This week I was pleased to attend Parliament House to join The Honourable Curtis Pitt, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in Queensland, to celebrate a significant milestone in Queensland and Australian history. It was to mark the 90th Anniversary of the election of Irene Longman (pictured below). She was the first woman to stand and be elected into Queensland parliament.
On the 11th of May 1929 Mrs Irene Longman was elected to represent the Brisbane electorate of Bulimba. She won the previously safe ALP seat for the conservative Country and Progressive National Party.
Irene advocated for co-operation of men and women in public life, not confrontation. While in parliament, she was responsible for the first appointment of a Queensland woman police officer, and championed the welfare of children which resulted in special education being included in schools for the first time. Parliament wasn’t exactly ready for her because, for one thing, there weren’t any women’s toilets there at the time.
Irene lost her seat to a trade union activist three years later in the 1932 election and did not re-contest it. But she had broken through a barrier and “wouldn’t have missed it for worlds”.
Irene had trained as a kindergarten teacher but came from political stock. Two brothers who were also members of the Queensland Parliament. Percy Bayley in Pittsworth represented the Queensland Farmers Union, and James Bayley the Country and Progressive National Party at Wynnum and in federal parliament the Nationalist Party in Oxley.
Today, the federal electorate of Longman is named after her.
In 1895, South Australia became the first place in the world in which women could both vote and stand for parliament, however it wasn’t until 1959 that the first woman was elected there. Irene Longman in Queensland predated that by thirty years.
This week at Parliament House, celebratory refreshments followed on the President’s Verandah (pictured right), where ironically ninety years earlier Irene Longman was forced to eat her meals because, as a woman, she wasn’t allowed access to the parliamentary dining room.
Irene Maud Longman, the daughter of a Congregational minister, was born in 1877 and passed away in 1964. She led for others to follow.
Portrait of Irene Longman, speaker Curtis Pitt, Harold Peacock – my own
Irene Longman 1877-1964 – Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 2978
Presidents Verandah – my own
Harold, Irene Longman reminds me of Agnes McWhinney, first woman admitted as a solicitor in Qld. Like Irene who couldn`t eat in the Parliamentary dining room, Agnes faced discrimination. She couldn`t receive her salary directly, it had to be paid to her brother who worked in the same office. We`ve moved on, at least in a number of ways.