As part of our ongoing series on women in pharmacy, we thought we’d step back in time to look at some key dates highlighting women’s role in shaping the profession 

1850 – Anne Bickford takes over husband’s Adelaide pharmacy after his death, running it with her son, a registered chemist.

1880 – Caroline Copp becomes the first Australian-born woman to gain pharmacy registration. In 1898 she was the only one of seven female applicants to be re-registered under a new pharmacy act.

1905 – Victorian Women Pharmacists’ Association is established. In 1911 it reported having seven new members and that “it is gratifying to note that there had been a growing demand for women pharmacists during the year, several having held positions as relieving managers in various pharmacies.”

1915 – The AJP fetes Ethel Drew for her success in winning a disproportionately high number of academic prizes at the Victorian College of Pharmacy. She won the President’s Pharmacy Prize with an average of 79 per cent.

1918 – The Victorian association of chemists employed in hospitals and dispensaries votes unanimously in support of equal pay for both sexes.   

1923 – Honoria Lyons, the first female pharmacist registered in WA (winner of the Webster Memorial Gold Medal in 1914) opens her own pharmacy

1930s – About 6% of Australian pharmacists are female, and about 3% of all shops are owned by women. 

1938 – Miss JM Brown is co-opted onto the NSW Pharmacy Board, the first woman to hold a position with an ‘official’ pharmacy organisation

1942 – Gwyneth Richardson (1940 graduate) is the first female military pharmacist, and serves in uniform for five years

1949 – NSW women pharmacists win equal pay thanks to the efforts of SNW Guild President Doug Ramsay

1951 – The first congress of the Combined Women’s Pharmacists Association, the first national pharmacy women’s organisation. Miss EA Everett of Queensland is elected as the first president.

1965 – William Cutler, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of NSW said the intake of women into the profession was at a ratio of 45 to 55% of men, however wastage was high due to “marriage, travel etc”

1970 – Margaret Bickle is elected to the NSW Pharmacy Guild Branch Committee. In 1982 she becomes the first ever female Guild national councillor

1973 – Anne Burton becomes vice-president of the Pharmaceutical Society of SA, and is the first woman to reach executive office in any Australian society

1989 – During the CAPS (Community and Pharmacy Support group) war, Lyn Bronger, Kate Carnell and Donna McKinnis organise a protest of 2,000 female pharmacists who descend on Parliament House in Canberra.

AJP said at the time “the enthusiasm of the women overflowed into a spontaneous surge towards Parliament, where they took their places on the public galleries of both chambers, sought interviews with their own Parliamentary representatives and generally made their presence felt….”

1989-1994 – Kate Carnell serves on the Guild national council, prior to entering politics. She had previously served as head of Marcehm, and played a prominent role in advocating for a separate ACT Guild branch.

1993 – Terry White Management is set up to provide services to pharmacies using the Terry White brand name. Rhonda White serves as CEO, pioneering pharmacy brand development.

1995 – Gabi Hollows opens the first Women in Pharmacy Conference, organised by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. Margaret Bickle is the conference chair.

2005 – Four women – Lenette Mullen, Toni Riley, Judith Liauw and Karen Peachey – are elected to the Guild national committee 

2008 – Seventy per cent of pharmacy graduates are women

March 2012 – Pharmacy Board statistics reveal that 57.29% of registered pharmacists are female.

March 2016 – 61.35% of registered Australian pharmacists were female. The highest proportion is in the ACT (65.80%) and the lowest in Tasmania (57.41%).

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Stephen G Greenwood: Ready, Prepared! The History of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, 2008

Gregory Haines: Pharmacy in Australia, 1988

Pharmacy Board of Australia National Registration and Accreditation Scheme statistics

Pharmacy History of Australia, journals 10-37 (2000-2009)