Western Australia’s Women’s Hall of Fame inducts new members

International Women’s Day acknowledges the significant achievements and groundbreaking efforts women have made to our society.

The event originated in 1911 when it was celebrated for the first time. Each year on the 8th March around the world the day is a time to celebrate the achievements of women and highlight inequality.

For 2021 the theme of the celebrations is ‘Choose to Challenge’

Here in Western Australia the WA Women’s Hall of Fame acknowledges women from our local community who have made giant contributions to our community. This year they have focused on celebrating women from the past.

Fiona Reid, Chair of the WA Women’s Hall of Fame said fourteen women had been selected for posthumous recognition.

“The women’s stories from our past, are an important part of the historical fabric of the State in which we live today. A rich tapestry, often weaved from hardship; loss, determination, and resilience. These are women we can all admire and draw inspiration from as we emerge from the challenges of the last year”, said Reid.

2021 inductees to the WA Women’s Hall of Fame

Jane Swain Adams (1851 – 1934)
Affectionally known as ‘Granny Adams’, Jane was born in Toodyay. She married and settled in Mangowine, 280 km from Perth. After 1900, the government opened land in the area and ‘Granny Adams’ became a mentor for inexperienced farmers struggling to make a living. Jane was a first-generation local pioneer woman.

Pru Arber (1851 – 1932)
Born in Mount Barker, Pru had no formal education. She grew up with the local Aboriginal children learning bush lore from them – skills she later used to survive alone in the bush when she became a shepherdess. Despite becoming a wealthy woman later in life, she preferred her frugal lifestyle.

Fanny Balbuk (1840 – 1910)
Fanny was a traditional Whadjuk yorga (woman), born on Matagarup (Heirisson Island), and a resistance fighter. She lived through the early years of the Swan River Colony and British colonisation in the 19th century. Regardless of houses and fences which prevented her from accessing her country, Fanny still walked her traditional bidi (track) to gather bush foods.

Nurse Francis Cherry (1872 – 1941)
Nurse Frances Cherry was a pioneer District Nurse in WA, and one of the founders of Silver Chain. In 1918, she became Superintendent of Nurses, but continued arduous, solitary work doing ‘rounds’ in pony and trap, visiting patients from Perth to Fremantle, for over 35-years.

Mary Ellen Cuper (1847 – 1877)
Born as Ellen Pangieran in Bunbury to Aboriginal yorga (woman) Yanjipp, Mary went to Bishop Salvado’s Benedictine mission in New Norcia for education. She married in the district and became Cuper. Mary Ellen trained as a telegraphist and in January 1874, she was formally appointed postmistress at Victoria Plains.

Mother Ursula Frayne (1816 – 1885)
Born in Ireland,Ursula entered the Institute of Mercy (Sisters of Mercy) in 1834. She arrived in Perth in 1846, with other Sisters to staff a proposed school. Regardless of great challenges she is credited with opening the first Mercy school in Australia and introducing secondary education into WA.

Lady Margaret Forrest (1844 – 1929)
Arriving in WA in 1850, Margaret married surveyor John Forrest (first premier of Western Australia). She was president of the West Australian Society of Arts and a foundation member of the Karrakatta Club (the first women’s club in Australia). A life-long passion for painting the State’s wildflowers, likely led to her involvement in the development of Kings Park.

May Gibbs (1877 – 1969)
In 1885, eight year old May, arrived with her family in Harvey. ‘Entranced’ by the unusual flora, she started drawing and writing about the bush. Moving to South Perth two years later, her first illustration was published in 1889. She went on to publish the much-loved ‘Gumnut Babies’ and the ‘Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’.

Helen McGregor Scott (1793 – 1883)
A true pioneer and a tireless servant of early Western Australia, Helen arrived in 1831. She became a nurse, and nursing was her life. Living near Bunbury, many sought her services. She was credited for her skills in setting broken limbs and as attending midwife. Helen was dedicated to the care of the sick and needy.

Mary Ann Millsteed (1887 – 1949)
Mary was a pioneer settler in the Wongan Hills dristrict in the 1900’s. Beyond raising 8 children and building a productive wheat and sheep farm with her husband, she played a significant role in establishing the Wongan Hills Progress Association, to campaign for local ammenities, schools, a regular mail service and a railway.

Emily Harriett Pelloe (1877 – 1941)
Emily was an acclaimed author of botanical illustrated publications. Her first book, Wildflowers of Western Australia published in 1921, is claimed to be the first book in the English language about WA’s local flora. Over 400 of her wildflower paintings are housed at UWA in Saint Catherine’s College.

Nurse Alice Stockley (1866 – 1944)
Nurse Alice Maud Mary Stockley was a registered midwife and the Founder of Swan Maternity Hospital in West Perth. Nurse Stockley built and opened the hospital three years before King Edward Maternity Hospital. Over the years she opened another hospital in Newcastle Street, named the Highercrombie Maternity Hospital.

Mary Hynes Swanton (1861 – 1940)
A tailoress, Mary was a trade unionist who was determined to make a difference to working conditions. She was the foundation member of the Perth Tailoresses Union and became the first woman president of the Tailors and Tailoresses’ Union of Western Australia, campaigning to expose and investigate ‘sweating’ and child labour in the Perth clothing trades.

Take a look at all the women added to the WA Women’s Hall of Fame since it was launched in 2011.

OIP Staff

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