Enid Lyons

Enid Lyons with media leaders, 1960 (AOT, PH30/1/3573)

Enid Muriel Lyons (née Burnell, 18971981), politician, was born on Tasmania's north-west coast. While an eighteen-year-old trainee teacher, she married Joseph Lyons, 35-year-old state Minister for Education, and converted to Catholicism. As well as bearing Joseph twelve children, she became his closest political ally and adviser, narrowly losing a parliamentary election in 1925. An excellent public speaker and moderate feminist, she made a successful prime minister's wife from 1931.

Despite her devastation at Joseph's death, in 1943 Enid Lyons became the first woman elected to federal parliament (for the seat of Darwin), then in 1949 the first woman in federal cabinet. She worked to enlarge welfare payments to women and children, for example extending child endowment. On retirement in 1951, she wrote newspaper articles and two autobiographical volumes, and in 1980 was created a Dame.

Further reading: E Lyons, So we take comfort, London, 1965; and Among the carrion crows, Adelaide, 1972.

Alison Alexander