International Women’s Day: women in Australian history

Today is International Women’s Day and we’re highlighting some of our favourite females in Australian history, shared through the lens of the incredible women who are part of the Queensland Museum Network team. Our collections are full of amazing stories and we’re thrilled to be able to share them with you to celebrate this special day. 

Jennifer Wilson, Senior Curator, Transport Energy and Science
Favourite piece of history: Lores Bonney, who is featured in the Anzac Legacy Gallery at Queensland Museum, was a pioneering aviatrix who dodged death on a number of record-breaking solo flights across the globe during the First World War. During her aviation career, Lores completed the longest one-day flight by an airwoman (Brisbane to Wangaratta), was the first woman to circumnavigate Australia by air, the first woman to fly from Australia to England, and the first to fly from Australia to South Africa. She was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 1991. The Bonney Trophy, which she presented in England, is still awarded annually to an outstanding female British pilot.

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Lores Bonney during her flight from Australia to South Africa, 1937.
Image courtesy of National Library of Australia. 
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Pith helmet worn by Lores Bonney during her flight to South Africa in the 1930s, on display at the Anzac Legacy Gallery at Queensland Museum.

Geraldine Mate, Principal Curator, History, Industry and Technology
Favourite piece of history:  This microscope belonged to Professor Dorothy Hill, renowned palaeontologist and geologist from Taringa, Brisbane. Her approach to scientific inquiry, particularly her research on fossil corals, led to a long and successful career. In one of many firsts, she was the first woman to be elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. Dorothy became Australia’s first female professor in 1959 when she became Professor of Geology at the University of Queensland. She also became the first Australian woman Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (1956), the Royal Society of London (1965), and the first female president of the Australian Academy of Science (1970). The Dorothy Hill Medal honours her contributions to Australian Earth science and her work in opening up tertiary science education to women.

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Dorothy Hill in academic dress. Image courtesy of Fryer Library, University of Queensland.
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Carl Zeiss Jena Photographic Stereo Microscope. Image courtesy of Fryer Library, University of Queensland.

Judith Hickson, Curator, Social History
Favourite piece of history: In 2017 it was the 50 year anniversary of the 1967 referendum, which saw Australians uniting to vote 90.77% ‘yes’ to changing the constitution to include Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders in the population count. Commissioned by Australia Post to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the historic date, a commemorative stamp was launched in Canberra on 24 May 2017 by then Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion. The commissioning and unveiling of the stamp was a historic occasion, bring together representatives of younger generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, surviving campaigners, their families and Government representatives. The chosen stamp design was by Rachael Sarra, a Goreng Goreng woman, artist and designer at Brisbane-based creative agency Gilimbaa

“… without the courage and determination of the original campaigners, all our lives could have been so different” – Rachael Sarra

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Designer Rachael Sarra with the with the artistic display of the commemorative stamp.

Barbara Baehr, Arachnologist and ABRS Research Fellow
Favourite piece of history:  In 2014, Queensland Museum scientists honoured wildlife warrior and conservation icon Terri Irwin by naming a new species of spider after her. The spider, Leichhardteus terriirwinae, was discovered by Dr Barbara Baehr and senior curator Dr Robert Raven in the Mt Aberdeen region in North East Queensland. The tiny spider is predominantly brown, with white legs and three white stripes…but don’t expect to easily find it as it’s less than seven millimetres long. The tenacity of the small spider was what led Barbara to name it in honour of Terri Irwin.

“We named this specific swift spider after Terri Irwin because Terri is a fast and straight thinking woman and we could not think of a more appropriate name for this slender and fast moving spider” Barbara Baehr

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Terri Irwin holding the Leichhardteus terriirwinae specimen.
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Australia Zoo Owner Terri Irwin, Queensland Museum Scientist Barbara Baehr and Minister for Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts Ian Walker MP.

Candice Badinski, Communications Coordinator
Favourite piece of history: Thancoupie Tapich Gloria Fletcher AO (1937-2011), best known simply as Thancoupie, was a leading figure in the Indigenous ceramic movement in Australia, and one of North Queensland’s foremost contemporary artists. In a career spanning four decades, she held over fifteen solo exhibitions in Australia and internationally, became Australia’s first Indigenous solo ceramic artist, and was the first Indigenous Australian to complete a tertiary degree in the arts.  Today Thancoupie’s sculptures are represented in a number of major institutions across the country, and she is remembered as a pioneer for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. In 2014, Queensland Museum curators purchased The Legends of Albatross Bay (Weipa Story) – a cast aluminium sculpture that narrates the history and legends of the artist’s home at Napranum in Weipa, Western Cape York.  The sculpture was an exciting acquisition, as the work represents not only one of the final chapters in Thancoupie’s career but also offers added depth to the museum’s existing collection of the artist’s work.

