HerStory

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Margaret BLACKWOOD

Born: 26/4/1909

Died: 1/6/1986

Special Achievements:

First woman Deputy Cancellor at Melbourne University; First woman appointed Honorary Life Member by the Association of Women on Campus Melbourne University; OBE 1981, First constructor Australian cipher used by RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force).

She qualified at the Associated Teacher's Training Institution, then taught at Lowther Hall and Korowa Church of England Girl's Grammar schools. In 1930 she enrolled in science at the University of Melbourne (B.Sc., 1938; M.Sc., 1939) completing the course part time while continuing to teach. A scholarship assisted her to write a thesis on the die back of Pinus radiata for her master's degree, which was conferred with first class honours. She then became a research and demonstrator, working on plant cytology and genetics. Margaret volunteered to serve in World War II. On 15 March 1941 She enrolled in the Women's Auxilliary Australian Air Force. In January 1945 she reached the rank of temporary wing officer. When her appointment ended on 8 January 1946, she returned to the University (Mildura Branch campus), as a lecturer in biology and dean of women. In 1948 she proceeded to Britain on a Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme scholarship and entered the University of Cambridge (Ph.D., 1954), where she worked with David Catcheside on the B-chromosomes in Zea mays. Back in Melbourne she was appointed at last to a permanent lectureship, becoming one of only two lecturers in genetics at the University. She published little (five papers in 1953-68) and was promoted slowly, becoming a reader just before she retired in 1974. In 1958-59, a Camegie travelling scholarship had enabled her to study at the University of Wisconsin. As a geneticist she new that only one of the forty six chromosomes is different, therefore 'innate abilities and characters are common to both men and women'. In 1975 she convened the University assembly's working group on the position of women on the campus, which found that their status was no higher than it had been in 1951.
Dame

Additional Information:

Attended Melbourne Church of England Girl's Grammar School, which emphasised academic attainment and encouraged scientific studies. She was a research scholar and demonstrator. She believed firmly in the equality of the sexes. She repudiated modern feminism, believing that 'it's no good having a chip on your shoulder. You don't get anywhere.'