Parliamentary and Local Government Career

  • Alderman, Fairfield Municipal Council, 1956-65
  • Deputy Mayor 1958
  • Member, Prospect County Council retired 1972


  • Candidate, Mosman, 1953

Other Highlights

    • Participated in the first International Women's Day 1928;
    • Organised the wives of the timber workers strike 1929;
    • Member of Communist Party and International Workers of the World 1920-35c;
    • Joined Australian Labor Party 1935;
    • Organised first residential Summer School for women for the Workers Educational Association;
    • First female Deputy Mayor in NSW 1958;
    • Alderman Fairfield Council 1959-65;
    • First woman president of the largest branch of the Municipal Employees' Union 1960s;
    • Campaign manager for future Prime Minister Gough Whitlam;
  • Founding member of Women's Electoral Lobby 1972;
  • Presented breakthrough submission to the Arbitration Commission to award low paid women workers the same minimum wage as men 1974;
  • Published Gentle Invaders, Australian Women and the Workforce 1788-1974 with Anne Conlon 1975.

Ryan campaigned for maternity leave and work-based child care for women workers, was an advocate of women's reproductive rights, and campaigned on the negative impacts of enterprise bargaining and compulsory superannuation on low paid women workers. In 1984 she published Two-thirds of a Man: Women and Arbitration in New South Wales 1902-08. The following year she was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Sydney, and in 1995 was again awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters, this time by Macquarie University.
Edna Ryan had three children - Julia, Lyndall and Patrick - whom she raised alone after the early death of her husband, Jack Ryan.
Sources used to compile this entry: Caine, Barbara (ed.), Australian Feminism: A Companion, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1998, 607 pp; Smith, A. Viola, Women in Australian Parliaments and Local Governments, Past and Present, Australian Local Government Women's Association; Australian National Advisory Committee on International Women's Year, Australian Local Government Women's Association, Canberra, 1975, 148 pp.