Edith Cowan – Early Champion for Women’s Rights


Edith Cowan was born in Western Australia in 1861 and lived on a property in Geraldton North of Perth. After the death of her mother when she was just 11 years of age he father sent her to a boarding school. Sometime later her father remarried and during a bout of heavy drinking shot and killed his second wife a crime for which he hung.

At the age of 17, Edith married James Cowan and had five children. Because of her own tragic circumstances, Edith tended to take special interest and sympathised with women and children who suffered in a similar way to the way she had and she soon became a pioneer for women’s and children’s rights. She went on to fight for massive changes during a period when women were not treated as equal to men. Edith Cowan elected to an Australian was the first woman Parliament and during the Great War gave tirelessly of her time to others and collected food and clothing for on forwarding to soldiers in the front line. In 1920 Edith Cowan was awarded the Order of the British Empire and in that same year the West Australian Parliament passed a Bill allowing women to be elected Edith Cowan at the age of 60 stood for and was the first woman elected to an Australian Parliament. Cowan continued her fight for equality with men and finally withdrew from public life in the late 1920’s and passed away in 1932 at the age of 72. She remains in the memory of many Australians with her portrait depicted on the Fifty Dollar note.