EVA FERNANDEZ Edith Cowan: An Extraordinary Woman 2022

“As the invited artist to undertake the 2021 Parliament House Artist Residency in collaboration with School of Arts & Humanities at Edith Cowan University, I have created a series of photographic works acknowledging and celebrating the revolutionary Edith Cowan on the centenary of becoming the first woman to be elected to an Australian parliament.

Through independent research and access to the Parliament’s archives I have produced images that recreate narratives of Edith Cowan’s journey while acknowledging her bravery, intelligence, and tenacity to become the first women to enter the male dominated domain of Western Australian parliament. I pay tribute to Edith Cowan’s struggle coming from an early background of adversity to entering public life without inhibition, particularly given the attitudes and conservative mindset of the time.

My work challenges and confronts the structures of society of the time of Edith Cowan, and the attitudes and obstacles that women have had to overcome in order to attain political and legal representation. One hundred years after Australia elected its very first female parliamentarian, we’ve come a long way, but it appears there is still along way to go.

My work also acknowledges the mistreatment of women in the contemporary political sphere as reflected in recent incidences of misconduct perpetrated against women within this institution, reflecting on the complexities of being a female politician. My creative work takes form as a series of photographic images which play out narratives in the life of Edith Cowan but also extend to the experience of other women who have come after her and continue to experience similar struggles and challenges.”

Eva Fernandez