Home | Women's Suffrage | Federation | Effective Voting | Catherine Helen Spence |
Political Awareness | In Parliament | The Workplace | Why South Australia?
The Aboriginal Voice | Cultural Diversity

Some significant dates in the history of women in South Australia

This valuable chronology of events was prepared by the Women's Council of the Liberal Party of Australia (SA Division) in September 1983. We are greatly obliged for their permission to reproduce it here.

It is part of the diverse group of items in the Ephemera Collection of the Mortlock Library of South Australia. Several additions have been made to the original list of events, and it has also been been updated, by the SA Research & Family History team of the State Library of South Australia.

We welcome suggestions for adding to this chronology.


'Poems & Recollections of the Past' by Fidelia S.T. Hill — first book of verse written by a woman published in Australia.


'Clara Morison' by Catherine Helen Spence — first novel about Australia by a woman.


'Song of Australia' composed with words by Caroline Carleton.


Women property owners able to vote in municipal elections.


Mary McKillop, first member and Superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, founded in Penola — first order founded by an Australian.


Education compulsory for both sexes.


Teaching began at University of Adelaide with more than half the initial enrolment being women.


Children's Hospital opened in King William Street with Miss E.J.M. MacKenzie, first Lady Superintendent.


Edith Cook (later Hübbe) was the first woman to matriculate at the University of Adelaide.


Catherine Helen Spence began preaching in the Unitarian Church.


The Home for Incurables was founded in 1878 to provide care for those who were suffering from a crippling disease without prospect of cure. The Home was the inspiration of Mrs Julia Farr, wife of the Reverend Mr George Farr, headmaster of the Collegiate School of St Peter. Julia Farr arrived in South Australia in 1854 with her husband and their daughter, Eleanora.


Advanced School for Girls opened in Franklin Street — first Government secondary school for girls — Jane Stanes, Headmistress.


First Adelaide Day Care Centre opened by Mrs. L. Corbin as The South Adelaide Creche.


Young Women's Christian Association formed.


University of Adelaide admitted women to degrees — the first in Australia.


Married Women's Property Act — married women legally entitled to own and manage property — previously held by husband or trustee.


First Parliamentary Bill for the enfranchisement of women.


Edith Dornwell became the first woman graduate of the University of Adelaide and first person to graduate in Science.


Woman's Christian Temperance Union formed — staunch advocates of the enfranchisement of women.


Women's Suffrage League formed with Mary Lee, Secretary.


Working Women's Trades Union formed to reform 'sweated' conditions of female clothing workers — Mary Lee, Vice President, Augusta Zadow, Treasurer.


Laura Fowler became the first woman graduate in medicine in S.A.


Shops and Factories Commission appointed to investigate the 'sweating' system.


District Trained Nursing Society formed at Bowden to provide a free (or low cost) home nursing service for the poor.


Constitution Amendment Act was passed, whereby all South Australian women over 21 became entitled to vote and stand for election for the South Australian Parliament.


Factory Act introduced.


Augusta Zadow appointed first female Factory Inspector.


Catherine Helen Spence was the first woman in Australia to participate in an offical enquiry when she was appointed to the Commissions of Enquiry into the Adelaide Hospital.


First election in Australia in which women voted — S.A.


Augusta Zadow died, and was replaced by Agnes Milne as Factory Inspector.


District Trained Nursing Society services extended to country areas.


[S.A. Married Women's Protection Act gave women legal protection against husbands.]


Catherine Helen Spence became the first woman political candidate when she stood for the Federal Convention.


A Girls' Club for under-privileged girls and women was formed by Lady Victoria Buxton, wife of Governor. Jean Mills, first Honorary Matron.


Blanche McNamara became the first female Inspector of Schools in Australia.


Lady Audrey Tennyson, wife of the Governor, moved for the establishment of a maternity home for poorer women, later known as The Queen's Home.


Sweating League formed to eradicate the 'sweating' system in male and female occupations.


St. Joseph's Refuge opened at Fullarton.


National Council of Women formed.


The Queen's Home (now Queen Victoria Hospital) opened by Lady Tennyson.


S.A. Co-operative Clothing Factory, established and run by women, opened in Blyth Street, Adelaide. It was the first electric powered clothing factory in the State. Catherine Helen Spence was President of the Board until her death in 1910.


Legislative Council Select Committee into the Alleged Sweating Evil reported — Wages Boards formed as a result.


First Wages Board established to regulate the wages of women and girls.


Kindergarten Union formed with Lucy Morice, Secretary.


First free Kindergarten opened in Franklin Street, city.


Kindergarten Training College opened in Adelaide with Lillian de Lissa, Principal.


The School for Mothers (later Mothers and Babies Health Association, now Child, Adolescent and Family Health Service), opened in Franklin Street Kindergarten, due mainly to the efforts of Lucy Morice, Dr. Helen Mayo and Harriet Stirling.


Women's Non-Party Political Association (later League of Women Voters) formed to work for the interests of women and children and promote involvement in Government. Catherine Helen Spence, President.


Liberal Women's Educational Association was formed (foundation of today's Liberal Party Women's Council).


Female Law Practitioners Act passed enabling women to practise Law.


Dr. Helen Mayo and Harriet Stirling established a Babies' Hospital in Winchester Street, St. Peters.


