Park honour for suffragette

THE first woman elected to a WA road board is set to be honoured with Bayswater council naming Nellie Tant Reserve after her.

Nellie Fawdrey Tant (1880 to 1949) was elected to the Belmont-Bayswater Road Board on April 9, 1921, before resigning the next year. 

The park, informally named The Strand Reserve, is the patch of green across from Essex Street Reserve.

Bayswater council wrote to 608 landowners and residents nearby, and got 10 submissions, eight of them supportive. 

Councillors will vote on whether to support the naming on April 21, and the WA government’s Landgate gets to make the final decision.

Landgate policy opposes naming places after someone for their public service, but a Bayswater council report says they hope she’ll be “considered  exception due to her outstanding achievement” in being the first woman elected to a road board. 

Despite only having a short stint on the Belmont-Bayswater Road Board in 1921-1922, Nellie Fawdrey Tant was already active in the background of WA’s suffragette movement. 

A member of the Maylands Spiritualist Church, she was a key player in the Women’s Service Guilds of WA, which helped get the first woman elected to local government in 1920 when Elizabeth Chapman becoming a Cottesloe Councillor. 

The WSG lobbied successfully to have the Municipal Corporations Act amended in 1919 as it disqualified women from running for councils.

It also pushed for the introduction of the Qualification of Women for Parliament Bill, which paved the way for Edith Cowan to become Australia’s first female MP.

Western Australia was noted as being pretty progressive on women’s issues at the time: The WSG started west before branching out into other states.

The news of Mrs Tant’s election made the “Tea-Table Gossip” section of the NSW Sunday Times. It announced her win with a small article stating: “West Australia still goes ahead as the state with the progressive women”; the article sandwiched below society gossip and just above a recipe for steak and kidney pudding.

England-born, Nellie Tant had three children (including another Nellie who became night superintendent at RPH) and died December 26 1949 “in her 70th year”. 

by DAVID BELL

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