09 August 2022
The Presiding Officers are pleased to announce that the first floor foyer in Parliament House is now named after Edith Cowan, Australia’s first female member of Parliament.
‘Edith Cowan is an inspiration to all women who want to work for the community. It wasn’t easy for her to get elected but she worked hard during her time in Parliament to advocate for better conditions for women and children,’ said Hon Alanna Clohesy, President of the Legislative Council.
The Edith Cowan Foyer is a central place in Parliament House, as it connects the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly sections of the building, and is passed through by over 45,000 people who visit Parliament House each year.
‘The Edith Cowan Foyer is a key part of the Parliament building and it is fantastic that we have such a central location to be able to celebrate the achievements of Edith Cowan and the Western Australian women who have followed in her footsteps,’ said Hon Michelle Roberts, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
Edith Cowan was elected to the Western Australian Legislative Assembly in 1921, becoming the first woman member of Parliament in Australia and one of the first female members in the Commonwealth. During her four-year term she championed many causes aimed at improving conditions and opportunities for women and children and was successful in passing two private members’ bills, one to ensure mothers had equal inheritance rights when their children died intestate and the second to allow women to be admitted to the legal and other professions.
Prior to entering Parliament Edith had a long history of community service and helped to establish Perth’s first maternity hospital and day nursery for working mothers. She was also one of the first women appointed to sit on the Children’s Court. In 1920 she was awarded an Order of the British Empire – Officer (Civil) for her work with the Red Cross during World War I. She passed away in 1932.
‘Edith was at the forefront of women’s representation in Parliament and while it has taken 100 years, there have now been 114 women who have served in the WA Parliament, and there is almost equal representation in the current Parliament, with 43 women out of 95 members’, said Hon Alanna Clohesy.
Hon Michelle Roberts, who was just the 30th woman to be elected to Parliament, and last year became the first female Speaker, said, ‘We hope that by recognising Edith Cowan within Parliament House we can continue to encourage greater participation in Parliament.’
For more information about Edith Cowan, visit Edith Cowan – first female member
To learn more about the achievements of women in the Western Australian Parliament, visit Women in WA Parliament