- 2 August 1861
Glengarry, near Geraldton, Western Australia, Australia
- 9 June 1932
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
- Community worker, Lawyer, Magistrate, Public servant, Politician and Political activist
Edith Cowan, the first woman to be elected to an Australian parliament in Western Australia in 1921, was described in her entry in Australian feminism, a companion, as 'a committed, tireless and public campaigner for women's and children's rights from the early twentieth century'. Married at the age of seventeen to James Cowan, registrar and master of the Supreme Court, they had five children. She was the founding secretary in 1894 and later president of the Karrakatta Club, a women's club in Perth, which campaigned for female suffrage. Her commitment to women's well-being resulted in her active involvement in the establishment of the Western Australian National Council of Women in 1911. She was a foundation member of the Children's Protection Society in 1906 and the first woman to be appointed to the Children's Court bench in 1915. She became a Justice of the Peace in 1920. In the same year her work was acknowledged with her appointment to the Order of the British Empire for her contribution to the Western Australian division of the Red Cross Society, of which she was a founding member in 1914.
A clock tower at the entrance to King's Park in Perth was erected to her memory in 1934 and in 1995 her portrait was printed on the Australian fifty dollar note.
Sources used to compile this entry: Black, David and Phillips, Harry, 'Making a Difference: Women in the West Australian Parliament 1921-1999', Parliament of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, 2000; Brown, Margaret, 'Cowan, Edith Dircksey (1861-1932)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006, http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A080137b.htm.