Profiles

Sister Elizabeth Kenny

Copyright: The Courier-Mail

1940

Sister Elizabeth Kenny (1880 - 1952)

Elizabeth Kenny was a Queensland bush nurse and pioneering physical therapist. She saved thousands of children worldwide from the crippling effects of polio. In treating polio patients, Elizabeth used an innovative approach involving hydrotherapy and remedial exercises. In 1937, as a polio epidemic was ravaging Australia, Elizabeth published a textbook outlining her techniques. In 1940, she travelled to the United States and established a training school for physical therapists. Elizabeth’s contributions are especially significant as she managed to achieve them in a male-dominated field.

Source: Grant, H 2005, Great Queensland Women, State of Queensland (Office for Women), Brisbane.

Top of page

Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force was formed

Courtesy: State Library of Victoria (H98.105/470)

1941

Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force was formed

The Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) was formed in March of 1941 in response to women’s demands to serve more directly in World War Two. By 1944, there were well over 18,000 female officers and airwomen across Australia working as aircraft mechanics, electricians, fitters, telegraphists, armament workers, among many other technical roles. They were paid just two-thirds what their Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) male counterparts received. The names of 57 members of the WAAAF who died in service are commemorated at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Source: Stone, J 2003, The Australian Women’s Register, Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) (1941 – 1947), viewed 15 Jan, 2009, <http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/AWE0400b.htm>.

Top of page

The Child Endowment Act

Courtesy: State Library of Queensland (49962)

1941

Introduction of the Child Endowment Act

The Commonwealth Child Endowment Act was introduced in 1941, providing for a weekly monetary allowance for children under sixteen years of age. The five shilling per child allowance was usually paid directly to the child’s mother. Children in non-government approved institutions were also eligible for this allowance. Those who received the payment were to ensure the allowance was used for the “maintenance, training and advancement of the child”. The allowance and corresponding act was an initiative of the Menzies Government.

Source: Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Families, Housing, Community Service and Indigenous Affairs, 2006, Occasional Paper 12: Family Allowance, viewed 25 November 2008, <http://www.facsia.gov.au/research/op12/sec5.htm>.

Top of page

Sister Sylvia Muir and Joyce Tweddell

Sister Sylvia Muir and Joyce Tweddell (plus other Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) nurses). Courtesy: Australian War Memorial (P01701.003)

1941

Sister Sylvia Muir and Joyce Tweddell (1941)

In 1941, during World War Two, female civilians and nurses were evacuated from Singapore for their safety. Queenslanders, Sister Sylvia Muir and nurse Joyce Tweddell were aboard the vessel, The Vyner Brooke, when it was sunk by Japanese bombs. The women swam to shore where they were immediately captured as Prisoners Of War and suffered horrendous conditions in POW camps. After the war, Joyce returned to Brisbane to become a respected radiographer, prolonging the lives of many Queenslanders by using x-ray treatments to arrest cancers. The Joyce Tweddle Building at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital is named in her honour.

Source: de Vries, S 2004, Heroic Australian women in war: Astonishing tales of bravery from Gallipoli to Kokoda, Harper Collins, Pymble, NSW.

Top of page

Australian Women’s Land Army

AWLA recruiting leaflet, Courtesy: Australian War Memorial (SC01062)

1942

Australian Women’s Land Army

The Australian Women’s Land Army (AWLA) was established in 1942 to attract women to replace male farm labourers otherwise engaged in the war effort. Membership was voluntary and the women were given formal farming instruction. They were paid for their work though the pay rate was far less than that of their male equivalents. Regular duties included growing fruit and vegetables, raising pigs, poultry and sheep, and wool work. At its height, the AWLA had nearly 3,000 members with over 700 in Queensland.

Source: Australian War Memorial, 2009, Encyclopedia – Women’s Land Army, viewed 15 January 2009, <http://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/homefront/land_army.asp>.

