Born in Cooma in 1886, Lilian Fowler seemed destined for politics from an early age. It is said that she decided on a career in politics after an ‘Inspector for Nuisances’ confiscated her marbles while she was playing with them on a public footpath. However, it is likely that she gained an interest in politics from her father, a Labour League organiser and alderman for Cooma Municipal Council. She married bootmaker Albert Edward Fowler on 19 April 1909 at Whitefield Congregational Church. They had one daughter. She died on 11 May 1954.
Occupation & interests
Lilian Fowler was a formidable woman whose clarity of convictions, confidence and outstanding organisational skills helped her smash through the glass ceiling of politics. She opened up opportunities for women while helping the most marginalised people in society.
In 1936, Newtown Municipal Council purchased a former brass foundry on this site, to create a park. It was later named in honour of Lilian Fowler, and commemorates her commitment to improving the lives of residents in the inner suburbs of Sydney. The Lilian Fowler Reserve celebrates a tenacious and successful campaigner for social justice whose concerns extended to the needs of all children to have access to local playgrounds.
As President of the Labor Women’s Central Organising Committee in the mid-1920s, Lilian Fowler placed pressure on NSW Premier Jack Lang to introduce the widows’ pension and child endowment. Fowler was the first woman alderman in NSW, the first female mayor in Australia and among the first women Members of Parliament in the NSW. She was a member of the Australian Labor Party (Lang Labor). She was also a Justice of the Peace (JP).
Local government service
One of her key achievements as an alderman in the Newtown Municipal Council (1928-48) and as Mayor (1938-39) was the creation of a number of children’s playgrounds in the Inner West
Heather Radi, ‘Fowler, Elizabeth Lilian (1886–1954)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/fowler-elizabeth-lilian-6222/text10705, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 2 March 2016.