Margaret Geddes MBE

1978 - 1980
BPW Australia President

1980         BPW 15th International Congress

1986     BPW International Chairperson Publications Committee

                BPWA Chairperson Ad Hoc Resolution Committee

Occupation:  Public Servant Canberra

Margaret joined BPW Eastern Goldfields in 1957 in Western Australia and is the only Australian President that was born in Western Australia.  Margaret moved to Tasmania where she was elected BPW Tasmania President from 1975 to 1977.  Margaret then moved to Canberra to work at the Public Service Commission and was a member of BPW Canberra and she worked with community groups for the rights of women.

In 1978, Margaret was elected BPW Australia President and was a very active President and attended International Board Meeting in Athens, Greece in 1979; and, in 1979 attended the Regional Seminar in Singapore.  In 1980, Margaret led the delegation of 120 Australian members to the BPW International Jubilee Congress in Montreux, where we had 10 voting delegates out of a total membership of 2,970 Australians.

Margaret was an inspiration to those who contemplated any form of study or education. Returning to study as a mature age student, Margaret gained many qualifications and achieved an Arts Degree in History and Administration, a Master’s Degree in International Law, and Post Graduate work in Peace Studies, after which, she transferred to Ph.D studies. In 1981, Margaret Geddes prepared a submission to the Australian Government on behalf of BPW Australia for an enquiry into ‘Management Education’.  Margaret also supported the idea of a joint conference on the effect of technology on women’s employment.

In 1989, anti-discrimination was high on the BPW agenda and it followed that Margaret Geddes as Australian President, issued a press release, calling on BPW members and other women’s organisations to boycott Ansett Airways. Debra Wardley, a qualified pilot and flight instructor had been refused employment by Ansett on the basis of her gender.  The Victorian Equal Opportunity Tribunal found Debra Wardley had been discriminated against by Ansett.  The matter was resolved when Robert Holmes à Court bought the company, Debra Wardley was employed with Ansett and the BPW ban was lifted.

Ansett had refused employment to women on the basis of:

Ansett raised a number of objections to the employment of women as pilots, including:

  • That pilots needed strength, even though there was no strength test for pilots
  • That unions would object
  • That women's menstrual cycles made them unsuitable
  • Pregnancy and childbirth would disrupt a woman's career to the point where it would jeopardise safety and incur extra costs for the company. (This was Ansett's main legal argument)

As a cherished Past President, Margaret continued to support BPW Australia and members.  At National Conferences, Margaret would hold ecumenical service on Sunday morning for members. Margaret was a devoted member of the Anglican Church and in her later years became a Dean of the Church.

Margaret was the Chair of the Resolutions Committee and conducted education sessions about dealing with resolutions at Conference. Margaret was honoured to receive the Jean Arnot Award which recognises outstanding commitment and service to women through BPW and the winner must have held a position at National Board level.

Margaret Geddes was a strong minded woman with the courage of her convictions.

(LtoR)  BPWA President Margaret Geddes, Dame Enid Lyons and Ruth Ross Immediate Past President at the National Conference of BPW held in Burnie, Tasmania 1980

Thank you to the women behind the BPW Australia Past President History Project:
Project Leader, Past President Marilyn Forsythe (2007-2013), 
Past President Kay Morrison (2004-2007), Margaret Tipper, BPWA Executive Secretary (2016+), Robyn Duncan (BPWA Public Officer), Trish Clifford (BPW Central Coast) and Jean Murray (Immediate Past BPWA Executive Secretary) for their assistance and research.  The Past President History will continue to expand as information becomes available about the National Presidents since 1947.  

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