The Hon. Dame Enid Lyons
Member for Darwin (Tas.)
UAP; LIB., 1943–1951
The Hon. Dame Enid Lyons became the first female member of the House of Representatives when she was elected as the Member for Darwin (Tas.) for the United Australia Party in 1943, later representing the Liberal Party from 1944 until 1951. She was the first female federal cabinet minister when she was appointed vice-president of the Executive Council in 1949.
In her first speech, Lyons described her election as a ‘turning point in history’ for women but also alluded to the responsibilities it brought for her personally:
I am well aware that, as I acquit myself in the work that I have undertaken for the next three years, so shall I either prejudice or enhance the prospects of those women who may wish to follow me in public service in the years to come.
Lyons, considered to be a witty, lively and eloquent speaker, spoke strongly in favour of measures to ease the burdens on families and was widely credited with bringing about the coalition’s policy of extending child endowment to include first children, later introduced by the Menzies Government in 1950. She advocated raising allowances paid to returned servicewomen to equal those paid to returned servicemen and was outspoken against the debarring of married women from employment in the public service. Lyons was appointed Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire in 1957 and Dame of the Order of Australia in 1980.