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Enid Lyons: Leading Lady to a Nation

Anne Henderson

This is the story of an extraordinary woman – mother of twelve, Prime Minister’s wife, first woman member of the House of Representatives and the first woman in a Federal Cabinet, radio broadcaster, newspaper columnist, author of three books -  Enid Lyons was for many years the best known woman in Australia.

'Australia’s House of Representatives and Senate now includes many women MPs on both sides. Even so, it is still a media highlight whenever a female ‘first’ comes into vision. In 2007, it was Julia Gillard as Australia’s first deputy prime minister, and in 2008 it is Quentin Bryce as Australia's first female governor-general.

Every word spoken, every action taken, every move is recorded. So it was with heart-stopping interest that Australians waited to hear or read the maiden speech of their first female MP in the House of Representatives, made on 29 September 1943. Although she admitted later to not having eaten before her delivery and being extremely nervous (‘my lips were stiff when I started but all the men were wishing me well’), Enid did not disappoint. Her speech was eloquent, richly written, and delivered in Enid’s long-practised and well-trained lilting voice. It surprised then and still remains one of the classic speeches in Australian political life.'

Enid Lyons regarded herself as “feminist” but was also conservative. She was a pacifist and a Fabian underneath her conservative outlook on families and moral life. Enid could be strong on principle but also surprisingly tolerant. She had views on mothering that were ahead of their time.

The story of Joe and Enid Lyons is full of dramatic extremes without being risqué. Anne Henderson has also uncovered new information which indicates a family secret. There will be controversy over this – and much interest.

‘Anne Henderson gives us a full and lively account of a great Australian whose uniqueness and importance is finally given due recognition.

Every Australian interested in our political story, and certainly every young mother striving for work life balance should read this biography.’
                                                                                                                            Hon Susan Ryan AO

This is a powerfully drawn, compelling insight into the world and life of a truly remarkable Australian woman and politician.’
                                                                                                                            Senator Marise Payne

‘This engaging biography does justice to Dame Enid Lyons.   It is a necessary book for anyone exploring the part women play in Australian politics’.
                                                                                                                                Edmund Campion


Anne Henderson has been Deputy Director of The Sydney Institute and editor of The Sydney Papers since 1989. She is the author of From All Corners: Six Migrant Stories (Allen & Unwin, 1993), Educating Johannah: A Year in Year 12 (Allen & Unwin, 1995), Mary MacKillop’s Sisters: A Life Unveiled (HarperCollins, 1997), Getting Even: Women MPs on Life, Power and Politics (HarperCollins 1999), The Killing of Sister Irene McCormack (HarperCollins 2002) and An Angel in The Court – The Life of Major Joyce Harmer (HarperCollins 2005).

Among her essays of note are “Dad’s Wake” in Fathers: In Writing (Tuart Press, 1997) and the biographical chapter on Prime Minister Joe Lyons for Australian Prime Ministers edited by Michelle Grattan (New Holland 2000) and the UK’s New Dictionary of National Biography (OUP). She was a contributing editor with Ross Fitzgerald of Partners (HarperCollins, 1999) and will be a contributor in the forthcoming Growing Old Disgacefully – eds, Ross Fitzgerald & Lyndal Moore (ABC Books 2008).

ISBN: 978-0-9802924-9-7  | RRP  $29.95 |


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