Terrace, Kent Town, the energetic Buttfield followed her father’s belief in public service. She worked for many charities during the 1930s Depression and studied psychology, music, local and economics part time at Adelaide University.

Among the prominent visitors to “ Kalymna,” Robert Menzies advised Buttfield on a possible parliamentary career. After making gains as Liberal candidate for the federal seat of Adelaide in the 1954 election, she was nominated in the next year by state parliament to fill the senate vacancy left by the death of Liberal George McLeay.

Buttfield’s terms in the senate (1955-74) were marked by an independence that put her offside with South Australian premier Tom Playford and elements within her party, especially over her lobbying for equal pay for women and abolishing the marriage bar for women in the public service.

She became the first female senator to visit the Soviet Union and China in 1962.

After she left the senate, Buttfield and her husband Frank devoted themselves for 10 years to establishing a youth venture club on “Fainfield”, a property they owned at Chain of Ponds, where activities included bushwalking, horse riding, archery, canoeing and kayaking.

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