Skip to main content

Ticketed entry is in place to safely manage your visit so please book ahead. Need to cancel or rejig? Email bookings@npg.gov.au

Menu

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Millicent Preston Stanley Vaughan, c. 1945

Noel Rubie

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 24.4 cm x 19.2 cm, image: 24.0 cm x 18.9 cm)

Millicent Fanny Preston Stanley (1883–1955), politician and feminist, was born Millicent Stanley in Sydney in 1883, the daughter of a grocer named Augustine Stanley and his wife Frances (née Preston). She became Millicent Preston Stanley when her father deserted the family, Frances Stanley (who was granted a divorce in 1895) thereafter reverting in part to her maiden name. In 1913, Preston Stanley began attending lectures in economics at the University of Sydney with her brother. In her early twenties, she became involved with the Women’s Liberal League of NSW, among whose objectives were ‘to support all movements calculated to minimise social evils’ and ‘to improve the position of women in all spheres of life.’ Having undertaken a lecture tour of the USA and worked as an organiser for the National Party in NSW and Queensland, Preston Stanley was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1921 (she was among the first women to fulfil this role), and she served as President of the NSW Women Justices Association between 1923 and 1926. In 1922, she stood for election to the Legislative Assembly. Narrowly defeated on this occasion, she stood again in 1925 and was successful, becoming the first woman elected to Parliament in New South Wales. As the member for Eastern Suburbs, Preston Stanley campaigned on issues such as mortality in childbirth, child welfare, custody rights, care for the intellectually disabled and amendments to the Health Act. On the issue of custody, Preston Stanley took up the cause of Emelie Polini, who lost a custody battle for her infant daughter in 1924. The case motivated Preston Stanley to introduce to Parliament a private bill calling for equal custody rights for women (eventually granted in 1934). Though unsuccessful in her bid for re-election in 1927, Preston Stanley maintained her campaign for custody rights, penning a play about the Polini case, Whose child?, which was produced in Sydney in 1932. She worked for the Daily Telegraph in 1926 and 1927 as editor of its women’s supplement. She married former South Australian premier, Crawford Vaughan, in 1934. She continued organising against socialism and communism; and served on the councils of the National and United Australia parties between 1930 and 1942, She travelled to North America again in 1937-38 as the British-American Co-operation Movement’s delegate to the Pan Pacific Women’s Conference; during World War 2, as director of the Women’s Australian National Service, Preston Stanley mobilised women for voluntary work and oversaw the training of others for service with the forces. Preston Stanley was President of the Feminist Club from 1919 to 1934 and again from 1952 to 1955; and was associated with organisations such as the Girl Guides, Save the Children, and the British Film League, among many others. ‘A sturdy woman, with firm chin and deep voice’, Preston Stanley was known for her strong oratorical style and deft dismissal of hecklers and other detractors: called a ‘battle-axe’ on one occasion, she retorted by stating that ‘a battle-axe is a pretty useful weapon if it’s kept sharp and bright’. She died in Sydney in June 1955.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Judi Preston-Stanley 2013

Accession number: 2013.42

Currently not on display

Copyright image request form
Request a digital copy of an image for publication

Artist and subject

Noel Rubie (age 44 in 1945)

Millicent Fanny Preston-Stanley Vaughan (age 62 in 1945)

Subject professions

Activism

Government and leadership

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery

The Gallery

Explore portraiture and come face to face with Australian identity, history, culture, creativity and diversity.

Plan your visit

Timed ticketing, location, accessibility and amenities

Support your Portrait Gallery

We depend on your support to keep creating our programs, exhibitions, publications and building the amazing portrait collection!

We would like to thank our partners.
© National Portrait Gallery 2020
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.