Celebrating 100 Years of women in WA Parliament
Christine Tonkin MLA, the Member for Churchlands, got in touch about 6 weeks ago to ask if I wanted to make a brooch to commemorate the making of another brooch 100 years ago. Could it get more meta? Of course I said yes!
When I was first told about the commission we grabbed an Australian $50 note (I know, rich!) and I was shown, for the first time, the picture of a brooch that graces the Edith Cowan side of the note that she shares with David Unaipon. I’m still incredulous, how did I not know that was on there?? Just above the ’50’ is a picture of a gumnut between two leaves – a brooch that these days is dubbed the “Tough Nut”. Cowan commissioned it after her historic win in the 1921 election.
After some study I came up with a design that is a little more in keeping with the idea that womxn are now a normal part of the parliamentary ecosystem. The pin we made is now on it’s way to every female-identifying member of the WA parliament.
Read on for the text as contained in the booklet that was sent alongside the pin.
…100 Years On
In 1921 Edith Cowan was told by a friend that getting elected to the WA Parliament would be “a tough nut to crack”. But crack it she did, becoming, as the Daily News proclaimed in March 1921, our “First Australian Lady Parliamentarian”1
Her modest vision that a “sprinkling” of women would “be a step in the direction of better legislation”2 has become a wave. Building on her legacy, this year we celebrated the election of the 114th female-identifying politician to the WA Parliament. Other firsts since 1921 include the first female Australian Premier, Dr Carmen Lawrence, and first female Indigenous Member of the Western Australian Parliament and any Australian Parliament, Carol Martin, elected in 2001.
Brooching the Subject
Cowan commissioned a brooch of a cracked gumnut after her win to give to members of her Election Committee. Dubbed the ‘Tough Nut’, it has been reproduced multiple times. An image of the original, as sourced from the WA State Library, now graces the Australian David Unaipon and Edith Cowan $50 note. Find the drawing of the Tough Nut to the right of the etching of Cowan, just above the 50.
E.C. 100 Pin
To commemorate 100 years since Edith Cowan’s achievement, recently elected Member of the Legislative Assembly Christine Tonkin approached local artist and jeweller Melissa Cameron to design a pin that would hark back to Cowan’s original Tough Nut brooch. Consulting the State Library image, the reproduction that lives in the State Parliament building and another reproduction photographed by Edith Cowan University, they decided it was time for a refresh.
Designed to frame the gumnut and leaves in a more natural setting, the new pin suggests that female-identifying MPs are well and truly at home in the WA Parliament. Thanks to Edith Cowan cracking that first tough nut, together we have been striding to make better legislation since 1921.
1 Parliament of WA Web – EDC100Election.
Recipients include all female-identifying Members of the WA Parliament elected the Edith Cowan election centenary year of 2021 and the female-identifying staff of the Legislative Assembly.
Materials: stainless steel, nickel pin and nickel plated clutch back
Design and manufacture: Melissa Cameron
Studio assistant: Susannah Kings-Lynne
Pin engraving by: Alister Yiap