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As we know, we're here to commemorate Enid Lyons's election to the House of Representatives. Yesterday, 21 August, marked the 75th anniversary of her election to the House of Representatives in She was the first woman elected to the federal parliament in the House of Representatives, and she went on to become Australia's first female cabinet minister.
Australian War Memorial In Australia became the first nation to introduce equal federal suffrage.
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The enactment of the Commonwealth Franchise Act in that year allowed women to both vote and stand for election. However, despite this ground-breaking legislation, it took another 41 years for the first women to be elected to the Australian Parliament. Dame Dorothy Tangney, maiden speech to the Senate, 21 April Mr Speaker.
It would be strange indeed were I not tonight deeply conscious of the fact, and not a little awed by the knowledge, that on my shoulders rests a great weight of responsibility. Because this is the first occasion upon which a woman has addressed this house. For that reason, it is an occasion which, for every woman in the Commonwealth, marks in some degree a turning point in history. I also realise my great honour in being the first woman to be elected to the Senate.
But it is not as a woman that I have been elected to this chamber. It is as a citizen of the Commonwealth, and I take my place here with the full privileges and rights of all honourable Senators, and what is still more important, with the full responsibilities that such a high office entails. In South Australia became the first polity in the world to grant equal political rights to both men and women, not only allowing them to vote but also to stand for parliament.
In addition, all Australian states had given women the vote by the comparatively early date of In the recently federated Australian nation enacted the Commonwealth Franchise Act, granting women the right to vote and run for federal parliament.
The Act, however, excluded Indigenous Australians of either gender, who did not gain the right to vote federally until Despite the legislation, it was 40 years between the first attempt by women to run for the Australian Parliament in and the swearing in of the first elected female representatives in This time lag — between women gaining political rights and actually being elected — is one of the longest in the world.
Women had run independently or through minor parties, however none had received sufficient votes to win.
In this changed. She was an ardent public speaker, widely contributing to political debate even before her election, and in she was appointed Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire for her work. Despite being well known for her political dedication and work towards social improvement, Tangney was elected only after she was asked to fill a casual Senate vacancy.
She had twice unsuccessfully contested the Western Australian Legislative Assembly seat of Nedlands and was also unsuccessful in her first bid for the Senate. While women held the right to run for the parliament fromit was clear, even in the most basic functioning of Parliament House, that the groundbreaking election of Lyons and Tangney in had not been anticipated. There was a distinct lack of facilities for women parliamentarians, including the omission of deated female Member bathrooms when the House was built in Dame Enid was an extremely popular MP, winning her seat with an increasing majority at each election during her eight-year career from to Despite her retirement, Dame Enid remained extremely active in public life.
She held a of positions including commissioner of the ABC, honorary fellow of the Australian College of Nursing and founding vice-president of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust. She also authored three memoirs and, between anda twice-weekly press column. After her death ina state funeral was held for Dame Enid and she was buried next to her husband.
Dorothy Tangney was elected Senator for Western Australia in and served for 25 years.
Widely respected both in parliament and by the public, Tangney was known for her strong social conscience and committed work for social reform. She promoted equal pay and opportunity, endowments for abandoned women and war widows, education for all, medical pensions and benefits for disabled Australians as well as free tertiary education being a foundation member of the council of the Australian National University.
Tangney was the first woman to attend an Empire Parliamentary Association conference, held in London in She was also the first woman to preside over the Senate intermittently during the s as temporary Chair of Committees. Dame Dorothy proved a popular politician both with branch members and the public, only losing her seat in when nominations were turned over to the State Executive of the Labor Party, who dropped her to the difficult third spot on the ballot ticket.
Despite the early lack of political party support and negative coverage of female candidates in the daily press, reservations about women in politics started changing with the swearing in of Lyons and Tangney. Both women were widely respected parliamentarians and a popular public choice of representative. Women have since held the highest offices in the nation, with the then Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, swearing in Julia Gillard as the first female Prime Minister in However, there is still a way to go towards equal representation.
In women made up just Representation of women in Australian parliamentsAustralian Parliament House. The National Museum of Australia acknowledges First Australians and recognises their continuous connection to country, community and culture. Defining Moments First women in parliament.
See our classroom resource. Women and the vote In South Australia became the first polity in the world to grant equal political rights to both men and women, not only allowing them to vote but also to stand for parliament. Dame Enid Lyons, taken between and After the death of Joseph, Dame Enid used politics as a way to combat her depression.
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Senator Dorothy Tangney, s. Ongoing impact Despite the early lack of political party support and negative coverage of female candidates in the daily press, reservations about women in politics started changing with the swearing in of Lyons and Tangney.
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In our collection. Face powder compact presented to Dame Enid Lyons This face powder compact belonged to Dame Enid Lyons, who became the first woman elected to the Australian House of Representatives when she won the Tasmanian seat of Darwin in In she became the first woman to serve in the federal Cabinet.
Before running for Parliament, Enid Lyons was well-known throughout Australi On display.
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