Early women students

Faculty of Pharmacy 2000

In 1881 Senate unanimously decided to allow the admission of women, and the passing of the University Amendment Act in 1884 secured the legal rights of women at Sydney University.

The "Materia Medica - Course for Pharmacy Students" was introduced in 1899. The following year, the second cohort of 20 Pharmacy students included one woman who became the first academically trained woman to register as a pharmacist in NSW in 1902.

On this webpage:


GalleryIn the early 1900s1910s1920s1930s1940s1950s1960s1970s1980s and today


  5 women were registered as pharmacists in NSW.
1883:  Rudiments of Pharmacology (Materia Medica) were first taught in the Medical School.
1897: The Pharmacy Act provided for the establishment of the Pharmacy Board of NSW and for the University of Sydney's entry into the field of pharmacy education, so that pharmacists would be better trained and examined by the new Pharmacy Board on a part-time basis.
1899: A course entitled "Materia Medica - Course for Pharmacy Students" - which became the Diploma in Pharmacy in 1918 - was introduced in the Faculty of Medicine, with unmatriculated students attending courses of lectures prescribed by the Pharmacy Board.
  Registration as a pharmacist required: attendance at University lectures and passing the exams in Chemistry, Botany and finally Materia Medica, apprenticeship with a pharmacist, and passing the final Pharmacy Board examination.
1900:  The second cohort of 20 Pharmacy students included Louisa Wilson, the first woman.
1902: Louisa Wilson, became the first academically trained woman to register as a pharmacist in NSW. However she died during the flu epidemic in 1919.
1903: Wilson was soon followed by Miriam Parkes and Margaret MacPherson who passed their University exams, and registered as pharmacists in NSW in 1904.
1910: Emma Louise Alma Reye (later Clarke) was the fourth woman to pass her University exams, registering as a pharmacist in NSW  in 1911, and later becoming the first President of the Association of Women Pharmacists when it was formed in 1933.
1910s: In this decade, 16 women pharmacists were registered in NSW. The shortage of pharmacists available to work in the First World War meant, as in other professions, that women were able to increase their representation in the profession.
1916: Annie Orr (later Fisher) was the first female pharmacist to graduate Bachelor of Science, and went into partnership with her father in the Strathfield Pharmacy, The Boulevard, Strathfield – J B Orr and Daughter – but left after her marriage.
1918: The Department of Pharmacy was established within the Faculty of Medicine, and a Diploma in Pharmacy, towards registration as a pharmacist, was introduced.
1923: Mary Nicol was the first woman student to win the Pharmaceutical Society of NSW Prize for Materia Medica taken by Pharmacy students, having passed her examinations with High Distinction.
1924: There were 293 Pharmacy students, including 29 women, with enrolments increasing dramatically.
1933: The Department of Pharmacy was transferred to the Faculty of Science.
1939: Joyce Mallaby (later Hissey) passed the final University Pharmacy exam in December, and became the first woman to open a pharmacy (in the front of the house) in South Australia in 1948.
1949: Roland Thorp took up the Chair of Pharmacology, which he held until his retirement in 1975, and was Director of Pharmacy.
1960: Training in Pharmacy was elevated to a full-time Bachelor of Pharmacy degree course in the Faculty of Science, with Pharmacology as a major component. This marked the beginning of Pharmacy degree programs in Australia. 
1963: The first 61 students who graduated Bachelor of Pharmacy included 23 women.
1997: The BPharm became a 4-year degree, with the first graduates in 2001.
1998: Elizabeth Frost (BPharm 1963) became the first female President of the Pharmacy Board of NSW.
  Margaret Stork (later Bickle) (Materia Medica 1950) was the first woman to be awarded the degree of Master of Pharmacy (honoris causa) by the University.
2000: Pharmacy became a separate faculty, the first in Australia.
2001: The Women for Pharmacy Committee was set up as a committee of the University's Pharmacy Alumni Association, to help women in pharmacy reach their full potential.
2008: Lynn Bronger (BPharm 1975) was made an Honorary Fellow of the University.
2012: There were 952 women enrolled in the  Faculty of Pharmacy and 547 men.
2013: Pharmacy is one of the few professions in Australia where female graduates earn more than their male peers, a new report reveals (The Council of Australian Governments Reform Council)


In the early 1900s
Ida Lucy Croft

On 12 July 1900, Ida Croft was one of the
last three women in NSW to gain registration
without passing the Board of Pharmacy's
examinations, having begun her
apprenticeship under her father in Broken
Hill before the passage of the
1897 Pharmacy Act.

Mary Josephine O

Mary Josephine O'Reilly was another of the last women in NSW to gain registration without passing the Board's examinations, photo, Freeman's Journal, 23 November 1901, National Library of Australia. She began her apprenticeship under her father, Mr J J O'Reilly, chemist at Dungog, and when it ended, obtained her certificates of registration from the Pharmacy Board on 14 November 1901. She died in 1934.

