Happy Mother’s Day: Five Australian women who changed the world and raised children

Image Source:  LexisNexis

By Rebecca Copeland | @beccopeland

Three days ago, a Melbourne primary school announced their decision to host an Appreciation Stall in place of traditional Mother’s Day celebrations.

Brunswick East Primary School will hold two Appreciation days each year, to coincide with the ‘traditional’ Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

The decision was made in the name of inclusivity and diversity; taking into consideration the children raised by single-parents, same-sex parents, or guardians.

Principal of Brunswick East, Janet Di Pilla, said that the school hoped the changes would help to “recognise that our families are not made up of any particular combination of people, and that we no longer subscribe to a binary world”.

This comes a week after a Sydney preschool, Learn and Laugh Early Childhood Centre, made a similar decision to become more inclusive.

In an email to parents, the preschool said that “we have decided to do family and friends day at different times throughout the year … that way anyone close to the children can come and take part”.

These changes have received mixed reviews, ironically dividing opinion rather than unifying children with differing family dynamics.

One mother, Lisa, spoke to Daily Mail Australia about Sydney preschool’s decision and said that she couldn’t “see why anyone would care”.

“They’re not cancelling Mother’s Day,” she said.

The mother continued to say that the only people who complain about these kinds of changes are the people who comment on other people’s hypersensitivity and need for political correctness.

One onlooker told LadBible the decision was like “helicopter schooling”, and said that we need to “stop protecting kids from disappointment” and allow them to “learn resilience”.

However, one thing both sides can agree on is that raising a child is no easy feat, so kudos to the people who take up the challenge.

Moreover, since it is still Mother’s Day around the country tomorrow, let’s take a moment to acknowledge some Australian women in history who changed history whilst raising kids.


1. Gladys Elphick (1904–1988)

First of all, let’s remember indigenous women’s rights advocate and fellow Adelaidian, Gladys Elphick.

Ms Elphick was a woman of Kaurna and Ngadjuri descent, and the founder of the Council of Aboriginal Women of South Australia (later known as the Aboriginal Council of South Australia) in 1974.

As well as lobbying for women’s rights, setting up women’s shelters and empowering indigenous women to learn English, she also raised two boys, Timothy and Alfred.

2. Edith Cowan (1861–1932)

Next up is Edith Cowan, whose face you may recognise from the Australian $50 note.

Ms Cowan married her husband James Cowan at the age of 18, with whom she had four children.

Simultaneously, Ms Cowan became the first woman to be elected to parliament in Australia. She also co-founded the Karrakatta Club, which lobbied for the right for women to vote, as well as co-founding Western Australia’s National Council of Women.

Let’s not forget Ms Cowan’s grandmother who raised Ms Cowan after she became an orphan at the age of 14.

3. Margaret Tucker (1904–1996)

Happy Mother’s Day to Margaret (Lilardia) Tucker, who was an Indigenous rights activist and writer. Ms Tucker was a co-founder of the Australian Aborigines’ League, and was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1968 in honour of her activism.

Ms Tucker was also the mother of Mollie Dyer. Ms Dyer is best known for co-founding the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency in 1977.

4. Enid Lyons (1897–1981)

Dame Enid Lyons was the wife of former Prime Minister Joseph Lyons, with whom she had 12 children (one died in infancy). Following Mr Lyons death in 1939, she became a politician herself.

In 1943, Ms Lyons became the first women elected to the House of Representatives. She also became the first woman to hold a seat in the Federal Cabinet in 1949.

In 1980, Ms Lyons was the second woman to be named a Dame of the Order of Australia.

5. Catherine Helen Spence (1825 – 1910)

Finally, Happy Mother’s Day to Catherine Helen Spence. Although she never had any biological children of her own, she raised three families of orphaned children.

Ms Spence also co-founded the Boarding-Out Society, which aimed to remove orphaned children from asylums and into approved foster-care families.

Not only this, but Ms Spence was Australia’s first female political candidate, after she ran for the Federal Convention held in Adelaide in 1897.


As we find a balance between tradition and inclusivity, let’s not lose the sentiment behind the day.

Mother’s Day celebrates motherhood, no matter who stepped into the shoes of the maternal figure.

So, Happy Mother’s Day to all the nurturers across Australia, who have taught this generation to appreciate the love they have been given.

One response to “Happy Mother’s Day: Five Australian women who changed the world and raised children”

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