Nancy Buttfield

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Dame Nancy Buttfield
Senator for South Australia
In office
11 October 1955 – 8 December 1961
Preceded by George McLeay
Succeeded by Gordon Davidson
In office
9 December 1961 – 30 June 1965
Preceded by Gordon Davidson
In office
1 July 1968 – 11 April 1974
Personal details
Born (1912-11-12)12 November 1912
Died 4 September 2005(2005-09-04) (aged 92)
Political party Liberal

Dame Nancy Buttfield DBE (12 November 1912 – 4 September 2005) was an Australian Senator and the first woman to serve in the Australian Parliament as a representative of the state of South Australia.[1]

Born as Nancy Eileen Holden, she was the daughter of Sir Edward Holden, the Australian automotives magnate. She first entered the Senate on 11 October 1955, having been chosen by the Parliament of South Australia under Section 15 of the Australian Constitution to replace Senator George McLeay, who had died the previous month, on 14 September.

She was elected in her own right in the 1955 general election. On 8 December 1961 she resigned her seat in the Senate, but only in order to fill a different casual vacancy commencing immediately, which extended the length of her term. On 8 February 1962, Gordon Davidson was appointed to the vacancy that she herself created.

Although her parliamentary service was continuous, she was the first woman member of the Australian parliament to resign.[2] She remained in the Senate until 30 June 1965, having lost her seat at the 1964 Senate election. She was re-elected in 1967, her new term commencing on 1 July 1968. When a Federal Election was called on 11 April 1974, both houses were dissolved in a double dissolution and she chose to retire at that time. She served a total of sixteen and a half years. She was the last surviving member of the 1955-1956 Senate.

She was known for her advocacy of women's rights. It is said that with the encouragement of the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, she broke down a long-established convention in Old Parliament House by becoming the first woman to drink at the previously male-only Members' Bar.[citation needed]


She was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the New Year's Honours of 1972, becoming Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield.


  1. ^ "Buttfield, Nancy Eileen". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 1 October 2013. 
  2. ^ Psephos - Adam Carr's Election Archive


External links[edit]

  • Buttfield, Nancy in The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia