Also known as: née Kitson

Born: 9/12/1893

Died: 18/10/1971

Special Achievements:

Graduating from the University of Adelaide, she was South Australia's first (and the nation's third) female lawyer, admitted to the Bar on 20 October 1917. She became South Australia's first female solicitor and later public notary but was forced to leave her old firm after her marriage in 1924 as her partners preferred not to work with a married woman.

1921 - First female in British Empire to be made a Notary Public. Her application led to a change in the law, as the Act at that time did not include women as "persons."

1950 - Awarded Order of the British Empire for services to Child Welfare.

1959 - Awarded Companion of the British Empire for public service in connection with the United Nations.

Additional Information:

1917 - Mary became South Australia's first female lawyer.

1925 - Mary formed a new legal partnership with Dorothy Somerville, in what was the first female legal partnership in Australia.

In 1927, following the failure of her marriage, Mary worked as a legal editor.  In 1941 she became a member of the Child Welfare Advisory Council (NSW), held many honorary positions and served on a number of boards.  In 1950 Mary was appointed chief of the office of the status of women in the division of human rights, United Nations Secretariat, New York.


  • Image - Mary Cecil Tenison Woods née Kitson

    Photographer: unknown

    History Trust of South Australia

  • References

    Nugent, Maria.  (2002).  Women’s Employment and Professionalism in Australia:  Histories, Themes and Places.  Canberra, ACT:  Australia Heritage Commission, p. 74.
    “Earliest sections of the convent were built as a poor school, and were associated with Mary McKillop and J. E. Tension Woods, who founded the Institute of The Sisters of St Joseph.”