CBE, OBE, LLB
- 9 December 1893
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
- 18 October 1971
Ryde, New South Wales, Australia
- Academic, Barrister, Child welfare advocate, Lawyer and Solicitor
- Alternative Names
- Kitson, Mary (birth name)
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.