Ryan, Edna Minna

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Ryan, Edna Minna

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  • nee Nelson

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Description area

Dates of existence

1904 - 1997


Edna Ryan was born in Pyrmont, New South Wales on 15 December 1904. Edna was a feminist and labour activist credited with campaigns for equal pay for women, maternity leave and work-based childcare, and campaigned around the negative impacts of enterprise bargaining and compulsory superannuation on low paid women workers. Ryan served as a Labor Alderman on Fairfield Municipal Council from 1956-1965, becoming the first female Deputy Mayor in NSW in 1957. In the 1960s she became the first woman president of the Sydney branch of the Municipal Employees’ Union. She was a founding member of the Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) in 1972 and in 1974 presented a breakthrough submission to the Arbitration Commission to grant women the same minimum wage as men. In 1984 she published Two Thirds of a Man: Women and Arbitration in New South Wales 1902-08. The following year she was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Sydney, and awarded again by Macquarie University in 1995. In the 1990s Ryan focussed on the implications of enterprise bargaining for women including writing articles, leading delegations to Ministers’ offices and briefing a barrister, Sylvia Winters, to represent WEL at the National Wage Case. Edna Ryan died in Canberra on 10 February 1997.


New South Wales; Canberra

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Functions, occupations and activities

feminist; political activist; prade union official; writer

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Entered from deposit description on 17 April 2012




The Australian Women’s Register, http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/AWE0004b.htm (accessed on 17 April 2012)
Jane Cadzow. The Life of Ryan. Good Weekend (Sydney Morning Herald), March 12, 1994.
Hansard 19 February 1997, http://www.hansard.act.gov.au/hansard/1997/pdfs/19970219.pdf (accessed on 17 April 2012)

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