Image sources, from left: Wakefield Press, State Library South Australia.
Kate Cocks, South Australia’s first policewoman, was no saint – but she helped solve major crimes including the poisoning of children, abortion rackets and drug smuggling.
William Leigh/Mitchell Library New South Wales
Kudnarto was the first Aboriginal woman to legally marry, under colonial law in South Australia. Her descendants include prominent Kaurna people like Gladys Elphick and Michael O'Loughlin.
Transported to Van Diemen’s Land aged 11, Ellen Miles went on to riot in Launceston’s Female Factory, seek fortune in gold-rush Victoria and live to nearly 90.
John Skinner Prout’s 1849 painting of the Cascades Female Factory in Hobart, Van Dieman’s Land, where Alexandrina bore an illegitimate child.
Deported to Australia as a convict at the age of 18, Alexandrina Askew reinvented herself as a woman of means, with a mysterious habit of misplacing her purse.
Missionary Annie Lock with Enbarda (Betsy) left, and Dolly Cumming, both children from the Alice Springs area in Central Australia. Photo taken in Darwin.
National Archives of Australia
I thought I had uncovered a feminist heroine, but for all her intrepid and gutsy behaviour, Lock held intensely socially conservative views in line with her religious conviction.
S. T. Gill, 34. Iron Bark Eagle Hawk, in Original Sketches, 1844-1866.
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Mould, dodging mine shafts, sleeping in beds of dried leaves: Mary Anne Allen’s diary offers a fascinating glimpse of family life on the goldfields in 1852.
Portrait of Eliza Hamilton Dunlop (no date), colour photograph of oil painting
Wollombi Endeavour Museum
Dunlop’s 1838 poem, The Aboriginal Mother, about the suffering inflicted at the Myall Creek massacre, made the new immigrant from Ireland locally notorious.
Annie, centre, with her children in the town of Halifax, circa 1910, forged a rich life in difficult circumstances.
Brought out to work on the sugar plantations, Annie was a woman of colour who defied all odds to participate in a predominantly white community.
Vittore Carpaccio’s portrait of a woman reading (1510).
The first French novelist wrote about an adulterous affair and moved to Paris after separating from her husband.
Clipping from Woman’s World, January, 1927. Bryant Scrapbook. Courtesy of John R. H. Bryant.
Millicent Bryant made her first solo flight at the age of 49 in 1927. The life of this bold, unconventional woman was tragically cut short in a ferry disaster that same year.
Kyniska drawn with her horses in the Biography of Illustrious Women of Rome, Greece, and the Lower Empire, published in 1825.
After her win in 396 BC, Kyniska erected a statue of herself, reading: ‘I am the only woman in all Greece who won this crown.’
A modern portrait of Jeanne Barret disguised as a man, based on the author’s interpretation.
Fresh research casts new light on a boldly unconventional woman who cross-dressed as a man to join a French naval sea voyage.
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.