Australia’s First MP - Where have you seen her before?

Edith Cowan (2 August 1861 – 9 June 1932)

Edith Cowan was born at Glengarry, a sheep station near Geraldton, Western Australia, she was the second child of Kenneth Brown. Edith’s mother passed away when she was 7- year-old.

The First Woman Elected Into Australian Parliament

Edith Dircksey Cowan was the first Australian woman to serve as a member of parliament in Australia and she was an Australian social reformer who worked for the rights and welfare of women and children.

Wait, where have I seen her before?

Yes, you may feel like you have seen her before because: you might have opened your wallet to see that she is featured on the reverse of Australia's 50-dollar note. She has been on the 50 dollar note since 1995.

In 1975, Edith Cowan’s portrait was featured in an Australian postage stamp as part of a six-part "Australian Women" series.

Australia’s First MP

Foundation of Karrakatta Club

Edith Cowan campaigned for women’s rights throughout her career and Edith was one of the founders of Karrakatta Club in 1894, the first women's social club in Australia, which lobbied for the right for women to vote. She also co-founded Western Australia’s National Council of Women.

King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women in Perth

Cowan was vital in the building of the King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women in Perth and supported children’s rights and welfare, too. She was chairperson of the Red Cross Appeal Committee during World War I and later was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her contributions to society and she was one of the first to promote sex education in schools.

Community positions held

Apart from being Parliament Member, the following are the boards(panels) in western Australia in which Edith Cowan held positions

  • Children's Protection Society
  • National Party Executive
  • Women's Immigration Auxiliary
  • King Edward Maternity Hospital Advisory Board
  • President of the Military Nurses Home committee
  • Vice President of WA League of Nations Union
  • Housewives Association
  • General and Provisional Synods of the Church of England
  • Karrakatta Club
  • Perth Hospital Board
  • Chairman of the Perth Hospital Red Cross Auxiliary
  • President of Pageantry and sights committee -- WA Historical Society
  • Red Cross division committee
  • Town Planning Association
  • Infant Health Association
  • WA Historical Society
  • Governor of St Mary's Church School
  • Bush Nursing Association
  • Centenary Committee
  • Girl Guides Council
  • Western Australia National Council of Women

Edith Cowan Memorial Clock

Edith Cowan Memorial Clock tower built two years after her death at the entrance of Kings Park in Perth and it was built in the face of persistent opposition which has been characterized as "representative of a gender bias operating at the time"