Enid Lyons

Enid Lyons
The Honourable
Dame Enid Lyons
AD, GBE
Enid and Joseph Lyons in the 1930's
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Darwin
In office
21 August 1943 – 19 March 1951
Preceded by George Bell
Succeeded by Aubrey Luck
Personal details
Born Enid Muriel Burnell
9 July 1897(1897-07-09)
Smithton, Tasmania
Died 2 September 1981(1981-09-02) (aged 84)
Nationality Australian
Political party UAP (1943–44)
Liberal (1944–51)
Spouse(s) Joseph Lyons
Children 12
Occupation Teacher

Dame Enid Muriel Lyons, AD, GBE (9 July 1897 – 2 September 1981) was an Australian politician and the first woman to be elected to the Australian House of Representatives as well as the first woman appointed to the federal Cabinet. Prior to these achievements, she was best known as the wife of the Premier of Tasmania and later Prime Minister of Australia, Joseph Lyons.

Lyons was born Enid Muriel Burnell in Smithton, Tasmania, and educated at the Teacher's Training College, Hobart and later became a school teacher. In 1913, when she was 15, she met Joseph Lyons, then a young Labor politician, and married him in 1915. They had twelve children, one of whom died in infancy.[1][2]

In 1929 Joseph, who had been Labor Premier of Tasmania from 1923 to 1928, entered federal politics as member for the Division of Wilmot. In 1931 he left the Labor Party and became leader of the United Australia Party (UAP) and at the beginning of 1932 became Prime Minister. Enid and her children moved into The Lodge in Canberra, and she became an extremely popular political spouse.

She was made a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in the Coronation Honours of 1936.[3][4] Joseph 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.

Enid Lyons
The Lyons family in the 1930's on the lawn of The Lodge.
Sir Robert Menzies, Dame Enid, Sir Eric Harrison, Harold Holt and an Airforceman in 1946.

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 (later Dame Dorothy) was elected as a Labor Senator for Western Australia, the nation's first woman Senator.[5] In 1945 the UAP became the Liberal Party of Australia.

As a Roman Catholic from Australia's most provincial state, Enid Lyons had always had a conservative streak, despite her husband's Labor roots. By the time she was elected to Parliament in her own right, there was very little left of her Labor ties. Her speeches in Parliament generally espoused traditional views on the family and other social issues.

In 1949 the Liberals came to power under Menzies' leadership. The frosty personal relations between Menzies and Dame Enid thawed very slightly when Menzies gave her the role of Vice-President of the Executive Council. This was a largely honorary post which gave her a seat in Cabinet but no departmental duties. Nevertheless her health declined under the strain of regular travel between Canberra and Tasmania, and she left parliament at the 1951 election.

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 two volumes of memoirs, which embarrassed the Liberal Party by reviving her complaints about Menzies' 1939 behaviour towards her husband.

She was nevertheless made a Dame of the Order of Australia (AD) on Australia Day 1980,[6] the second of only two women to receive this honour. The following year she died, and was accorded a state funeral in Devonport, before being buried next to her husband at the Mersey Vale Lawn Cemetery.

An informal political faction of the Liberal/National opposition parties called the Lyons Forum was formed in 1992. The group's name alluded to Lyons' maiden speech to the House of Representatives. The faction was considered to be defunct in 2004.[7]

Contents

Children

Name Birth Death Notes
Desmond 1916 2000
Sheila 1918
Enid 1919
Kathleen 1920
Moira 1922
Kevin 1923 2000
Garnet 1924
Brendan 1926 2010
Barry 1927
Rosemary 1929
Peter 1931
Janice 1933

Notes

  1. ^ Hart, P. R. (1986). "Lyons, Joseph Aloysius (1879–1939)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A100181b.htm. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  2. ^ "Joseph Lyons, before". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Archived from the original on 2007-08-30. http://web.archive.org/web/20070830013039/http://www.primeministers.naa.gov.au/meetpm.asp?pmId=10&pageName=before. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  3. ^ "Joseph Lyons, Enid Lyons". Australia's Prime Ministers. National Archives of Australia. Archived from the original on 2007-08-30. http://web.archive.org/web/20070830103523/http://primeministers.naa.gov.au/meetpm.asp?pmId=10&pageName=wife. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  4. ^ "Lyons, Enid Muriel, The Order of the British Empire – Dame Grand Cross – Civil". It's an Honour. Government of Australia. http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/honours/honour_roll/search.cfm?aus_award_id=1072317&search_type=quick&showInd=true. Retrieved 2008-01-22.  Note: site says granted in 1957
  5. ^ National Film and Sound Archive: Recording of Dame Enid Lyon's maiden speech in Parliament on australianscreen online
  6. ^ "Lyons, Enid Muriel, Dame of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Government of Australia. http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/honours/honour_roll/search.cfm?aus_award_id=884339&search_type=quick&showInd=true. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  7. ^ Grattan, Michelle (13 November 2004). "A quiet man's revolution". The Age (Melbourne): p. 5. http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/11/12/1100227570678.html. 

Further reading

  • Enid Lyons, So We Take Comfort (1965)
  • Enid Lyons, Among the Carrion Crows (1977)
  • Anne Henderson, Dame Enid Lyons: Leading Lady to a Nation (2008)
  • Kate White, Political Love Story: Joe and Enid Lyons (1987)

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
William Scully
Vice-President of the Executive Council
1949–1951
Succeeded by
Robert Menzies
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
George Bell
Member for Darwin
1943–1951
Succeeded by
Aubrey Luck

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