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.

While the first classes in Engineering began in 1883, with a separate Faculty of Engineering established in 1920, it was not until 1946 that the first woman was admitted to Engineering.

On this webpage:


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View more information and photos about early Engineering students.


Faculty of Engineering 1920

Milestones

1883:  The first classes in Engineering formed part of the newly created Faculty of Science, and were attended by three  candidates for the engineering certificate and seven non-matriculated students. 
1884: Senate appointed William Henry Warren as a Professor and approved a degree in Engineering. 
1920: The Faculty of Engineering was established.
1946: Margaret Angas (later Hamer) was the first woman admitted to the Faculty.
1948: Margaret Angas (later Hamer) was the first woman Engineering graduate at the University, graduating Bachelor of Aeronautical Engineering.
1959: Janet Britton (later Willings) was the second woman to graduate in Engineering (Civil Engineering) and the first woman to graduate with honours (second class).
1960s: In the 1960s, the then Head of the Department, Professor T G Hunter, literally chased away the first few women who tried to enrol.
  However, a small number of women - in the single figures - were admitted to the Bachelor of Engineering course in every year between 1961 and 1969. (The male enrolments varied between 894 in 1961, 1088 in 1965 and 973 in 1969).
1970s: Numbers of women undergraduates were slowly growing, and reached the double figures in the 1970s, with 26 in 1973 (and 1158 male students).
1980: For the first time, there was now a substantial enrolment of women students in Chemical Engineering, with 14 out of the 70 students in Year I being women.
1987: Nancy-Bird Walton was awarded an honorary Master of Engineering.
1988: Joanna Orlowski was the first woman at the University to obtain a Doctor of Philosophy in Chemical Engineering.
1989: Caroline Hewitt was the first woman at the University to obtain a Doctor of Philosophy in Civil & Mining Engineering.
1990s: By 1998, enrolments of women in the Faculty had risen to 368 (with 1,887 men).
2000s: Numbers of women Engineering enrolled students and graduates continued to rise, from 507 enrolled students and 50 graduates in 2002, to 1,005 enrolled students and 100 graduates in 2011.
2003: Sydney University Women in Engineering was established, becoming officially affiliated with the University of Sydney Union in 2004, to help assist and promote the role of women in engineering.
2006: The Faculty became the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies.
2012: Total student enrolments in the Faculty as at 31 March 2012 were 1,050 women and 3,805 men.
  Mid-year figures reveal female graduates at the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies are reaching record numbers ... more.

Gallery

In the early 1900s
Florence Wallace (later MacKenzie)

Florence Wallace (later MacKenzie) passed Chemistry I & Geology I at the University in 1915, but wanted to do engineering. Because she would have had to be apprenticed to a firm and no one would take a woman on, she went to Sydney Technical College, graduating Diploma of Electrical Engineering in 1923, the first of its kind awarded in Australia to a woman, photo of Florence sitting at desk working with a wireless c1922, Wikipedia.

In the 1940s

 Margaret Angus (later Hamer)


Margaret Angas (later Hamer) was the
first woman Engineering graduate at
the University, in 1948,
photo, 'The Argus, 2 March 1948,
National Library of Australia. 


In the 1950s

Janet Britton (later Willings) 

Janet Britton (later Willings) was the second woman
Engineering graduate at the University, in 1959, and
the first woman to graduate with honours (second class).
photo, National Archives of Australia, L31882.


In the 1980s
Growing numbers of women Chemical Engineering students in the early 1980s

Growing numbers of women Chemical Engineering students in the early 1980s, with Professor Rolf Prince, photo, The Gazette 1981, University of Sydney Archives.

First year Chemical Engineering students in 1988

The Department of Chemical Engineering attracted a 33% female 1st year enrolment figure in 1988 and an overall female enrolment figure of 30%, representing the continuing increase the Department had experienced since a sudden influx of women - 20% - in 1980. Pictured above, first year Chemical Engineering students Bettina Schreiber and Wendy Koepke working with Tutor, Mark Koen, on a practical demonstration in the Chemistry laboratory, photo, University of Sydney Annual Report 1988.

