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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.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Dame Elizabeth Couchman

n.d.
Aileen Dent

oil on canvas (frame: 91.5 cm x 79.5 cm, support: 76.0 cm x 64.0 cm)

Dame Elizabeth Couchman DBE (1876–1982), political activist, grew up in Geelong. She joined the Australian Women's National League (AWNL) in 1910 and was appointed AWNL president in 1927. In 1932 she was the first woman appointed to the Australian Broadcasting Commission board. Having brought the AWNL into the United Australia Party fold, Couchman stood (unsuccessfully) as the UAP candidate for Melbourne in the 1943 Federal election. The following year she instigated the AWNL’s merge with the new Liberal Party and in return secured equal representation for women at all levels of the party’s Victorian division. She was metropolitan vice-president of the Victorian Liberal Party for six years and served on the party's state council into her eighties (she died at 106). Sir Robert Menzies is said to have stated that Couchman 'would have been the best cabinet minister I could have wished for'.

Aileen Dent was the most-exhibited woman artist in the Archibald Prize, with 63 works hung between 1921 and 1962. Her portraits were judged by one reviewer in 1945 to be 'pleasing pictures … usually striking in their likeness'. Here Dent has depicted Couchman wearing her Order of the British Empire Medal, which she received in 1960 for her contribution to public and patriotic services.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Susan Webster, step-granddaughter of Dame Elizabeth Couchman, 2015
© Estate of Aileen Dent

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Subject professions

Activism

Donated by

Mrs Suzie Webster (1 portrait)

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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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency