Irene Longman – first female MP in Qld

March 8 is International Women’s Day. In previous posts we’ve looked at the achievements of Dr Lilian Cooper, Queensland’s first female surgeon who arrived in Brisbane from England in 1891 and lived in Kangaroo Point for many years. For ten years she was the only woman practising medicine in Queensland.

Portrait of Irene Longman, n.d. (State Library of Queensland)

Today we’ll look at Irene Maud Longman (1877-1964) who was the first female member of the Queensland Parliament. She was also one of the first trained kindergarten teachers working in Queensland with a long career in early childhood education. In 1929, at the age of 52, she won the seat of Bulimba for the Country and Progressive Party after a strong campaign and promise to use her position to lobby for services to improve the lives of women and children. She gained a huge swing of 10% against her male opponent in what had been considered a safe Labor seat. She was to be instrumental in establishing the first women police in Queensland and creating a separate, private and safe venue for Children’s Court hearings.

Irene had a strong background in politics and was a powerful public speaker. She was a member of the Queensland Women’s Electoral League and president of the Queensland Branch of the National Council of Women from 1920-1924. Her two brothers were also members of Parliament.

Irene Longman in her library in 1950. (State Library of Queensland)

However, life as a female parliamentarian in a male-dominated environment proved to be challenging for Irene. She was not allowed to use the dining room in Parliament House and had to eat her meals on the verandah. There were also no female toilets in the building at that time. 

She served only one term as the Member for Bulimba, losing her seat in the landslide which swept away the Moore government in 1932. She was disappointed that no woman succeeded her into State Parliament during her lifetime. The next female member was Vi Jordan who served from 1966-1974.

Irene continued pursuing her interest in politics and community welfare. She was vice-president of the Lyceum Club, a club for women interested in the arts, science, contemporary issues and the pursuit of lifelong learning which had been established in Brisbane in 1919. She was also vice-president of the Queensland Women’s Peace Movement and president of the Association for the Welfare of Mental Deficients Queensland. She died on 29 July 1964 in Brisbane.

The federal electoral division of Longman created in 1996 is named after Irene Longman.


One thought on “Irene Longman – first female MP in Qld”

  1. bob kirkwood says:

    A great read of how it all happened in the past.
    Thank you.

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