Marie Byles was the first woman to be admitted as a solicitor in NSW in 1924, and was the first woman to establish a legal practice in 1929. She was a feminist who advocated against women changing their name on marriage so as to protect their financial assets, and also worked to ensure just divorce settlements for her female clients.
She joined the Sydney Bushwalkers Club in 1929, and was an active participant in various conservation campaigns. She was also the first editor of the Bushwalker magazine in 1937. Boat Harbour (later Maitland Bay) on the Central Coast was an area of particular importance to Marie – she had bushwalked in the area as a girl and young woman, and set up camps on the harbour beaches. Over a period of five years, with the support of the Federation of Sydney Bushwalkers Clubs, Marie successfully campaigned in the press for the area to be placed under public ownership. The creation of Bouddi Natural Park, incorporating the Maitland Bay area, in 1935 was a landmark achievement for early conservationists.
Marie was a world traveller and mountain climber, and spent the latter part of her life focused on her spiritual life as Buddhist, and promoting Buddhism in Australia.
Peg Putt, former Greens MP from Tasmania who is also profiled in this blog, spent significant amounts of childhood time with Marie,who was a close family friend. A snippet about Marie from my interview with her follows:
Comments welcome – especially from anyone who knew Marie Byles. I’m very happy to be corrected on anything above.
I’d be very interested in any information or stories about Marie’s leadership in the environment movement.
References and further reading
Picture from Wikipedia
National Trust of Australia. Marie Byles: a spirited life. http://www.nationaltrust.com.au/properties/files/mariebyles_online.pdf.
Drew & Connors Hutton, Libby. 1999. A history of the Australian environment movement. Melbourne, Australia: Cambridge University Press, p 69.