Dr Joanna Orlowski, the first woman to obtain a PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University, 1988

Dr Joanna Orlowski, the first woman to
obtain a Doctor of Philosophy in
Chemical Engineering at the
University of Sydney,
is congratulated by the Chancellor,
Sir Hermann Black, at the graduation
ceremony in March 1988,
photo, University of Sydney
Annual Report 1988. 

Dr Caroline Hewitt, the first woman at the University to obtain a Doctor of Philosophy in Civil & Mining Engineering, 1989

Dr Caroline Hewitt was the first woman
at the University to obtain a
Doctor of Philosophy in
Civil & Mining Engineering, in 1989,
photo, The University of Sydney
Annual Report 1989. 

 

 


Today
Jillian Kilby

Jillian Kilby, who graduated in Civil Engineering with first class honours in 2005, became the Faculty's 2010 Young Alumnus of the Year, photo, courtesy of Engineering Sydney Newsletter, Autumn 2010.

Davina Rooney

Davina Rooney, who graduated in Civil Engineering graduate with first class honours in 2001, became the Faculty's 2007 Young Alumnus of the Year, photo courtesy of the Engineering Sydney Newsletter, Issue 9, December 2007.

Kate McDonell in 2011

Kate McDonell, PhD candidate in the School of Civil Engineering, at the Research Conversazione held in October 2011, photo, Engineering Sydney Newsletter, Autumn 2012.

Jiao Jiao Li, 2009 University Medal winner

Dr Myles Coolican presented the SUABE student members SORI Prize in Biomedical Engineering at a formal dinner in March 2010 to Jiao Jiao Li, 2009 University Medal winner, photo, Engineering Sydney Newsletter, Winter 2010.

Amelia Parker, 16 February 2008

Governor-General Michael Jeffery presented third Year Biomedical Engineering student Amelia Parker with an Order of Australia Association Foundation Scholarship at Parliament House on 16 February 2008. Amelia was studying the double degree of Engineering (Biomedical) and Science (Biochemistry) and aimed to work within the biomedical industry in Australia in research or engineering, photo, Engineering Sydney Newsletter, June 2008.

Winners of the Aker Kvaerner Design Prize, 2007

Adam Carr, Lilian De Melo, Yi-Hsia Koh, Jemma Nokes (pictured), William Naderi and Ven Chian Quek from the School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering won the Aker Kvaerner Prize Design Prize in 2007. The prize is awarded annually to the best final year design project as part of the Chemical Engineering suite of degree streams in all the universities in Australia and New Zealand, photo, Engineering Sydney Newsletter, December 2007.

Rachel Hollis, 2006

Rachel Hollis, 4th year Engineering (Aeronautical)(Space) student, was the 2006 President of the Sydney University Engineering Undergraduates Association (SUEUA), photo, Engineering Sydney Newsletter, March 2006.

The 2006 Engineering Revue

Scenes from the 2006 Engineering Revue 'V for Vic Bitter' which explored the daily life of engineering students through the medium of musical comedy, photos, Engineering Sydney Newsletter, March 2007.

2006 RTA Scholars

Brian Gibson of the RTA (far right) with 2006 RTA Scholars (l-r) Jamie Kennedy, Michael Stone, Annabel Killen, Lyndall Jensen & Shaun Meares, photo, Engineering Sydney Newsletter, June 2006.

Nurhidayah A Razak, Master of Engineering Studies (Honours) graduate, 2006

Nurhidayah Razak, Master of Engineering Studies (Honours) graduate with Professor Gregory Hancock, at the 2006 graduation ceremony held in Malaysia, photo, Engineering Sydney Newsletter, December 2006.

Information sources
  • University of Sydney Calendar Archive
  • National Library of Australia historic newspapers
  • The University of Sydney Gazette, April 2003
  • University Statistics Reports
  • University Annual Reports
  • The Faculty's website


Lis Bergmann, 2013