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22 July 1959 Women Parliamentarians

 22 July 1959 Women Parliamentarians

The editorial in the News on 22 July 1959 was headed ‘Wisdom of Women’. The editor stated the first two women to serve in the South Australian parliament had made such sensible contributions as members and such valuable contributions that they have made the previous omission of women from parliament even more glaring. Although women had stood as independents and others endorsed by political parties none had won a seat prior to 1959.

For the March election seven were endorsed – four by the Liberal & Country League (LCL), two by the Australian Labor Party (ALP), and one by the Democratic Labor Party (DLP). Two of these were standing for Central No. 2 in the Legislative Council. Three weeks before the election two men handed a legal challenge to the women standing for the seat based on the interpretation of the 1915 Acts Interpretation Act, 1934 Constitution Amendment Act and even the original 1855-56 Constitution. The case hinged on whether ‘person’ in Section 12 of the 1934 Act included ‘women’. Four days before the election the Court declined to grant an order refusing women the right to contest seat in the Legislative Council. In August 1959 Premier Tom Playford introduced a Bill which removed any doubts on the eligibility of women to stand for the LC. Mrs Jessie Cooper was duly elected to the Council.

Helen Jones, In Her Own Name, Wakefield Press, 1986, pp 254-58.

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