Top of page

Women’s Employment Board

News article announcing establishment of WEB (extracted from The Canberra Times, Saturday 18 April 1942, p. 3). Courtesy: National Library of Australia

1942

Women’s Employment Board

The Women’s Employment Board (WEB) was established in 1942 by the Federal Government to determine war-time female terms of employment for “male work”. The Board’s main role was to determine whether women could be employed in any given role and to determine the rate of pay for that role. Rates of pay depended on the particular trade and industry. The Board was made up of a chairman (Judge AW Foster), a special representative of employees (Mr AR Wallis) and a special representative of employers (Ms Ellen Cashman). The appointment of Ms Cashman (a former Trade union official) sparked a rift between the Labor Government and the Opposition who claimed that the appointment was a slap in the face to employers. The Government was accused of political bias, disrupting war-time industry, and denying employers the same representation as employees. Despite the controversy, WEB was successful in setting conditions and wages for over 70,000 Australian women.

Sources:

Top of page

Olive Ashworth

Courtesy: Reina Irmer, State Library of Queensland (58481)

1945

Olive Ashworth (1915 - 2000)

Olive Ashworth was born and raised in Brisbane but, with her mother’s encouragement, moved to Victoria in 1933 to study at Melbourne’s Art Training Institute. In her first year of study, she earned five institute medals and soon returned to Brisbane where she set up her own studio in 1945 - Olive Ashworth Publicity Services. Some of her earliest work involved designing promotional brochures for many of Queensland’s island resorts. She's produced paintings, murals, and graphic designs but her most successful works were her textile pieces. Olive was inspired by Queensland's tropical and underwater beauty, creating popular fabrics in vibrant marine colours and styles. Her works have been exhibited in a number of galleries across Australia and a collection of her work is held by the Queensland Museum at Southbank.

Source: Kerr, J 2007, ‘Olive Ashworth’, Dictionary of Australian Artists Online, viewed 5 February 2009, <http://www.daao.org.au/main/read/298>.

Top of page

Margaret Olley AC

Copyright: Newspix / Barry Norman

1947

Margaret Olley AC (1923 - )

Queensland painter, Margaret Olley, is one of Australia’s most respected and beloved artists. She began her career painting sets for various theatre groups, before displaying her paintings in exhibitions at the Royal Queensland Art Society and the Under Thirties Group in Sydney. Her painting New England Landscape won the inaugural Mosman Prize in 1947. Margaret later travelled to Europe where she studied art at La Grande Chaumiére in Paris and, in 1952, she exhibited a collection of favourably-reviewed paintings. She returned to Brisbane in 1953 and was commissioned by the Queensland Art Gallery to paint a mural of Paris’ Place de la Concorde for an upcoming French art exhibition. She soon received commissions to paint murals in other Brisbane landmarks such as the Grosvenor and Lennon’s hotels. Since then, Margaret has travelled the globe gaining inspiration for her bold still-life paintings and viewing exhibitions of classic artists such as Van Gogh, Matisse, Miro and Manet. From the 1980s, Margaret began donating some of her own works to public collections and, in 1990, she established the ‘Margaret Hannah Olley Trust’ to procure other artists’ works for public donation. She has earned countless art prizes and awards for her many works shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions across Australia and the world, including an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Queensland and an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO). She has been declared an Australian National Treasure and achieved a Centenary Medal for service to Australian society and art. In 2006, Margaret was elevated to a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for her service as one of Australia's most distinguished artists, her support and philanthropy to the visual and performing arts, and her encouragement of young and emerging artists. In 2007, she was appointed a Fellow of the National Art School. Examples of Margaret’s works can be viewed at art galleries across Australia.

Sources:

Top of page

Dame Annabelle Jane Mary Rankin

Courtesy: National Archives of Australia (M2127/10)

1947

Dame Annabelle Jane Mary Rankin (1908 - 1986)

Among her many notable achievements, Annabelle Rankin became the first Queensland woman to be elected into Federal Parliament in 1946. In 1966, she became the first Australian woman to transition from Senator to Minister of a federal government department (the Department of Housing). Upon her retirement from the senate in 1971, Annabelle took up the position of Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand. The federal electoral division of Rankin in southwest Brisbane was named in Annabelle’s honour in 1984.

Source: McCulloch, J 2005, The Legislators: Women in State and Federal Parliaments. Central Queensland University Press, Rockhampton.

Top of page

Barbara 'Biddy' Moriarty

Courtesy: Australian War Memorial, Negative Number MEA1096

1947

Barbara 'Biddy' Moriarty (1902 - 1979)

Barbara 'Biddy' Moriarty was a dedicated and caring welfare worker who devoted her life to the Red Cross.

