Annabel Crabb

Ms Represented 

ABC iView
by Michelle Staff and Joshua Black
30 August 2021

12 March 1921: after four weeks of hard campaigning as a Nationalist candidate in the Western Australian state election, Edith Cowan received the news that she had won the seat of West Perth by forty-six votes, making her Australia’s first ever woman parliamentarian. Cowan was shocked: initially she didn’t want to run and discounted her chances of success. As the sole winner among five women candidates across the state, Cowan saw hers as a victory for all women. She used her new position to build on the social welfare and reform work in which she had been involved since the 1890s, promoting motherhood endowment, sex education, migrant welfare and infant health centres. Though her time in office was short (1921–24), Cowan had made history in taking a seat at the parliamentary table.

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Why is it that women with supportive partners are still thought of as lucky, as if they have won a lottery? In the winter of 2012, Annabel Crabb ran into Tanya Plibersek, who had raised three children over the course of a successful parliamentary career with the help of her husband, a senior state bureaucrat. When Crabb commented on how fortunate they were to have helpful spouses, Plibersek replied, with characteristic dry wit, that she sincerely hoped they would be the last generation who needed to feel lucky about that.

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Although you might not guess it from media comment, The Latham Diaries (MUP, $39.95 hb, 429 pp, 0522852157) is the most important book yet published on Labor’s wilderness years. It provides a pungent characterisation of Labor’s post-1996 history; conveys a profound understanding of the challenges facing a social democratic party in contemporary Australia ... 

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