Students at the University of Sydney

Early women students and graduates

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 first female students for the degree of Bachelor of Science in Agriculture were admitted in 1917, ten years after the first students enrolled in the Faculty.

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View more information and photos about early Agriculture students.


Faculty of Agriculture 1920

Milestones

1910:  Academic programs in agricultural science were established in Department of Agriculture within the Faculty of Science with the appointment of Robert Dickie Watt as the Foundation Professor in Agriculture and the enrolment of the first four students in the four year Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree. 
1917: The first female students for the degree - Lorna Byrne (later Hayter), Margaret Ramsay (later Brebner), Muriel Hutton and Isabel (Bell) Millar (later Jones) - were admitted.
  Lorna said that, when she and three other women went to Professor Watt to enrol in agriculture, he warned them that all the students must go to practical farms, adding: 'I don't think you would want to do that, would you?" But they said, 'Yes we would".
1920: A separate Faculty of Agriculture was established with Professor Dickie Watt as the first Dean.
1921: The first women Bachelor of Science in Agriculture graduates were:
– Lorna Byrne (later Hayter)
Margaret Brebner
  The other two had dropped out.
1935: In an interview, Kathleen Sawkins (BScAgr 1934) said "Opportunities do not often come the way of girl graduates in agriculture. Positions are available but the firms that offer them almost invariably prefer men to fill the post," (The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 September 1935).
1947: Hilary Purchase (later Davidson) was the first woman to graduate Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with First Class Honours.
1951: Hilary Purchase (later Davidson) was the first woman to be awarded the Thomas Lawrance Pawlett scholarship in agricultural science.
1953: Kathleen Donovan was the first woman to graduate Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with First Class Honours and the University Medal.
  Dorothy Shaw, a teaching Fellow in the Faculty, was the first woman to be awarded the Master of Science in Agriculture degree at the University.
2012: 226 female full-time and part-time students were enrolled in Agriculture, with 405 male enrolments.

Gallery

In the 1910s
1918

In 1917, Margaret Ramsey (later Brebner) and Lorna Byrne (later Hayter) were two of the first four female Agriculture students. Their second year in 1918 included three months of practical work at Hawkesbury Agricultural College. The above image shows them swinging the scythe, photo, The Sydney Stock and Station Journal, 24 May 1918, National Library of Australia.

1919

Margaret Ramsey (later Brebner), Lorna Byrne (later Hayter) and Mollie Boag at a palaeontological excursion to Gerringong in 1919, photo provided by Mary Stewart Jefferson (nee Boag), from 'The Gazette', February 1983.

In the 1920s
Lorna Byrne (Hayter) and Margaret Ramsay (Brebner).

The first two women Bachelor of Science in Agriculture graduates, in 1921 were Lorna Byrne (later Hayter) and Margaret Ramsey (later Brebner), G3_224_1338, University of Sydney Archives.

Lorna Byrne (Hayter)

Lorna Byrne (later Hayter), photo G3_224_1336, University of Sydney Archives.

In the 1930s
Helen Robinson, Joan Woodhill and Kathleen (Kitty) Sawkins in 1933

Agriculture students Helen Robinson (later Harbutt), Joan Woodhill and Kathleen (Kitty) Sawkins in 1933. They all graduated in Agriculture in 1934, photo G3_224_1602, University of Sydney Archives.

Kathleen (Kitty) Sawkins

Kathleen Sawkins (BScAgr 1934) and two other young undergraduates absorbed their practical knowledge at Berry Training Farm, Coonabarabran, and Launceston, Tasmania, 15 September 1936, photo, SMH, 15 September 1936, NLA.

Joan Woodhill 
Joan Woodhill graduated
BScAgr in 1934. Unable to find suitable
work in that field, she became a dietitian.
Appointed OBE in 1973, she was made
an honorary life member of the
Dietitians Association of  Australia
in 1983, photo, Sydney Morning Herald,  
30 November 1938,

National Library of Australia.

Myrie Evans

Myrie Evans graduated BScAgr in 1935 with Fanny Powers. Myrie did two years' research work at the University for the CSIR in regard to the preservation of meat, then became a bacteriologist, photo, SMH, 9 January 1940, NLA.

1936

Faculty of Agriculture students Nancy Webb (Year I), Jean Baldwin (Year II) and Nancy Barrie (Year I) engaged in practical work at Queensland's Gatton Agricultural College in early 1936 as part of their training, photo, Sunday Mail, 16 February 1936, National Library of Australia. Nancy Barrie was the daughter of a Canberra dairy farmer, Jean Baldwin was a native of Springwood in the Blue Mountains and Nancy Webb was a Sydney girl.

1936

Nancy Barrie working the plough, photo, Sunday Mail, 16 February 1936, National Library of Australia.

1937

Each year, Agriculture students from Sydney University were sent to the country to gain practical experience on farms. Women and men students went to Government experimental farms in various parts of NSW where they engaged in the ordinary routine of farm work. Pictured above are women bagging wheat on Bomera Station, in the Gunnedah district, in 1937, photo, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 December 1937, National Library of Australia.

1937

Helen Wrigley and Nancy Webb, Year III Agricultural Science students, with Glenorain Persistence II, at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in 1937, photo, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 March 1937, National Library of Australia.

1938

The Faculty of Agriculture women students Commem Day float in May 1938, photo, photo, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, Digital order number: hood_18211.

1938

Alice Thorburn (BScAgr 1940) making a haystack at at Queensland's Gattan College in 1938, photo, The Courier-Mail, 15 January 1938, National Library of Australia.

Margaret Christie 1938

Margaret Christie (BScAgr 1941) at Queensland's Gattan College in 1938, one of six University of Sydney students taking a practical course in agriculture and veterinary science. She was studying grasses with a tutor, photo, The Courier-Mail, 15 January 1938, National Library of Australia.

Noela Bennett, Alice Thorburn and Gwen Griffith in 1938

Noela Bennett (BScAgr 1941), Alice Thorburn (BScAgr 1940) and Gwen Griffith (Veterinary Science) at a practical demonstration - studying the points of a pig - at Queensland's Gattan College in 1938, photo, The Courier-Mail, 15 January 1938, National Library of Australia.

Patricia Bennett in 1938

Patricia Bennett (BScAgr 1941) clipping the wool from a sheep's eyes to prevent wool blindness at Queensland's Gattan College in 1938, photo, The Courier-Mail, 15 January 1938, National Library of Australia.

Noela Bennett in 1938

Noela Bennett (BScAgr 1941) giving a stud pig a meal at Queensland's Gattan College in 1938, photo, The Courier-Mail, 15 January 1938, National Library of Australia.

In the 1940s
Agriculture staff and students outside the Agriculture Building in 1942

Agriculture staff and students outside the Agriculture Building
in 1942, photo G3_224_1605, University of Sydney Archives.

Front row from left:
Sheila MacDonald (Year III), who graduated in 1944 and during
the war was attached to Defence Foodstuufs Control as
food technologist
Dorothy Killeen (Year IV)
Janet Terrey (Year IV)
Lucy Taylor (Year IV)

Second row from left:
Elizabeth Meldrum (Year I)
Lawrie Ward (Year I), who graduated and became a microbiologist
Hilma Vaughan (Year I)
Hilary Purchase (later Davidson) (Year I), who became the first woman
Agriculture graduate  with First Class Honours, in 1947
Anne Dirks (Year II)
Alison Kingsland (Year II)
Joy Garden (Year II), who became a systematic botanist with the
Botanic Gardens following graduation
Marjorie Churchward (Year II)


Hilary Frances Purchase
Hilary Purchase (later Davidson)
was the first woman Agriculture
graduate with First Class Honours,
in 1947,
photo, 'The Sunday Herald',
17 June 1951,
National Library of Australia

In the 1950s
Lesley Bancroft 
Lesley Bancroft
(BScAgr 1950)
became an analyst for the AJC,
assisting chief analyst Jean Kimble
at the Randwick Racecourse laboratory
to dope-test saliva samples from
winning racehorses throughout
Australia, Pakistan & Ceylon, photo,
The Sunday Herald, 12 April 1953,

National Library of Australia.

1952

A party of Sydney University students who arrived in Lismore on 1 September 1952 were shown over the Norco cremery later that day. Dorothy Young (BScAgr 1953) and Don Adamson are pictured examining a piece of machinery. The students spent a week in the Lismore district, photo, Northern Star, 2 September 1952, National Library of Australia.

1953

Grade herd recording commenced in the Rockhampton district in 1953. The official herd recorder (Mr R Shields) is weighing a sample of evening milk on Mr J C Graham's farm. Watching are Sydney University Agriculture students Kathleen Donovan (BScAgr Hons I 1953) & Barbara Carne (BScAgr 1954) who were gaining field experience during their vacation, photo, The Central Queensland Herald, 19 February 1953, NLA.

 Kathleen Donovan
Kathleen Donovan
was the first
woman Agriculture graduate with
First Class Honours and the University
Medal, in 1953, image from 'The
Sydney Morning Herald', 30 April 1953,
National Library of Australia
 Dorothy Shaw  
Dorothy Shaw
(BScAgr 1947) was the
first woman awarded the Master of
Science in Agriculture, in 1953,
image from 'The Sydney Morning
Herald', 30 April 1953, National Library
of Australia
.

Vinleigh Johnson 1954

Vinleigh Johnson was the only woman in final year Agriculture in 1954, photo G3_224_1609, University of Sydney Archives.

In the 1960s
Agricultural Science students in 1960

Agricultural Science students, from left Judy Baker (BScAgr 1964), Elizabeth Cunningham (BScAgr 1961), Margaret Greenwood (BAg 1963) and Columbo Plan student Amelia Acierto. Amelia is carrying out a soil fertility test in a Sydney University research laboratory in 1960, photo, 'The Australian Women's Weekly', 14 September 1960, National Library of Australia.

In the 1980s
Mrs Charlotte Webb

In the 2012 Queen's Birthday honours, Mrs Charlotte Webb OAM (BScAgr 1983) was awarded an OAM for her service to the community, particularly through the Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens of which she was a Founding Member in 1998 and President since 2007.

Shauna Phillips
Shauna Phillips
graduated  BAgrEc
in 1989, with First Class Hons and the
University Medal. In 1991 she completed
a MComm from UNSW. Shauna lectured at
Macquarie University  in 1993 and in
1994 became an associate lecturer of
Agricultural Economics at Sydney
University, photo, Faculty website.

In the early 2000s
2006

Melissa Lauff graduated BScAgr in 2006 and is employed by Nufarm Australia, one of the world’s leading crop protection companies, as a Territory Manager for the Central West, Hunter Valley and Sydney Basin. She was one of the eight 2009 finalists in the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW (RASNSW) Rural Achievers Awards to recognise future leaders, photo, Agriculture Alumni Magazine: DECEMBER 2009.

2007

Tiffany Patrick graduated Bachelor of Agricultural Economics in 2007, photo, Faculty website. She commenced working with Goldman Sachs JBWere on their 2007 Graduate Program within the Securities Division.

2007

Alison Bentley completed her Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with First Class Honours in 2003, followed by a PhD in 2007, at the University of Sydney. She won the British Society for Plant Pathology's 2009 Best Student Paper Award for her research on crown rot in wheat, and in 2011 was a plant scientist at Cambridge University, photo, Agriculture Alumni Magazine: DECEMBER 2009.

In the 2010s

2012

Johanna Couchman, a third year Bachelor of Science in Agriculture student, won third place at the 2012 Australian Universities Crops Competition, held at Temora, NSW, photo, Facultry news ... more.

2013

Nicola Cottee graduated Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (Honours) in 2004 and gained her PhD in 2009. She won the Faculty's 2013 Young Alumni Award for Achievement for her pioneering research into heat-tolerant cotton and her efforts to mentor a new generation of agriculture researchers, photo, Faculty website ... more

Sabina Yeasmin

PhD researcher Sabina Yeasmin was awarded $1500 by the Clay Minerals Society (USA) through its student research grant program in 2013, photo, Faculty website ... more

Information sources
  • University of Sydney Calendar Archive
  • National Library of Australia historic newspapers
  • Agriculture Alumni Magazine: DECEMBER 2009


Lis Bergmann