Enid Lyons

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Dame Enid Lyons

AD, GBE
EnidJoseph.jpg
Enid and Joseph Lyons in the 1930s
Spouse of the Prime Minister of Australia
In office
6 January 1932 – 7 April 1939
Preceded bySarah Scullin
Succeeded byLady Page
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Darwin
In office
21 August 1943 – 19 March 1951
Preceded byGeorge Bell
Succeeded byAubrey Luck
Personal details
Born
Enid Muriel Burnell

(1897-07-09)9 July 1897
Smithton, Tasmania
Died2 September 1981(1981-09-02) (aged 84)
NationalityAustralian
Political partyUAP (1943–44)
Liberal (1944–51)
Spouse(s)Joseph Lyons
Children12
OccupationTeacher

Dame Enid Muriel Lyons ADGBE (née Burnell; 9 July 1897 – 2 September 1981) was an Australian politician. She was the first woman to be elected to the Australian House of Representatives and the first woman in the federal Cabinet. She was the wife of the Premier of Tasmania and later Prime Minister of AustraliaJoseph Lyons.

Lyons was born Enid Muriel Burnell in Smithton, Tasmania, one of three daughters of William and Eliza (née Taggett) Burnell. She trained to be a teacher in Hobart. Her mother was active in the Labor party and community groups in Tasmania. She was one of the first women appointed as a Justice of the Peace in Tasmania.

Lyons was made a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in the Coronation Honours of 1937.[4][5] Joseph Lyons died in 1939, aged 59, the first Australian Prime Minister to die in office, and Dame Enid returned to Tasmania. She bitterly resented Joseph Lyons's successor as leader of the UAP, Robert Menzies, who had, she believed, betrayed her husband by resigning from the Cabinet, shortly before Joseph's death.[1]

At the 1943 election Dame Enid Lyons narrowly won the Division of Darwin in north-western Tasmania for the UAP, becoming the first woman in the House of Representatives. Her Labor opponent, who received more primary votes than she did, was the future Tasmanian Premier Eric Reece. At the same election, Dorothy Tangney was elected as a Labor Senator for Western Australia, the nation's first woman Senator.

In retirement, Dame Enid's health recovered. She was a newspaper columnist (1951–54), a commissioner of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1951–62), and remained active in public life promoting family and women's issues. She published three volumes of memoirs, which embarrassed the Liberal Party by reviving her complaints about Menzies' 1939 behaviour towards her husband.[1]

She was nevertheless made a Dame of the Order of Australia (AD) on Australia Day 1980,[8] the second woman to receive this honour. She was the first Australian woman to receive damehoods in different orders. She died the following year and was accorded a state funeral inDevonport, Tasmania, before being buried next to her husband at Mersey Vale Lawn Cemetery.[1]