Liberal Women's Council
In 1910 when the Liberal Democratic Union combined with the “independent liberals” of the Australasian National League (ANL) and the Farmers and Producers Political Union (FPPU) to form the Liberal Union (forerunner to the Liberal Party SA) it was the most significant amalgamation of non-Labor Parties in South Australia. For the Liberal Union it meant the acquisition of the Women’s Branch of the ANL which had around 1700 members across the State and the strong Women’s Branch of the FPPU.
The Liberal Union moved quickly to capitalise on the electoral value of the women’s branches and resolved that a Women’s Branch Committee (later Council) of not less than twenty-four should be appointed. By May 1911, there were fifty women’s branches throughout the State.
In June 1911, prior to the first Liberal Union conference, eighty-five women delegates from many parts of South Australia met at the Lady Colton Hall in Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide, where Mrs Emily Mayfield was elected first Chairwoman [sic]. Mrs E H Hawker and Mrs M A Darling were the first Vice Presidents.
At the subsequent Liberal Union conference Mrs Hawker moved a number of amendments to the Liberal Union rules, including the requirement that each district appoint at least two women delegates to the Liberal Union Council. This guaranteed women representation in decision making at the highest levels of the Party.
Branches elected delegates to Women’s Council until 1990 when membership became open to all women members.
Liberal women have achieved many political firsts in SA:
1924 First woman endorsed by a political party
1932 First woman General Secretary of the Liberal & Country League
Miss G Jude
1955 First woman elected to Federal Parliament (Senate)
Nancy Buttfield (later Dame Nancy)
1959 First woman elected to South Australian Parliament
Joyce Steele (House of Assembly)
Jessie Cooper (Legislative Council)
1966 First woman elected to House of Representatives
1968 First woman Cabinet Minister
1992 First woman Party President
2006 First woman Deputy State Leader
2009 First woman to lead a major party in State Parliament