The Women's Museum

Molly Clark, founder of the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame.

Image courtesy of Barry Skipsey.

The National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame is one of two women’s museums in Australia, formed as “a public museum for the purpose of recognising and honouring pioneering women who contributed to the development of Australia”, holding within its collection women’s objects donated from across the country and commemorating in a permanent exhibition the achievements of women from across the nation who have been” first in their field”.

The Hall of Fame defines a pioneer woman as any woman who is a pioneer in her chosen field from settlement to present day and commemorates the achievements of all Australian women.

Incorporated as a non-profit organisation, the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame acknowledges the considerable and ongoing support received from the Northern Territory Government, the Federal Government, Tourism NT and many thousands of hours of work by dedicated volunteers.

Advertisement in the local newspaper, the Centralian Advocate, for a public meeting to discuss the founding of a national women’s museum in Alice Springs, January 1993

The National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame was founded by Molly Clark of Old Andado Station, which lies approximately 330 kilometres south-east of Alice Springs. On 2 February 1993, a public meeting was called by Molly Clark and supporters in Alice Springs, at which Molly outlined the aims and objectives of the proposed women’s museum:

“That a future Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame be located in Alice Springs to commemorate and acknowledge the contribution made by women in outback Australia…
The need for such a facility in Alice Springs to satisfy the interests of tourists to Central Australia who wish to learn more about “pioneer life” in outback regions”.
These objectives were further articulated in the first meeting under the newly established committee, held in Alice Springs on 17 February 1993:
“In the first instance, my whole object was to establish a venture to commemorate and preserve the stories, history, of the women who pioneered paths with or without men. Therefore a “Hall” was envisaged so that this memorabilia could be housed and displayed, that later generations may know and understand some of the “blood, sweat and tears” that went into putting down the paths they now tread…”.
The National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame became an incorporated association in April 1993 and in March 1994 the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory leased the Old Courthouse to the organisation for five years. The fledgling National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame first opened permanently to the public in September 1994.

In 1935 Nancy Bird was employed to operate her aircraft as an Aerial Ambulance & Baby Clinic becoming the first woman engaged in commercial aviation in Australia. Image courtesy of Nancy Bird Walton, photographer unknown.

By 2001, the Old Courthouse had become too small for the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame and, not being purpose built, posed both exhibition and storage problems. The former HM Gaol and Labour Prison Alice Springs, which had been decommissioned in 1996 and saved from demolition by the local community, was offered as a lease to the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame, an offer which was accepted in 2004. Clare Martin, the first woman Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, announced the handover of the Gaol for use by the Hall of Fame. On 8 March 2007, Minister for Women’s Policy Marion Scrymgour, herself the first Indigenous woman to be elected to the Northern Territory Parliament, officially opened the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame in its new location.

Patrons of the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame

Dame Quentin Bryce, Patron of the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame, at the Museum’s 2015 International Women’s Day Open Day, March 8.

Dame Quentin Bryce is the Patron of the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame. Dame Quentin is a pioneer in contemporary Australian society. She studied law and arts and was one of the first women to be admitted to the Queensland Bar in 1965. She was a lecturer and tutor in law at the University of Queensland (1968-1983), becoming the first woman to be appointed to the faculty; Convenor of the National Women’s Advisory Council (1982-1984); the first Director of the Queensland Women’s Information Service (1984-1987); the Queensland Director of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (1987-1988); the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner (1988-1993); the founding Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the National Childcare Accreditation Council (1993-1996); the Principal and Chief Executive of The Women’s College, University of Sydney (1997-2003); and Governor of Queensland (2003-2008), before being sworn in as Governor-General of Australia. She is also the mother of five children. Dame Quentin Bryce features on our Signature Quilt and in our permanent exhibition Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives: First in their Field.

Dame Quentin Bryce was our honoured guest for our 2015 International Women’s Day Open Day. Information on our weekend of events celebrating International Women’s Day 2015 can be found below.

Further information on Dame Quentin Bryce can be found at the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia webpage.

NPWHF Co-Patron Gaby Kennard at our International Women’s Day Open Day, 2014.

Our Co-Patron is Gaby Kennard. In 1989, Gaby became the first Australian woman to fly solo around the world, a journey which took 99 days. The story of this journey is told in her book Solo Woman: Gaby Kennard’s World Flight and in the documentary Gaby Kennard Solo Woman. Gaby features in our permanent exhibition Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives: First in their Field. She was our honoured guest for our 2014 International Women’s Day Open Day.

Further information on Gaby Kennard can be found on her webpage.