International Women’s Day 2019
In December 1883 Bella Guerin became the first female student to graduate the University of Melbourne. Women had been granted the same right to tertiary education as their male counterparts in 1880, however it would not be until 1913 that women were afforded the right to participate in University government as their fellow graduates. Despite the steady increase of women’s participation in all areas of university life, representation in academia and governance had to wait until 1936 for Dr Georgina Sweet, the University’s first female associate-professor, to be the first women elected to the University Council.
It was not until 1975, that Priscilla Kincaid-Smith was appointed to a Personal chair; the first female professor at the University. Kincaid-Smith was a Professor of Medicine until 1991, during which time two more women were appointed Chairs, Margaret Manion (Fine Arts, 1979-1995) and Nancy Millis (Microbiology, 1982-1987). Manion was also the first woman to chair the University’s Academic Board in 1987.
1980 saw Margaret Blackwood becoming the first Deputy Chancellor (see her entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/blackwood-dame-margaret-12218) and in 2001 Fay Marles was installed as Chancellor. Further information on Marles’ life of milestones (including first female pilot for Ansett) can be found in her biography “Aiming for the Skies”.
Much can be found about women’s early student life, with a fantastic overview in our Keys to the Past resource https://archives.unimelb.edu.au/resources/keys-to-the-past/keys/key-18, as well as the 1985 publication ‘Degrees of liberation : a short history of women in the University of Melbourne’ by Farley Kelley and Juliet Flesch’s ’40 years/40 women: biographies of University of Melbourne women’ (2015). Further reading about women at the University of Melbourne can be found on UMA’s subject guide Women in the Archives https://archives.unimelb.edu.au/resources/subject_guides/women-in-the-archives