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Thancoupie Tapich Gloria Fletcher with some of her artwork in which she used incised lines to convey the history and legends of Weipa.
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Thancoupie Tapich Gloria Fletcher’s sculpture, The Legends of Albatross Bay (Weipa Story), acquired by Queensland Museum in 2014.

Karen Kindt, Collection Manager, Anthropology
Favourite piece of history: Irene Longman, who in 1929 became our first female sitting member in the Queensland Parliament.  Irene was married to one of our very own at the museum, Heber A. Longman, the longest serving Queensland Museum Director (1918 to 1945).  For over thirty years, Irene involved herself in public life, in a professional and voluntary capacity, working on issues relating to the welfare of women and children, town planning and the preservation of flora and fauna. Queensland Museum holds correspondence dated 20 March 1928 from Dr de Rautenfeld in which he gifted two brooches, one for the museum’s collection and one as a personal gift for Irene. On display in Anzac Legacy Gallerywe also have a tablecloth used as a fundraiser for peace that Irene was instrumental in implementing. 

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Irene Longman. Image courtesy of John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.
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Brooch gifted to Irene Longman.

Sharing nature’s gems for World Wildlife Day

World Wildlife Day, held annually on 3 March, was created to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. The day has now become the most important global annual event dedicated to wildlife. This year’s theme is “Life below water: for people and planet”. Oceans harbour a rich variety of communities and a wealth of strange and beautiful creatures, each with its own peculiar adaptations to underwater life. Right on our doorstep are two world-class marine hot spots – the unique waters of south-east Queensland, and of course, our iconic Great Barrier Reef.

To mark the occasion we are sharing some of our Wild State vector artwork and spoke to Queensland Museum Graphic Designer, Baden Philips, about his design. Baden said the most important thing when considering the artwork was that it reflects the Wild State gallery concept of the environment and the animal being equally as important as one another. With these rich and unique environments shrinking and vanishing, there is a significant threat to the animals who call it home, with many becoming endangered or even extinct.

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Baden therefore wanted to create the artwork to be reminiscent of a jewellery advertisement, depicting the animals as rare jewels cushioned by a rich and luxurious landscape.  To achieve this jewel-like quality, Baden chose low poly imagery (a polygon mesh in 3D computer graphics that has a relatively small number of polygons) and used Adobe Illustrator to create the drawing on top of the original image. Most of the designs are highly detailed, with each one representing hours of careful work.

Read on for more information about the beautiful animals and habitats that make Queensland one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. 

The Arid Outback

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Scorching summer days, freezing cold winter nights and dry almost all year round. But despite these seemingly adverse conditions, it is not devoid of life. Many animals, from large kangaroos to tiny invertebrates, have developed remarkable adaptations that enable them to survive in this extreme environment with very little water. Some travel great distances to drink, others get moisture from the food they eat, and some can control their body heat and limit water loss.

The Bush

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Much of Queensland is covered by open forests and woodlands, which have long been described as ‘The Bush’. This is a place of light and, even when the trees are at their densest, the tree tops are well-spaced and allow direct sunlight to flood the often grassy floor. Bush animals rely heavily on the trees and shrubs for food and shelter, with some animals and plants evolving co-dependent adaptations that enhance their survival. 

The Rainforest

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Lush, dense plant growth, plentiful rainfall and litter-strewn ground – rainforests are one of the richest habitats on Earth. They have a dense ‘closed’ tree canopy that blocks sunlight and shades a litter-strewn forest floor, creating a multitude of spaces for moisture dependent animals to live. 

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Southern Cassowaries are primarily found in lowland tropical rainforest, where conditions are hot and humid with frequent heavy rain. The Wet Tropics of North Queensland has 1,165 species in 6,300 square kilometres – more plant species than Finland, which is over 50 times its size. 

The Coast

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Many animals make the shore their permanent home despite challenging conditions such as deadly heat, little oxygen, pounding waves and, more significantly, our interference with this increasingly fragile junction of land and sea. Horn-eyed Ghost Crabs (Ocypode ceratophthalma) are fast running scavengers that are known to prey on baby turtles in tropical waters. 

The Ocean

WILD-STATE-Maureen

Oceans harbour a rich variety of communities and a wealth of strange and beautiful creatures, each with its own peculiar adaptations to underwater life. Right on our doorstep are two world-class marine hotspots – the unique waters of south-east Queensland, and of course, our iconic Great Barrier Reef.

Head to the World Wildlife Day website for more information on how you can get involved, and don’t forget to visit your native friends at Wild State during your next trip to the Museum!