Biddy left her Ipswich home in 1940 for the Middle East, following her husband, Boyd, who was a member of the Australian Army's 2nd Imperial Force. She worked in camps throughout Palestine as a representative of the Australian Comforts Fund, which distributed items such as pyjamas, sweets, games and magazines to help keep the 'fit man fit'. Biddy also worked as a cipher officer for the Royal Navy in Alexandria, Egypt from late 1940.

After her husband's death in action at Crete in 1941, she joined the field force of the Australian Red Cross, working with the Australian General Hospital in Kantara, Egypt. Throughout 1943, she continued her work with the Red Cross, helping repatriated Prisoners of War (POW) from the Middle East, before joining the Australian Army staff in London in 1945 to assist returned Allied POWs at the end of World War II. Biddy's next role was to lead the 2nd POW reception in Singapore, before returning to Australia with the last of the freed troops in 1946.

For her lifetime of devoted service to the Red Cross, Biddy was awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal in 1947.

Source: AJ Hill, ‘Moriarty, Barbara Ierne (1902 - 1979)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, 2000, <http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A150477b.htm>, accessed 9 March 2009.

Top of page

Betty Churcher

Copyright: Newspix / Andy Baker

1948

Betty Churcher (1931 - )

Brisbane-born artist, Betty Cameron was encouraged at an early age to pursue a career in art. At 13, she won The Sunday Mail Child art contest and spent her spare time studying art with private tutors. As a member of the Younger Artist Group (YAG), Betty began to exhibit her works in 1948. Before long, she became the Chair of YAG and helped establish a travelling art scholarship. She was soon exhibiting her paintings at various galleries, including the 1951 ‘Exhibition of Queensland Art’ at the Queensland Art Gallery. Betty then moved to London and studied at the prestigious Royal College of Art where she won the Princess of Wales Scholarship for the best female student. With her British husband, painter Roy Churcher, she returned to Brisbane in 1957 and set up a studio, giving art lessons. Betty retired from painting in late 1959 to devote her time to raising her four sons and later went on to build a career in art education and administration, including a post as the Director of the National Gallery of Australia between 1990 and 1997. Since then, Betty has gone on to write and produce several television programs for SBS and the ABC.

Source: Cooke, GR 2008, ‘Betty Churcher’, Dictionary of Australian Artists Online, viewed 24 February 2009, <http://www.daao.org.au/main/read/7270>.

Top of page

Petronel White

Courtesy: Queensland Women’s Historical Association

1949

Petronel White

Mary Hyacinthe Petronel Groom was born and raised in Brisbane. She worked for several years as a secretary before meeting her husband and raising three children. The White family was closely involved with community and charity groups including the Clayfield Boy Scouts, the Junior Red Cross, and the War Savings Group, among many others. Petronel believed it was important for women to hold representative positions in the community in order to bring about necessary change. She helped establish the Women's Political Club and was endorsed as the candidate for the Citizen's Municipal Organisation for the Hamilton Ward. She was elected as Alderman in April 1949, becoming the first woman to represent a capital city council in Australia. She served six consecutive terms in Council before retiring in 1967.

Source: Hacker, D 1994, Griffith University, Petronel White – Alderwoman for Hamilton, viewed 20 January 2009, <http://eresearch.griffith.edu.au/brisbanememories/index.php/Petronel_White>.

Top of page

Did you know?

  • 1940 - The total population of females in Queensland was 494,740 (with a ratio of 108.5 males to 100 females)
  • 1941 - State cabinet decided women’s pay would be 2/3 that of the male rate
  • 1941 - There were 19,158 females in Queensland who were aged 65 and over, about 3.8% of all Queensland females
  • 1942 - There were 21,166 births in Queensland (with a ratio of 20.4 births to 1000)
  • 1943 - There were 9,979 marriages (with a ratio of 9.5 marriages to 1000 residents) and 444 divorces (with a ratio of .42 divorces to 1000 residents) in Queensland
  • 1947 - The average age of women in Queensland was 31.5 years
  • 1947 - Women comprised of 19.5% of the state workforce
  • 1948 - The life expectancy of females in Queensland was 70.2 years.

Top of page

Last updated 11 May 2009