Women in pharmacy: Key dates in history

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%).

Click here to vote in our poll to identify pharmacy’s 10 Women of Influence 



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)     


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  1. Robert

    Let’s have an article entitled, ‘Key Dates for Men in Pharmacy’. That is, unless you want to discriminate in favour of women, against men.

    • Femanon

      I actually think feminists would have a field day if they heard that Pharmacist wages began to drop once females became the majority in pharmacy. It plays right into their agenda. One needs to wonder though which one came first the chicken or the egg.

  2. United we stand

    The bottom line is most women of child-bearing age are looking for a part-time position that pays slightly better than shelf stackers, not physical and offers flexible hours, which sums up a pharmacist role and explains the current shift in demographics.

    On the other hand, men are more likely to seek jobs that provide higher salaries and possibility of career progression leading me to wonder why close to 8000 men are still in pharmacy? A great poster mentioned earlier that many ppl talk about leaving the profession but never actually do because it can be difficult and requires one coming out of their comfort zone. If you’re still in pharmacy when 7CPA rolls out you have no reason whatsoever to complain. Give yourself a 5 year plan and make it happen. King review, deregulation, PPA non of these will provide you with the opportunities the previous generations had laid out for them. That’s my two cents. Hope it gets ppl thinking.

  3. Red Pill

    2008 – Seventy per cent of pharmacy graduates are women

    2020 – No man left in pharmacy

    • United we stand

      Exactly my point. You no longer can support your family on a pharmacist wage.

      Sad state of affairs.

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