In the 1910s
A group of Pharmacy students in 1910

A group of Pharmacy students in 1910, photo G3_224_0171, University of Sydney Archives. The women students included Kathleen Mitford Lilley and Alma Reye (later Clarke).


Louisa Wilson, who in 1902 became the first academically trained woman to register as a pharmacist in NSW, in her dispensary at Killara in 1918, image, Sunday Times, 13 April 1919, National Library of Australia.

In the 1920s

An advertisement, from The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 August 1924, National Library of Australia.

In the 1930s
Dr Claudia Portia Burton-Bradley

Claudia Burton-Bradley enrolled
as an evening student in Pharmacy and in
Arts at the University. Apprenticed to a
pharmacist in King Street, she qualified in
1930 and was pharmacist at Western
Suburbs Hospital (1933-38). She graduated
BA in 1940 and MB BS in 1943, becoming
an orthopaedist and conducting pioneering
cerebral palsy research in Australia,
photo, The Examiner, 25 August 1953,
National Library of Australia

In the 1940s
A pharmacy student as a VAD in 1940

Pharmacy student Gwendoline Bowie who was a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment member) in 1940, photo, Sydney Morning Herald, 28 May 1940, National Library of Australia.

Three 1940s Materia Medica women graduates

Three 1940s Materia Medica graduates Margaret Lawrence (c1948), Patricia Kelly (1946) and Maureen Baxter (c1948), members of the Association of Women Pharmacists of NSW, in December 1950 (Patricia Kelly was President), photo, The Sunday Herald, 24 December 1950, National Library of Australia.

In the 1950s
Professor Roland Thorp with student pharmacists in 1950

Professor Roland Thorp with student pharmacists Jean Gore and June Snape, photo from 'The Sydney Morning Herald', 11 August 1950, National Library of Australia. Jean Gore passed Materia Medica in 1951. June Snape passed Materia Medica in 1951 with distinction, winning the Women Pharmacists' Association Prize and sharing the Pharmaceutical Society of NSW Prize for Materia Medica.

Pharmacy I student Barbara Aldrich at the dance given by University students in 1953

Pharmacy I student Barbara Aldrich at the dance given by University students Dick Traill and Rick Shand at Killara on 16 May 1953, photo, Sunday Herald, 17 May 1953, National Library of Australia.

Pharmacy student Therese Stormon at the Commemoration Day ball at the Trocadero on 11 May 1954

Pharmacy student Therese Stormon (centre) at the Commemoration Day ball at the Trocadero on 11 May 1954, photo, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 May 1954, National Library of Australia.

In the 1960s
Third year Pharmacy students and staff in 1963

Third year Bachelor of Pharmacy students and staff in 1963, Photo G3_224_1754, University of Sydney Archives - click on image to view names.

Janette Roberts

Janette Roberts graduated BPharm with Hons in 1968. She was awarded the Faculty's 2011 Pharmacy Alumni Award, photo, FIAT Mist, June 2011.

In the 1970s
Lyn Bronger

Lyn Bronger graduated BPharm in 1975. The Chancellor the Hon Justice Kim Santow conferred the title of Honorary Fellow of the University on Lyn in 2008, photo, copyright, Memento Photography.

In the 1980s
Genevieve Daly

Genevieve Daly graduated BPharm in 1987 and MHA in 2005. She is Senior Oncology Pharmacist at the Centre for Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders, Sydney Children’s Hospital, photo, FIAT Mist, March 2012.

Dr Christa Nath

Christa Nath completed a PhD in 2002 from the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney after finishing a science degree at the University of New England. Her current position is Pharmacokineticist at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, photo, FIAT Mist, March 2012.

Natalie Tasker 
In 2008 Natalie Tasker (final year BPharm
student) was named NSW Pharmacy
Student of the Year by the Pharmaceutical
Society of  Australia, photo, UniNews ...
Joyce Gong 

In 2009 PhD student Joyce Gong, who
completed a pharmacy degree at Sydney
in 2008, won the 'Best Presentation by a
Basic Scientist" award at the University's
Research Network scientific meeting,
photo, UniNews December 2009.

Claire O

In 2009 Claire O'Reilly, a PhD student in Pharmacy, was awarded the Young Pharmacists Group (YPG) Grant for Professional Innovation, photo, UniNews October 2009. The announcement was made by the International Pharmaceutical Federation Board of Directors during the Congress in Istanbul. Claire’s project was Reducing Mental Health Stigma: Development of an E-learning Programme for Pharmacists. In 2012, Dr O'Reilly is an Associate Lecturer in the Faculty.

Jessica Lee Pace

Associate Professor Simon Barrie and Jessica Pace who won the PSA Prize for Proficiency in Pharmacy 1st year, the Walter Noel Gillies Scholarship for Pharmacy in Proficiency in 1st year and an Academic Merit Prize at the Faculty Awards Ceremony held on 30 April 2012, photo, FIAT Mist, July 2012.

Information sources

Lis Bergmann, 2013