Jessie Cooper

Jessie Cooper, c.1952

Jessie Mary Cooper (née McAndrew; 29 June 1914[1] – 28 December 1993[2]) was elected as a Liberal and Country League[3] representative to the South Australian Legislative Council at the 1959 election. She was the first female member of the Parliament of South Australia, beating Joyce Steele, who had been elected to the House of Assembly the same day, by only an hour.[4] She served until her retirement in 1979.[5]


Jessie McAndrew was born and grew up in Sydney. She married Geoffrey D T Cooper, who was the youngest appointed Australian Lieutenant Colonel in World War II, commanding officer of the 2/27th,[6] and a fourth generation member of the Adelaide Cooper family (Coopers Brewery). They had one son who qualified M.B.B.S. and Ph.D. and worked in immunology research before taking his father's seat on the Cooper's board of directors in 1989 and working as a general medical practitioner.[7]

Entering parliamentEdit

Ironically, South Australia was the last state to elect a female representative – at the 1896 election, South Australian women became the first in Australia, and some of the first in the world, to be given the right to vote and stand for election to Parliament. Cooper and Joyce Steele were elected to the Parliament of South Australia at the 1959 election.[8][9]

In 1959, attempts were still being made to prevent women entering Parliament. In an action brought by Frank Chapman and Arthur Cockington, Jessie Cooper and Margaret Scott (the Liberal party and Labor party candidates respectively, running for the Legislative Council in the South Australian election), had to show that they were "persons" in the sense intended by the State Constitution to be eligible to stand. The South Australian Supreme Court found in their favour and Jessie Cooper went on to win a seat in the Legislative Council.[8]

Reporters asked Joyce Steele and Jessie Cooper how they would combine their domestic duties with politics: Steele said that she would have to get a housekeeper to help with the housework, while Cooper replied that "... she would fit in her housework in the same way as a male member fitted in the running of an orchard or an accountant's office." (Sydney Morning Herald, 9 March 1959. p. 1)[10]

Molly Byrne was Labor's first female elected to the Parliament of South Australia, at the 1965 election, and the third behind Steele and Cooper.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ roots.web: Walker/Lyle Genealogy
  2. ^ "Jessie Cooper (R) MLC SA 1959-79 & Joyce Steele MHA SA 1959-73". Australian Women's History Forum. 2009. Archived from the original on 3 May 2011. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
  3. ^ Fitzherbert, Margaret (2004), Liberal women : federation - 1949, Federation Press, ISBN 978-1-86287-460-2
  4. ^ "A Woman's Place is in the House: Women Pioneers in Australian Parliament". National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 3 May 2011. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
  5. ^ Francis, Rosemary (17 December 2008). "Cooper, Jessie Mary (1914 - 1993)". The Australian Women's Register. The National Foundation for Australian Women. Archived from the original on 3 May 2011. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
  6. ^ Tracey, Rowan. "Conflict in Command During the Kokoda Campaign of 1942: Did General Blamey Deserve the Blame?". Royal United Services Institute of New South Wales. p. 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 May 2011.
  7. ^ James McAndrew Cooper MBBS, Ph.D., MA,
  8. ^ a b Drabsch, Talina (April 2007). "Women, Parliament and the Media". NSW Parliamentary Library Research Service: 4. ISBN 978-0-7313-1819-3. ISSN 1325-5142. OCLC 225645404. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 May 2011.
  9. ^ Jenkins, Cathy (2008), No ordinary lives : pioneering women in Australian politics, Australian Scholarly Publishing, ISBN 978-1-74097-156-0
  10. ^ Jenkins, Cathy (2002). "The More Things Change: Women, Politics, and the Press in Australia". EJournalist: A Refereed Media Journal. 2 (1): 1–22. OCLC 669644339. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 May 2011.

External linksEdit