Edith Dircksey Cowan (née Brown) was an Australian politician and social campaigner, who worked tirelessly for the welfare of women and children. It was her unhappy childhood that instilled in her an urge to do something for the downtrodden. Her mother died in childbirth when she was seven and her father was hanged to death on a charge of willful murder of his second wife when she was fifteen. Later when her husband became the Police Magistrate at Perth she came to realize the extent of social and legal problems faced by the ordinary people. She started by campaigning for women’s suffrage and later went on to become the first Australian women legislature.
All her life, Edith Cowan worked for the welfare of the women and children. Nonetheless, winning the voting right for women in 1899 was probably her first major work. Later she played a major role in setting up the children’s court because she believed children should not be tried with adults.
As a member of the legislative assembly, Cowan campaigned for sex education at school, children’s nurseries for working women and housewives’ union. In 1923, she pushed through ‘Women’s Legal Status Bill’, which not only allowed women to take up legal career but also opened the door of other professions.