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Monday 22nd December 2014
to
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Women at the Heart | First in their Field | Women's Work

Exhibition - "First in their Field"

ORDINARY WOMEN/EXTRAORDINARY LIVES: Women First in their Field

This permanent exhibition of over a hundred photographs, may seem merely a collection of posed portraits of ordinary women. However, they each have an extraordinary story to tell - they were the very first women, either in Australia or their State or Territory, in their chosen field of endeavour.

This exhibition attempts to focus on over a century of both white and indigenous Australian women breaking new ground in the professional arena, from those first permitted a tertiary education in the 1870's to the first female ordained priests of the 1990's who perhaps entered one of society's last male-dominated strongholds. In addition, since Australia is traditionally regarded as a nation of sportsmen, there is also a section devoted to the sportswomen who were first in their field.

Today there are few career choices from which women are excluded. However, like the early pioneers, the first women seen here were settlers of new and uncharted territory, and their entry into a man’s world was filled with obstacles.

For women in general, obtaining an education was the first hurdle to confront and Australia’s first-wave feminists of the last quarter of the 19th century succeeded in reforming this area whilst their most important achievement was gaining women's right to vote and to stand for parliament (South Australia: 1895 and the Commonwealth: 1902).

Both World Wars provided many women of differing backgrounds with the opportunity for the first time to carry out a variety of "men's jobs". However Australia's post 1945 "Populate or Perish" campaign encouraged women to devote themselves to marriage and family life as before. In the late 1960's and 1970's the Women's Liberation Movement and resulting second-wave of feminism brought about a number of powerful women's lobby groups, the establishment of the Office of the Status of Women in Canberra, and equal opportunity legislation which has significantly changed women's lives.

This exhibition is intended to commemorate those pioneer women who went before and to inspire others to make the journey to fulfil their aspirations.

These are some of the ordinary women of Australia who chose to be extraordinary, for despite all odds, they were first in their field.

Please note all photographed women have been deliberately listed as “ordinary women“ with first and second names only although several have been awarded distinguished titles. Years of birth and death have been included where available.


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