The Federation Press

So Many Firsts

Liberal women from Enid Lyons to the Turnbull era

Overview

Inspiring and informative, So Many Firsts examines the political lives of women in the Liberal Party from Enid Lyons to today.

Annabelle Rankin, Margaret Guilfoyle, Helen Coonan and Julie Bishop are among the pioneering women who achieved so many firsts in their achievements as women, and for women.

They had many hurdles to overcome — including the long fight to extend child endowment, the battle to remove the legislative barriers to married women working in the public service, equal work, equal opportunity and equal pay — along with the notion that they could do more than only represent women’s issues. In 1948, The Mail helpfully declared of Senator Annabelle Rankin: “She tackles men’s problem’s too”.

In the Turnbull era, women are occupying many of Party’s key positions, and continue to applying their spirit and talent to achieving even more firsts for the nation.

Reviews

Fitzherbert refers on more than one occasion to the fact that the Liberal Party does not often commemorate its history or its figures, but this reviewer is certainly glad an exception was made for this excellent book on the history of Liberal women over the past sixty-years. It is an extremely ambitious book which succeeds not only in providing an in-depth history of the role of women in the Liberal Party, but also singles out the key figures. These range from Dame Enid Lyons (who was the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives) to the current Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, Julie Bishop (the first woman to hold the position). The book is highly recommended for both general readers and specialists alike. Perhaps Australia in the not too far distant future may find itself with female leaders of both its government and opposition ... - Jatinda Mann, Australian Studies Review, Vol 3, No 10 (2008)

Fitzherbert established her credentials as an historian of women within the party with her earlier book Liberal Women: Federation to 1949. The current book ... provides a largely reliable and well-researched history of Liberal women and women’s policy. The book is strongest on the factional and personal inter-relationships of Liberal politicians and how women fit into these ... At the institutional level, Fitzherbert is good on the structures demanded by the Australian Women’s National League as the price of its merger into the new Liberal Party in 1944, such as the reserving of organisational positions for women at all levels, and how these have provided a base for women within the party. ... Fitzherbert is also good on the politics of the first National Liberal Women’s Conference in 1986 Fitzherbert comments in some detail on how Jocelyn Newman, Amanda Vanstone and Judi Moylan were shifted out of their preferred ‘non-traditional’ (for women) portfolios of defence, attorney-general and small business when the Howard Government won office in 1996. Once in government they were given responsibility for the much more traditional ‘nurturing’ portfolios in which very large cuts were scheduled to take place. ... She quotes Kay Patterson and Judi Moylan on the bugbear of trying to implement social policy designed by Treasury and includes interesting reflections from Moylan on being too successful in gaining the support of the Australian Democrats for bad government policy. Moylan’s conclusion was that if she had been less assiduous or persuasive in addressing the Democrats’ party room, the worst aspects of the Aged Care Act 1997 would have been removed by Senate amendments and she would not have had to carry the political blame for them. It is sometimes suggested that the individualism of Liberal parliamentarians has precluded sisterly forms of collective action. Fitzherbert shows, however, that Liberal women have worked effectively with other women, even across party lines, on topics such as RU486 and other women’s health matters. The book may be read as a sustained case for the Liberal Party to assist the entry of more talented women, such as those described here, to assist in the rebuilding of the party and its electoral appeal. It is a case that deserves close attention. - Marian Sawer, Australian Review of Public Affairs, February 2010

Table of Contents

Foreword - Tom Harley, Chairman, Menzies Research Centre
Introduction
The Liberal Party Emerges 1943-1945
Into Power 1945-1949
The Menzies Era 1949-1966
In Menzies’ Shadow 1966-1972
Opposition 1972-1975
The Fraser Years 1975-1983
Opposition 1983-1994
The Howard Years 1995-2004
Howard’s Last Term 2004-2007
In Howard’s Shadow
Appendix 1 - Women Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries in the Federal Parliament
Appendix 2 - Women in Federal Parliament
Appendix 3 -Liberal Policy and Representational Achievements for Women
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Of interest...