While Queensland was the second last State to enfranchise women, in 1905, it was the second State to allow the right for women to sit in parliament, when the Elections Act was assented to on 23 November 1915.
Edith Cowan in 1921 had made the Western Australian
parliament the first to elect a woman. The first woman in the Senate was Labor's
Dorothy Tangney in 1943, but there was no Labor woman in the House of Representatives
until 1974. The difficulty of women getting into Parliament and their low numbers
there until recent times is almost astonishing. Even though Queensland women
first went to the polls in 1907, the first woman was not elected until 1929.
Irene Longman was the first to stand as a candidate: 'endorsed by the Country-National Party and the Queensland Women's Electoral League' (and, in fact, the first woman MP in every State was from the conservative side of politics, as was the first Federal member, Edith Lyons - who, looking at her fellow MLAs in the 1940s, would wonder: 'were there any who even washed their own socks?'). In Queensland, it took until 1966 for a second woman, Vi Jordan, to enter parliament - and she managed a feat that Longman had not in getting a women's toilet in the House. We can, however, thank Longman for women being admitted to the Queensland police force, something originally proposed by the suffragists in the nineteenth century. Longman and Jordan were followed by Vicki Kippen and Rosemary Kyburtz in 1974. Annabelle Rankin was Queensland's first female Federal member when elected to the Senate in 1947, and the first Queensland woman in the House of Representatives was Elaine Darling in 1980. When Kathy Martin (Sullivan) was elected to the Senate in 1974 she was the only Queensland woman in Federal parliament. Flo Bjelke-Petersen and Margaret Reynolds were both elected to the Senate in the 1980s.
Photo: Portrait of Irene Longman
Collection: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, no. 63182
Source: Carole Ferrier 'Editorial' Hecate 30.2.2004.
For full details of Queensland women in federal and Queensland parliament see John McCulloch's forthcoming book.
Delegates to the Australian Women's Conference
in Brisbane, 1909
Collection: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, no.122356
Photo: inside the gate of the city polling station. Women at Queensland's first state election, May 1907
Collection: John Oxley Library,
State Library of
Queensland, no. 36662