20 June, 2024
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Family of first woman MP make historic donation


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The family of Australia’s most prominent political couple has handed over a much-treasured Bible to the parliament.

Joseph and Enid Lyons took their oaths of office on the Bible, which was presented to Speaker Milton Dick in Canberra on Tuesday by their grand-daughter, Professor Rosemary Ainslie.

Mr Dick said not only was it a family treasure, but it carried a “rich history during the first century of Australian democracy”.

Professor Ainslie said it had been hard to hand over the Bible after so many years in the family’s care.

She said she initially considered handing it over to the Australian embassy in Washington DC, which has a room dedicated to Ms Lyons.

“But upon reflection I thought no, it is Australia’s history, it should stay in Australia,” Professor Ainslie said.

“It is a tangible connection to both my grandparents.

“It is a symbol of two people who made a significant and selfless contribution to the country that they love.”

Joseph “Honest Joe” Lyons was the 10th prime minister of Australia, holding office from 1932 until he died in 1939.

Dame Enid Lyons was elected to the Tasmanian seat of Darwin in 1943, becoming the first female member of the House of Representatives.

At the same election, Dame Dorothy Tangney was elected to the Senate.

Dame Enid went on to be sworn in as vice-president of the executive council in 1949, becoming the first female member of federal cabinet.

She later complained that it was “a toothless position”, doubting that the then prime minister Sir Robert Menzies wanted her in cabinet at all because “they only wanted me to pour the tea”.

Dame Enid resigned from cabinet in 1951 and did not contest the next election.

Both women will be honoured at a statue unveiling ceremony in Canberra on Wednesday.


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