First Medical Inspector appointed for State Schools — Dr. Gertrude Halley.


Dr. Helen Mayo elected to the Council of the University of Adelaide. First woman elected to a University Council in Australia, she served continuously for 46 years.


Red Cross established in South Australia by Lady Maria Galway, wife of Governor.


Kate Cocks appointed South Australia's first woman police constable. Kate Cocks and Annie Ross founded the South Australian Women Police Branch — first in British Empire. Kate Cocks became the first Principal of Women Police in S.A.


Dr. Helen Mayo, Harriet Stirling and Annie Hornabrook established the Babies' Hospital Association, and Mareeba Hospital in 1917.


Mary Kitson became the first female graduate in Law in South Australia and the first woman in British Empire to be made a Notary Public.


Lydia Longmore, first female Inspector of lower school grades. With volunteer teachers began Education Department correspondence lessons for outback and isolated children in 1918.


S.A. Women's Agricultural Bureau founded.


Susan Grace Benny became the first Australian woman Local Government councillor, for Seacliff Ward, Brighton Council.


Mary Edwards began first Mothers' Club at Norwood School.


Adelaide Miethke, Inspector of Schools, played a major role in establishment of girls' technical training in S.A.


Dr. Constance Davey became the first psychologist appointed to the Education Department.


Adoption of Children Act.


Agnes Goode J.P. (Liberal) became the first woman pre-selected as a Parliamentary candidate in South Australia.


Country Women's Association formed.


Women of South Australia donated substantial funds through Women's Centenary Council, chaired by Adelaide Miethke, for Royal Flying Doctor Service.


Home for unmarried women and their babies opened by the Methodist Social Welfare Department at Brighton, later became Kate Cocks Memorial Babies' Home.


[First meeting of the S.A. International Women's Day Committee.]


Marie Skitch became the first woman endorsed by the Australian Labor Party as a Parliamentary candidate.


Women's University College of St. Ann opened — Helen Mayo prominent in its establishment.


War-time Child Centres opened for women working in war-time industry in South Australia.


[First celebrations for International Women's Day in S.A.]


Matron Vivien Bullwinkle became an associate of the Royal Red Cross and received the Florence Nightingale Award in recognition of her war-time service.


First School of the Air broadcast — established due to efforts of Adelaide Miethke. Molly Ferguson became first full-time teacher.


SA Medical Women's Society initiated an equal pay claim for women medical practitioners employed within the public hospital system.


Nancy Buttfield (LCL) became the first South Australian woman elected to the Federal Parliament — Senate.


Doris Taylor established Meals on Wheels service for aged pensioners.


Jessie Cooper (LCL) became the first woman elected to the South Australian Legislative Council.


Joyce Steele (LCL) became the first woman elected to the South Australian House of Assembly.


The oral contraceptive pill was introduced in Australia.


Roma Mitchell appointed to the Supreme Court — first female judge in the British Commonwealth.


Molly Byrne became the first ALP woman elected to the South Australian House of Assembly.


Kay Brownbill (LCL) became the first South Australian woman elected to the Federal House of Representatives.


Joyce Steele (LCL) became Opposition Whip, the first woman to hold that position in the South Australian Parliament.


Women sworn in for jury service for the first time.


[Formation of the Council of Aboriginal Women of S.A.]


[Referendum gives (Aboriginal) Indigenous persons the vote.]


[Formation of National Council of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, including Women's Council, in Adelaide.]


Joyce Steele (LCL) became the first woman to achieve Cabinet rank in South Australian Parliament as Minister of Education in Hall Government 1968-70.


Abortion Law reform — Criminal Law Consolidation Act Amendment allowing terminations to be performed under certain circumstances.


S.A. women awarded equal pay for the same work as men.


[First Women's Liberation groups in Australia formed, in Adelaide.]


Family Planning Association formed in S.A.


Women's Electoral Lobby formed in S.A.


[First International Women's Day March in streets of Adelaide.]


Female teachers no longer forced to resign on marriage.


Maternity and Paternity leave granted to South Australian employees, permanent and temporary, of Commonwealth Public Service.


S.A. Council for Children's Film & Television formed.


Nursing Mothers' Association of Australia (S.A. Branch) formed.


South Australian women awarded equal pay for work of equal value.


United Nations International Women's Year.


Sex Discrimination Act — first in Australia.


Mary Beasley became first Commissioner for Equal Opportunity.


Anne Levy became first ALP woman elected to the South Australian Legislative Council.


Family Relationships Act.


The Hindmarsh Women's Community Health Centre was the first community controlled women's health service to be established in SA.


Rape Crisis Centre opened.


Family Court (S.A. Registry) commenced operations under the Family Law Act 1975.


The offence of 'rape within marriage' recognised in law under the Criminal Law Consolidation Act Amendment Act, 1976.


Deborah McCulloch appointed first Women's Adviser to the Premier.


Office of child-care established within the Department of Social Security to administer Federal funding for children's services, including day-care, pre-schools and family support.


Janine Haines became the first Australian Democrat Senator, appointed to fill a casual Senate vacancy for South Australia .


Permanent part-time work introduced in S.A. Public Service.


Unpaid maternity leave granted to women in the S.A. Public Service.