Edith Dircksey Cowan
Welcome to some facts about Edith Dircksey Cowan, OBE who was an Australian politician, social campaigner and the first woman elected to an Australian parliament.
Cowan was an initiator of the Women's Service Guild in 1909 and was vice-president to 1917 when she resigned. Amongst other work, the guild undertook the fund-raising, public meetings and government lobbying, in which she was prominent, which led finally to the opening of the King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women in 1916. She was secretary of the new hospital's advisory board. In 1911 she was prominent in the creation of the Western Australian National Council of Women; she was its president in 1913-21 and vice-president until her death. She was a foundation member of Co-Freemasonry in her State in 1916, and the first female member of the Anglican Social Questions Committee from 1916 and a co-opted member of synod from 1923.
Cowan went overseas in 1903 and 1912 to Britain and Europe, and in 1925 to the United States of America as an Australian delegate to the sixth convention of the International Council. During World War I, already heavily engaged in social welfare, she took on a wide range of war work for which she was appointed O.B.E. in 1920. Immediately after the war women's organizations renewed their efforts for civic rights, as part of 'the full democratic re-generation of the world', and in 1920 legislation ended the legal bar to women entering parliament. In the 1921 elections Cowan was one of five women candidates. As an endorsed Nationalist for the Legislative Assembly seat of West Perth, she opposed an independent Nationalist and T. P. Draper, the sitting Nationalist attorney-general in Sir James Mitchell's government. The electorate had a majority of women on the roll, but was solidly wealthy with a few potential Labor voters. She campaigned on her community service record, the need for law and order, and for women in parliament 'to nag a little' on social issues. She narrowly defeated Draper to become the first woman member of an Australian parliament.
Clancy's comment: Another outstanding woman who was ahead of her time.