Significant Tasmanian Women icon

Member of the Legislative Council 1951-1958
Tasmania's first female Labor politician

Lucy GroundsLucy Grounds was only the second woman to enter Parliament in Tasmania, replacing her husband for the seat of Launceston following his death in 1951. There are many examples of family relationships within the Tasmanian Parliament, but the Grounds represent its first - and to date only - husband and wife partnership.

Born Lucy Dodson in Glenorchy and educated at Hobart Ladies College, Grounds became a mother of three and spent periods living at Waratah, Deloraine and Latrobe before commencing her parliamentary career. There were no other women members of Parliament at the time she won her seat, although Phyllis Benjamin would be elected to the Legislative Council the following year. Grounds' election slogan read, "Chivalry is not dead: we need a lady to represent us in Parliament" and her victory, by a clear majority, was reported on the front page of The Examiner.

Grounds gave her maiden speech, on the Sexual Offenders Bill then before the House, on 2 October 1951. The Bill proposed the segregation and treatment of imprisoned sex offenders. According to the report of parliamentary proceedings in The Mercury Grounds endorsed the elimination of publicity in certain cases because "a man might receive treatment and return to community life restored to normality, but because of the publicity given his case he might have an uphill battle." She also said that drunkenness and a lack of home influence led to most sex offences, "but drunkenness should not be regarded as an excuse."

On 15 November 1951 Grounds became the first woman in the Legislative Council to introduce a bill. The Bill authorised the Launceston Marine Board to raise money for port works on the River Tamar. Her input into subsequent bills was reported in more detail when relating to matters of specific concern to women, such as Saturday shop trading, the issuing of receipts to shoppers and female jury service.

On 10 May 1958 Grounds contested her seat against wholesaler Mr WFM Fry, an Independent, and public relations officer Miss K Ruddock, representing the Democratic Labor Party. Her subsequent loss (1042 votes to Fry's 1428, with Ruddock at 239) was a shock for Labor, who put it down to claims by her election opponents that she had not adequately represented the North in its bid for the proposed ferry terminal, which had been lost to Devonport and the North-West. On 12 May The Examiner's editorial declared of the result, "Perhaps it is being realised clearly at last that the North has been getting a raw deal from the Government." Yet on election day, which happened to fall on Mother's Day, the same editorial column had eulogised women-as-mothers, endorsing the poet Robert Browning's claim that "womanliness means only motherhood." Such attitudes, widely upheld in 1950s, may also have played their part.

Grounds sustained an active life outside and beyond her parliamentary role, serving as Secretary of the ALP's Launceston central branch, Secretary of its Launceston women's branch, and on a variety of boards and committees at community level. These included the Tasmanian Advisory Committee to the ABC, the Police and Citizens Boys Club Committee, the Launceston Committee of the YWCA and the National Council of Women, an umbrella organisation for women's voluntary organisations.

This entry was researched and written by Michelle Laffer, B.A. (Hons)


The Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women 2005

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