lifestyle

6 incredible Australian women who fought the system and made our lives better.

Love Child Season 2 DVD
Thanks to our brand partner, Love Child Season 2 DVD

We are a pretty amazing bunch, us Aussie women.

We have been workers and leaders, fighters and pioneers – right from our very roots.

Shamefully we have also shared in a history that has allowed babies to be taken from their mothers and a gap of 60 years between when women and indigenous Australians were finally given the vote – and we remain part of a system that still trails behind 21 other countries where same sex marriage is legal.

But despite these shortcomings, we are a nation that produces inspiring women we should be proud of.

And they are worth celebrating. Here are just a few.

1. Edith Cowan.

Edith Cowan was the first woman in Australia to enter parliament, at the age of 60.

Born in 1861, she was a pioneer advocate for women’s and children’s rights.

Two of her most important legacies were giving women financial security after divorce and setting up the Children’s Protection Society, which was the precursor of the Children’s Court.

You might recognise her as she is on our $50 note.

“Edith Cowan was the first woman in Australia to enter parliament, at the age of 60.”

2. Dr Fiona Wood.

Dr Fiona Wood was a pioneer of “spray-on skin” and she created an entirely new way of treating burns.

In 1993, Dr Wood began working on a method for burns treatment at the Royal Perth and Princess Margaret hospitals.

In October 2002, survivors of the Bali bombings were evacuated to Royal Perth, where Dr Wood led a team that was credited with saving the lives of 28 of those patients, some of whom had suffered burns over more than 90 percent of their bodies.

The former Australian of the Year is also a mother to six children.

“Dr Fiona Wood was a pioneer of “spray-on skin” and she created an entirely new way of treating burns.”

The hit TV show Love Child is all about celebrating strong Aussie women. Check it out [post continues after video].

3. Julia Gillard.

Our first-ever female Prime Minister fought the system with her famous misogynist speech.

In March 2013, Gillard also stood in the Great Hall in Canberra and said sorry to the victims of forced adoptions.

This particular speech highlighted the tragedy of forced adoption, which is also seen in the successful Australian TV show Love Child.

It is difficult to unimaginable pain suffered by up to 250,000 babies forcibly taken from their mothers. The practice was carried out by governments, hospitals, churches and charities – often illegally.

ADVERTISEMENT

Ms Gillard’s apology was hailed as one of her finest moments.

“Our first-ever female Prime Minister fought the system with her famous misogynist speech.”

4. Merle Thornton and Rosalie Bogner.

On March 31, 1965 at Brisbane’s Regatta Hotel, Merle Thornton (the mother of actress Sigrid Thornton), and Rosalie Bogner chained themselves to the bar to demand women be served drinks.

Eventually, government legislation allowed for women to drink in any watering hole they wished.

Their action became the starting point for women’s liberation in Brisbane. It is now recognised as one of the defining moments of the feminist movement in Australia.

“On March 31, 1965 at Brisbane’s Regatta Hotel, Merle Thornton (the mother of actress Sigrid Thornton), and Rosalie Bogner chained themselves to the bar to demand women be served drinks.”

5. Henrietta Dugdale.

Henrietta Dugdale formed the first Australian women’s suffrage society in Melbourne in 1884.

She was one of the first women to fight against male-inflicted violence against women by criticising the Victorian courts in a piece published in the Melbourne Herald.

Historian Audrey Oldfield described her as “A ‘freethinker’ who … placed much of the blame for women’s subjection on the Christian Church and what she called “man’s ignorance”. She exhorted women to throw off their chains, discard their apathy and learn self-respect.”

“Henrietta Dugdale formed the first Australian women’s suffrage society in Melbourne in 1884.”

6. Cate McGregor.

Air Force Group Captain Cate McGregor was born as a man known as Malcolm McGregor and served for 40 years in the military and as a political and sports columnist.

McGregor become a national figure after coming out as a woman in 2012, providing inspiration to transgendered people.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has described her as a friend and “a person of strength, intellect, capacity and truly remarkable courage”.

powerful australian women
Air Force Group Captain Cate McGregor. Image via Ann-Marie Calihanna Photography.

Who else should make this list?

See some other feminists who inspire us.

Want more? How about:

These are “the most powerful women in the country”. Do you agree?

Time has announced its most influential person in 2015… And not everyone agrees.

00:00 / ???