Dickenson-Monteith/The Australian Performing Arts Collection
In the 1930s, it was modern dance that taught Melburnians how to perform personal hygiene. There are still lessons to be learnt from this history and the legacy of Sonia Revid.
Catherine Hay Thomson went undercover as an assistant nurse for her series on conditions at Melbourne Hospital.
A. J. Campbell Collection/National Library of Australia
A passionate crusader for the rights of women and children, Catherine Hay Thomson went undercover to investigate their treatment in public institutions and testified before a Royal Commission.
Though her brave acts were acknowledged after her death, Wauba Debar’s grave was later robbed in the name of “science”.
A grave stands in Bicheno, paid for by locals in the 1800s. It stands as a testament to the lifesaving ocean feats and tragic life of Indigenous woman Wauba Debar.
Gustave Boulanger, The Slave Market, 1886.
From a young age, Neaera was trained for the life of a hetaira, or courtesan. Her tragic story comes to us only through court documents, but she deserves to be remembered.
Elephants destined for Wirths’ circus on a ship’s deck circa 1925. Early last century, Frances Levvy asked school students to write an essay on whether the exhibition of wild animals in travelling menageries was consistent with humanity.
By Sam Hood ca. 1925-ca. 1945, State Library of NSW
Born in 1831, at a time when animals were widely regarded as property, Frances Levvy used the power of the press and the passion of children to advocate for their welfare.
Leila Waddell performing during the Rites of Eleusis.
Leila Waddell entered the world stage as an acclaimed violinist - and left it having influenced magical practice into the 21st century.
Queen Marau, 1889, by Sophia Hoare.
Collection du Musée de Tahiti et des îles – Te Fare Manaha
She left Sydney Ladies' College at 14 to marry an alcoholic future king. But the life of Queen Marau deserves to be written outside the shadow of her royal husband.
One of the most influential agricultural entomologists in history was an insatiably curious and fiercely independent woman named Eleanor Anne Ormerod. She never went to school - nor was she paid for her work.
Pat Larter (England; Australia, b.1936, d.1996) Pat’s anger 1992.
acrylic and mixed media on board, 91 x 60.5 cm; 92.5 x 62 cm.
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Gift of Frank Watters 2018. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program © Estate of Pat Larter. Photo: AGNSW 32.2018
Best known as the subject of her husband Richard's work, Pat Larter was herself a major artist.
Grata Flos Greig, First Female Law Graduate, c1904, University of Melbourne. Flos was the first woman admitted to the Australian legal profession.
University of Melbourne Archives, UMA/I/5131
When Flos Greig first entered law school, it was illegal for women to become lawyers. Undeterred, she lobbied for change and became the first woman admitted to the legal profession in Australia.
Isabel, on left, when she was working for Mangankali Housing Company, talking to politicians and/or bureaucrats on the Wollai, the Aboriginal reserve at Collarenebri.
Family collection, provided to author.
Denied an education in 1930s Australia because she was too black, Isabel Flick went on to fight segregation at her local cinema in the early 1960s. She became a powerful campaigner for Indigenous rights.
The National Museum of Iraq photographed in February 2018. Many of the pieces discovered at the ruins of Ur, arranged and labelled by Ennigaldi-Nanna, can be found here.
Ennigaldi-Nanna is largely unknown in the modern day. But in 530BC, this Mesopotamian priestess worked to arrange and label various artefacts in the world's first museum.
Eliza Winstanley, Carte de visite, circa 1860. TCS 19, Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Eliza Winstanley, who died of diabetes and exhaustion in Sydney in 1882, is largely forgotten. But as a leading artist on Australia’s earliest stages she deserves a prominent place in our theatrical histories.
Map of New France, by Samuel de Champlain (1612), including French depictions of First Nations peoples.
Antoinette de Saint-Étienne was a Canadian First Nations woman of the 17th century whose beautiful singing voice attracted the attention of a queen.
Fanny Finch’s 1856 voting card.
Castlemaine Art Museum
Decades before most white Australian women were granted the right to vote, a businesswoman and single mother of four took to the polls and signed a ballot paper.
Hsieh Hsüeh-hung and her partner in life and politics Yang K'o-huang in Beijing, 1949.
At her birth in 1901 she was registered with the name 'girlie', not really a name at all. But from this assigned anonymity, Hsieh Hsüeh-hung became a courageous and tenacious revolutionary.
Letham with her board.
Dee Why library.
Isabel Letham was one of the first Australians to ride the waves. After moving to the US in 1918, she became an epitome of the modern woman: economically independent, physically daring and unapologetically ambitious.
A colour portrait of Maria Sibylla Merian by Dutch artist Jacobus Houbraken, circa 1700.
Maria Sibylla Merian's meticulous observations laid the groundwork for the fields of entomology, animal behaviour and ecology. But the legacy of this scientific superhero has been sidelined by sexism.
Standard of Ur mosaic, 26th century BC.
Enheduanna's name means 'Ornament of Heaven'. She wrote hymns and myths more than 4000 years ago, studied the stars and yet is almost entirely unknown in the present day.
An 1808 painting by Marie-Gabrielle Capet titled Atelier of Madame Vincent, showing Labille-Guiard at work (centre) as Capet fills her palette.
Adélaïde Labille-Guiard was a supremely skilled artist. But like so many talented women before and since, she suffered from snide allegations that she could not be capable of such brilliance.