Representatives of the 2021 Women's Hall of Fame inductees
Representatives of the 2021 Women’s Hall of Fame inductees

State’s women pioneers inducted into WA Women’s Hall of Fame on #IWD2021

Pioneer women who shaped Western Australia in its early years through their hard work, passion and dedication were inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame this evening at Government House. 

Their hard work, passion and dedication laid a foundation for women in the state to aspire, achieve and flourish, which is also demonstrated year in, year out with the Hall of Fame inductees.

This diverse range of inspirational women who forged their own pathways, standing true to their calling, made a fundamental difference to those who followed.

The event was attended by previous Hall of Fame inductees, as well as representatives of the pioneer women who were honoured.

WA Women’s Hall of Fame ‘Roll of Honour’ 2021

Jane Swain Adams (1851 – 1934)
Affectionally known later in life as ‘Granny Adams’, Jane was an agricultural pioneer who was born in Toodyay. After marrying she settled in Mangowine. Living in relative isolation, Jane decided to keep weather records for the meteorological office, which she did for 47 years. She was widowed at 44 and along with raising 9 children, Jane ran her property, and won a tender to do a mail run with her son. After 1900, the government opened land in the area and ‘Granny Adams’ became a mentor for inexperienced farmers who came to her for help and advice. Jane was inducted to the Western Australian Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2003 for her many outstanding contributions and spirit.

Pru Arber (1851 – 1932)
Born in Mount Barker, Pru had no formal education. She grew up with the local Aboriginal children learning bush lore from them – skills she later used to survive alone in the bush. Acquiring her first flock through hand-raising motherless lambs, she began her nomadic lifestyle of a shepherdess. After surviving a lightening-strike, she started wearing a white apron so her body could be easily identified if she died in the bush. Pru inherited money and bought pastoral land but despite becoming a wealthy woman, she continued her frugal lifestyle. Her shepherd bells are on display at the Mount Barker Museum.

Fanny Balbuk Yooreel (1840 – 1910)
Fanny was a traditional Whadjuk yorga (woman), born on Matagarup (Heirisson Island) in the Swan River, and a resistance fighter. She lived through the early years of the Swan River Colony and British colonialisation of Perth in the 19th century. Despite the building of houses and fences which prevented her from accessing her country and living her culture, Fanny continued to walk her traditional bidi (track) to gather bush foods, knocking down fence pailings in her path. She was arrested many times but still she protested, as Daisy Bates noted, she would “stand at the gates of Government House, cursing everyone within, because the stone gate guarded by a sentry enclosed her grandmother’s burial ground” (Bates 1938).

Nurse Francis Cherry (1872 – 1941)
Nurse Frances Cherry was a pioneer District Nurse in WA, when in 1908 she became one of the founders, with Mrs. Muriel Chase and Sister S L Copley, of Silver Chain. Her appointment as District Nurse came after two years nursing in Kalgoorlie where she went to help fight the typhoid epidemic. In 1918, she became Superintendent of Nurses, with four nurses working under her, but continued with her own rounds. Spending over 35 years in arduous solitary work, in pony and trap; visiting patients from Perth to Fremantle, and beyond.

Mary Ellen Cuper (1847 – 1877)
Born as Ellen Pangieran in Bunbury to Aboriginal yorga (woman) Yanjipp, Mary was sent to Bishop Salvado’s Benedictine mission in New Norcia for education. She married in the district and became Cuper. The commencement of a telegraph line to Geraldton via New Norcia required a full-time telegraphist. Mary Ellen trained for the work and when the position of postmistress at Victoria Plains became vacant in 1873, the superintendent of telegraphs James Fleming reported that Salvado had ‘an applicant in a female Aboriginal who is perfectly familiar with the telegraph Code’. Mary Ellen was formally appointed in January 1874 with an annual salary of £30.

Lady Madeline Onslow (1851 – 1926)
Madeline arrived in Western Australia with her husband Sir Alexander Onslow in 1880. She was the first President of the Karrakatta Club and worked for the women’s suffragette cause. She was instrumental in in forming the Women’s Franchise League, which lobbied for women’s vote. It was granted in this State in 1899. A few years later in 1901, Lady Madeleine Onslow and Dr Athelstan Saw led a group which founded the Home of Peace for the Dying and Incurable. The organisation is now known as the Brightwater Care Group.

Emily Harriett Pelloe (1877 – 1941)
Emily was an acclaimed author of botanical illustrated publications. Her first book, Wildflowers of Western Australia published in 1921, is claimed to be the first book in the English language about WA’s local flora. She painted watercolour landscapes of the Australian bush. Over 400 of her wildflower paintings are housed at the UWA in Saint Catherine’s College. She was President of the Women Writers’ Club and supported the proposed women’s university college at University of WA, known as Saint Catherine’s College. Emily was acknowledged for stimulating interest in women’s affairs, with a focus on the welfare of mothers and children.

Nurse Alice Stockley (1866 – 1944)
Nurse Alice Maud Mary Stockley was a registered midwife and the Founder of Swan Maternity Hospital. She arrived in Fremantle in 1907, and a few years later started a practice in East Perth. Securing land in West Perth she built, and opened Nurse Stockley Maternity Hospital (later renamed Swan Maternity Hospital), three years before King Edward Maternity Hospital. Over the years she opened another hospital also in Newcastle Street, Highercrombie Maternity Hospital.

Mary Hynes Swanton (1861 – 1940)
A tailoress, Mary arrived in WA in 1889 and as trade unionist she was determined to make a difference, and she did. She joined the Australian Natives Association in 1900 (later being the first woman to be given a life membership), and she was the foundation member of the Perth Tailoresses Union until it amalgamated with the Trade Union. Mary maintained a campaign to expose and investigate ‘sweating’ and child labour in the Perth clothing trades and presented evidence at enquiries. In 1907 she was elected the first woman president of the Tailors and Tailoresses’ Union of Western Australia and was a prominent member of the Children’s Protection Society.



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