Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

Skip to content

Exhibitions

  • Australian Women Lawyers as Active Citizens

Use Trove to find more resources by/about this Woman

  • Trove

Tenison Woods, Mary Cecil (1893 - 1971)

CBE, OBE, LLB

Born
9 December 1893
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Died
18 October 1971
Ryde, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation
Academic, Barrister, Child welfare advocate, Lawyer and Solicitor
Alternative Names
  • Kitson, Mary (birth name)

Summary

Mary Tenison Woods (née Kitson) was the first woman to graduate in law in South Australia. She was admitted to the bar on 20 October 1917. Her application to become a public notary in 1921 led to a change in the law: the existing Act did not include women as 'persons'.

When Mary married in 1924 her partners did not wish to work with a married woman. Mary left the firm and formed a new partnership in 1925, in what may have been the first female practice in Australia.In the mid 1930s, Mary moved to Sydney and worked as a legal editor.

Following the failure of her marriage to Julian Tenison Woods, she moved to Sydney with her son, where she worked as a legal editor. In 1941 she became a member of the Child Welfare Advisory Council (NSW), held many honorary positions and served on a number of boards. Mary lectured at the university on legal aspects of social work and wrote several legal textbooks on a range of subjects.

In 1950 Tenison Woods was appointed chief of the office of the status of women in the division of human rights, United Nations Secretariat, New York. During her term two major conventions were adopted: the Convention of the Political Rights of Women (1952), the first international law aimed at the granting and protection of women's full political rights, and the Convention of the Nationality of Married Women (1957) which decreed that marriage should not affect the nationality of a wife.

On 13 June 1959 Mary Tenison Woods was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for public service, especially with the United Nations. Previously she had been appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire on 8 June 1950 for services to child welfare.

Details

Events

1916
Graduated from the University of Adelaide, (LLB)
20 October 1917
First woman to be admitted to the Bar in South Australia
1919
Became a partner in the reconstituted firm of Johnstone, Ronald & Kitson
1921
Kitson's application to become a public notary led to a change in the law: the existing Act did not include women as 'persons'
13 December 1924
Mary Kitson married barrister and solicitor, Julian Gordon Tenison Woods, they were to have one son
1925
Joined Dorothy Somerville in practice, as her former partners preferred not to work with a married woman
21 June 1927
Her husband's name was removed from the roll for misuse of trust funds. The couple separated.
1930s
She received grants from the Carnegie Corporation to research delinquency
1930s - 1950
After moving to Sydney with her son, she worked as legal editor with Butterworth's Book Company
1935 - 1940
Served on the New South Wales Board of Social Study and Training
1937
Published Juvenile Delinquency
1940 - 1945
Sat on the board of the Women's Australian National Services
1940 - 1950
Lectured part time at the University of Sydney on legal aspects of social work
1941 - 1949
Served on the New South Wales Board of Social Studies at the University of Sydney
1944
Wrote two articles for the Sydney Morning Herald highlighting problems at Parramatta and at the Gosford Boy's Home
1946
Founder of the New South Wales St Joan's Social and Political Alliance
1948
Nominated (unsuccessfully) to be the Australian representative on the United Nations Organization Status of Women Commission
1950 - 1958
Appointed Chief of the Office of the Status of Women in the Human Rights Division of the United Nations
8 June 1950
Appointed appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to child welfare.
13 June 1959
Appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for public service, especially with the United Nations Organization

Sources used to compile this entry: Kerwin, Hollie and Rubenstein, Kim, 'Law', in The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia, Judith Smart and Shurlee Swain (eds), Australian Women's Archives Project, 2014, http://www.womenaustralia.info/leaders/biogs/WLE0624b.htm; 'Mary Tenison Woods - Social and Political Activist', in Golding Centre for Women's History, Theology & Spirituality, ACU National, http://dlibrary.acu.edu.au/research/whits/Requestedtranscripts/reqtranscript06.html; O'Brien, Anne, 'Tenison Woods, Mary Cecil (1893-1971)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006, http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A120213b.htm.

Related entries

Partner

Archival resources

National Library of Australia Newspaper Microcopy Reading Room

  • [Biographical cuttings on Mary Cecil Tenison Woods, barrister, legal author and editor and child welfare reformer], 1733285; National Library of Australia Newspaper Microcopy Reading Room. Details

Anne Heywood and Larissa Halonkin

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

© Copyright in The Australian Women's Register is owned by the Australian Women's Archives Project
and vested in each of the authors in respect of their contributions from 2000

http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/AWE0568b.htm

The Australian Women's Register is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

The Australian Women's Register is published quarterly by the Australian Women's Archives Project
ISSN 2207-3124