Lady Millie Peacock
LADY MILLIE PEACOCK (1870 - 1948)
FIRST WOMAN ELECTED TO THE PARLIAMENT OF VICTORIA
Lady Millie Peacock was the first woman elected to the Parliament of Victoria. Although Victorian women had won the right to stand for election in 1924, no female candidate was successful until 1933, when Millie Peacock would make history.
Millie was born in 1870 to Irish parents, the second of two daughters. Her mother died just months after giving birth, and Millie’s father, an auctioneer, went on to marry Millie’s maternal aunt. They had another eight children.
In 1901, Millie married Sir Alexander Peacock, a former teacher and mining manager who had won a seat in the Legislative Assembly in 1889.
Sir Alexander went on to become the Premier of Victoria on three occasions. Meanwhile, Lady Millie was active in community organisations such as the Red Cross and the Ladies Benevolent Society and often assisted her husband in his role. She frequently attended functions and on at least one occasion spoke on his behalf during an election campaign. Her husband jokingly referred to her as ‘the deputy member’ for the electorate, recognising that she was as much a part of the political life of the electorate as he was.
Then in 1933, after 44 years as the member for Allandale, Sir Alexander died. A by-election would be held to fill his seat, and Lady Millie was invited to stand. While reluctant to embark on a political career, she agreed. However, as she remained in mourning, Lady Millie made no public speeches or appearances during the campaign.
On November 11, 1933 Lady Millie Peacock was elected to represent the electorate of Allendale. She was the first woman to be elected to Victoria’s Parliament. The Age newspaper wrote: “another step has been won in the women’s fight for complete freedom and equality.”
Lady Millie was sworn in before a packed public gallery and gave a passionate maiden speech on her husband’s role in developing the Factories and Shops Bill. It turned out to be the only speech she ever gave in parliament, preferring to spend her time dealing with the correspondence and concerns of her electorate directly.
Lady Millie Peacock did not seek re-election, and retired from Parliament in 1935, but continued to carry out community work. She died in 1948.
Illustrated by Alice Lindstrom
The Metro Tunnel’s yellow Tunnel Boring Machine is named after Millie.