‘We were at the beginning of everything’: the first women students and graduates of The University of Queensland

Megan McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The stated vision of The University of Queensland was that it would be a university for all Queenslanders. The number of women students, however, remained very much in the minority throughout the university’s early decades. This essay focuses on the women who entered the university during this period. These women did not enter the violent and hostile environment that some women students experienced in Britain, however, their experiences and expectations did differ from their male counterparts. Through shared experience many female students developed strong bonds that continued after graduation. In the early decades of the twentieth century women’s employment options were severely limited with most graduates entering the teaching profession. Despite these restrictions, university women developed a strong sense of privilege for having received a university education and felt they should utilise their knowledge and skills to make a significant contribution to the community. This sense of privilege was a motivating factor behind the formation of graduate women’s organisations internationally. In 1920 The University of Queensland Women Graduates’ Association was established to provide a supportive and stimulating space for graduate women in Queensland. The organisation still exists today as the Australian Federation of University Women, Queensland.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-44
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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