43.  Dame Dorothy Tangney (c1907-1985), educator and politician

Dorothy Margaret Tangney was born in Perth, the third child of Ellen and Eugene Tangney, in a family of nine children. Her father was an engine driver, and her early years were spent in the mill towns of Marrinup and Holyoake. When the family moved to Fremantle she attended St Joseph’s Convent. 

Dorothy Tangney was 13 when she passed the Junior Certificate, won a gold medal for music and passed the Alliance Francaise examinations. She matriculated at 15 and decided to study for the Bachelor of Arts degree part-time. At the completion of the degree she continued at the University of Western Australia as a post-graduate student for the Diploma of Education. She became a very able debater, was president of the Debating Society, served on many committees and was elected the first woman President of the Societies Council. In 1940, the Guild of Undergraduates conferred on her the Honorary Life Associateship of the Guild, the first woman student at UWA to be so honoured. 

Dorothy Tangney entered politics in 1943 for the Australian Labor Party and created history as the first woman in Australia to be elected to the Senate. Her list of achievements from September 1943 were considerable. She was a courageous fighter for Labor’s cause and the plight of the disadvantaged, and many of her recommendations on their behalf are now enshrined in the law. She had a deep compassion for people and her home was always open for those in need. 

Dorothy Tangney was created a Dame Commander of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday List in June 1968, the first Western Australian woman to receive this honour. She died in Perth in 1985 aged 78 years.