MAY’S MAGNIFICENT LIFE IS HONOURED
AS the world celebrated International Women’s Day last week, few know the impact one West Australian woman had on her generation almost a century ago.
Born in 1893, May Holman was just 31 years old when she was elected Australia’s first woman Labor parliamentarian. She became a household name in the 1930s as she fought for women’s rights and the rights of people in her electorate until she died after a car accident in 1939.
Lekkie Hopkins, who has researched the lives of activist women, has documented Holman’s intelligence, passion and heart in her new biography The Magnificent Life of Miss May Holman.
She said Holman was revered during her life.
“When May Holman died, Western Australians were genuinely heart-broken,” she said.
“On 22 March 1939, thousands of people lined the streets be- tween St Mary’s Cathedral in Victoria Square, Perth and Karrakatta cemetery to pay their respects and thousands more gathered at the cemetery to be present at her burial. It seems almost impossible to imagine such an outpouring of grief today.”
Ms Hopkins said during her 14 years in parliament, Holman refused to be ignored because of her gender.
“She responded to the inevitable taunts about her sex with wit rather than with anger,” she said.
“She remains a fine example of a vibrant young woman who knows there’s work to be done, and who will without hesitation roll up her sleeves to do it.
“The kind of leadership she practised – leading by example, doing what you expect others to do, and more – is still necessary today.
The Magnificent Life of Miss May Holman is available from www.fremantlepress. com.au.
Dr Lekkie Hopkins has written a book about May Holman, a woman who pioneered women’s rights in Australia in the 1930s.