Women have played a vital role in shaping the society and culture of NSW and Australia throughout history. The Blue Plaques program celebrates the achievements and contributions of these amazing women, many of whom became a driving force in their chosen field and challenged the status quo.
From celebrated artists, authors and actors to aviators and activists for education, health and emancipation, these pioneering women continue to inspire generations of Australians.
Elizabeth Jane (‘Bessie’) Robinson was a businesswoman who drove the development of the central west town of Canowindra and advocated for quality public education. Bessie’s land stretched from present-day Gaskill Street to Clyburn Street. The Old Vic Inn now stands on the site of The Victoria Hotel built on Bessie’s land, which she ran from 1868 until the early 1900s. In the early 1870s Bessie began campaigning for better education in Canowindra. In 1875, the government agreed to set up a state school. Bessie was also instrumental in building modern-day Canowindra, developing her land for residential and commercial purposes.
Ethel Turner is one of Australia’s most celebrated authors. Woodlands is the house where she wrote the children’s book Seven Little Australians, a classic coming-of-age story of wilful, rebellious siblings under the care of a rigid father. With its portrayal of Australian family life at the turn of a new century, Seven Little Australians continues to endure in literary folklore. It is the only Australian children’s book to have remained continuously in print since its publication in 1894.
May Gibbs is one of Australia’s best-known children’s authors and illustrators. Drawing inspiration from the Australian bush, May’s watercolours of gumnut babies, big bad banksia men, kangaroos and kookaburras shaped generations of children’s responses to nature.
As Australia’s first full-time, professionally trained children’s book author and illustrator, her works continue to delight readers to this day.
Nancy Bird Walton
Nancy Bird Walton was a pioneering Australian aviator and founder of the Australian Women Pilots’ Association. She spent the first four years of her life in Kew, later launching a career flying planes in outback New South Wales, Europe and the United States.
Adventurer, patriot and trailblazer, Nancy forever changed how women were seen, both on the ground and in the skies.
The Western Sydney International Airport at Badgerys Creek is to be named in her honour.
June Bronhill was an Australian soprano who became a celebrated star of light opera during the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Born June Mary Gough, she took the stage name Bronhill in recognition of her birthplace, Broken Hill. With a diamond-sharp voice and impeccable diction, June scored prized lead roles in opera, operetta, musical theatre and television in London and Australia. In 1994, the auditorium at the Broken Hill Civic Centre was named the June Bronhill Auditorium in her honour.