"Women have a contribution to make to the life of the nation which only they can make." So said Millicent Preston Stanley who, in 1925, became the first woman parliamentarian in New South Wales.
Since then, more than 120 women have entered the Parliament, and their extraordinary stories of challenge, achievement and change are the subject of a new exhibition opening at Parliament House in January. A Fit Place for Women: NSW Parliament presents a summary of the past 100 years of state politics during which women have acted as campaigners, protestors, voters, parliamentary officers, members, ministers and leaders of government.
Through a display of artefacts, artworks, photographs, rare documents, newsreels and more, visitors will gain an unparalleled insight into women in politics. There are the stories of the NSW Womanhood Suffrage League and the campaign for the vote; the stories of historic and contemporary trailblazers such as Millicent Preston Stanley, Catherine Green, Janice Crosio, Kerry Chikarovksi and Kristina Keneally; the stories of legislative review and reform driven by women; and the stories of groups such as the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Association, working to encourage future women into Australian politics.
"It is important that we acknowledge the contribution of both women and men to Australia's first and oldest Parliament," said the Hon Shelley Hancock MP, the 30th Speaker of the NSW Legislative Assembly and the first woman to hold the position. "Many recognise names such as Henry Parkes and Jack Lang, but how many know the names Millicent Preston Stanley, Ellen Webster and Lillian Fowler? These determined women helped forge a path into politics at a time when it was exclusively for men."
"This path is still trod by today's parliamentarians; women who continue to overcome the obstacles set along the corridors of power. Through this exhibition we acknowledge their role in politics, society and culture."
A Fit Place for Women: NSW Parliament is on now at Parliament House until Friday 28 April. Entry is free, and doors are open from 9:00am – 5:00pm Monday to Friday, and from 9:00am-6:00pm on Wednesdays when Parliament is sitting. There will also be a special opening on the Australia Day public holiday, from 10:00am to 3:00pm.
A Fit Place for Women: NSW Parliament is made possible through the generous support of Principal Sponsor, Maddocks.
The Woman Question (the suffragette movement and the campaign for the vote)
The Advent of a Women (Millicent Preston Stanley)
The Trailblazers in the NSW Parliament
Women at Work (committees, community and the future of women in politics)
Papers by Dr Wendy Michaels, Conjoint Research Fellow, the University of Newcastle:
Shaking the 'Bear Pit' Foundations: The First Feminist in the NSW Parliament
She-Devil in the House: Millicent Preston Stanley's Political Mobilisation
Image: The NSW Womanhood Suffrage League, 1892, photograph from the State Library of NSW