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Edith Cowan: Preserving The Past Of Australia’s First Female Parliamentarian

On Monday 19th December 2016, a ceremony was held at the Centre to mark the official hand-over of the collection of artefacts and ephemera from the life of Edith Cowan OBE, Australia’s first female parliamentarian. The collection* was gifted to the State Library of Western Australia by the Peter Cowan Writers Centre Inc.

The ceremony was attended by ECU Chancellor and Mrs Cowan’s grandnephew, the Honourable Dr Hendy Cowan AO; ECU Vice Chancellor, Professor Steve Chapman; CEO of the State Library of WA and State Librarian, Ms Margaret Allen; Professor Glen Phillips, ECU Honorary Professor School of Arts and Humanities; Mr Keith Melrose, President of the Peter Cowan Writers Centre, and other guests from the State Library and the PCWC.

The material included an Order of the British Empire signed by King George V, as well as many photographs and documents. With the Peter Cowan Writers Centre gifting these items to the State Library, it will allow the items to be preserved, protected and digitised so they are available for future historians, researchers and writers. Mrs Cowan played a significant role in the social and political development of WA.

The CEO of the State Library of WA and State Librarian, Margaret Allen, said it was a significant collection. “Edith Cowan was a significant social reformer in addition to being the first woman elected to any Australian parliament. She served from 1921-1924. Adding materials to the State Library’s collections that help tell her story is important for our heritage,” she said.

*All enquiries regarding Edith Cowan memorabilia/ephemera or the use of photographs should now be directed to the State Library of Western Australia. The SLWA catalogue can be accessed at:  Encore (slwa.wa.gov.au)