Every time you handle a $50 note, there’s an Aussie icon looking right at you. But some of us are probably too caught up in the act of spending that $50 to have any idea who is on the note.
So for the record, it’s Edith Cowan, and she’s an absolute legend. Here’s what you should know about her.
#1. She was a trailblazer.
Edith Cowan is most famous for being the first woman to serve as a Member of Parliament in Australia. In 1921, Western Australia changed the law to allow women to stand for parliament, and in the very same year, wasting no time, Cowan won the Perth seat.
She literally dominated. Her landslide victory came as a major surprise and also ironically unseated the Attorney General who had introduced the legislation that enabled her to stand. Life is funny like that.
#2. She did not set out to be polite.
You know what? Colouring within the lines and asking nicely is not how any revolutionary change happens. Edith Cowan spoke out on issues that most of Australia was perfectly happy to keep sweeping under the rug. Domestic violence, women’s legal disadvantages, sex crimes, contraception – Cowan was not afraid to tackle the taboo, and we’re a better country because of it.
She made people think and become informed on the things that matter, so it makes sense that one of Australia’s leading universities is named after her. She continues to inspire the next generation of great thinkers through Western Australia’s Edith Cowan University, and it’s a testament to her legacy.
#3. She got it done.
Edith Cowan dedicated her life to fighting for what she believed in, and she managed to get a heck of a lot done. She won women the right to practice law, she successfully lobbied for the establishment of a Children’s Court, she paved the way for our current Sex Discrimination laws, promoted infant health centres, migrant welfare, and a seemingly endless list of other causes she dedicated herself to.
PLUS she raised five kids. I mean…just WOW.
Her biography is one of the most impressive around and makes it exceedingly clear the kind of virtuous ambition that is associated with Edith Cowan’s legacy.
#4. She was one of the first to promote sex education in schools.
Edith knew what was up. Australia still hasn’t caught up completely to her forward thinking.
#5. She gave everything to Australia.
The entirety of Edith Cowan’s life was devoted to countless charities and organisations. She volunteered and helped found the Children’s Protection Society, the Women’s Service Guild, and the Red Cross, just to name a few.
She was dedicated to the people, long before and long after her time serving in government. The grandness of her achievements is what lives on in her honour – in every woman who can practice law, in the Edith Cowan University, and in every move we make towards equality.
So remember that next time you’re flashing a fifty.