Now available: New book exploring the perspectives of the first women to study at Dookie

A new book by Associate Professor Helen Billman-Jacobe and Dr Ann Westmore reveals the expectations, experiences and aspirations of the first classes of young women to study at Dookie Agricultural College from 1943–1965.

You can now order a copy of Breaking New Ground: Biographies of women agricultural science students, University of Melbourne 1942–1965, published by the University of Melbourne, via our commercial sales website.

The book explores the lives and careers of fourteen of the first female agricultural scientists to spend a residential year at Dookie Agricultural College during the second year of their studies at the University of Melbourne.

You can read an extract from the book covering pioneering microbiologist and Emeritus Professor Nancy Millis on Pursuit.

Breaking New Ground cover
The front cover of Breaking New Ground, showing Joan Powling, Judy Tisdall and Wendy Luke on Mount Major.

University of Melbourne agriculture students were first officially allowed to study at Dookie Agricultural College, now the University’s Dookie campus.

Breaking New Ground follows the lives and careers of fourteen of the first female agricultural scientists to spend a residential year at Dookie Agricultural College during the second year of their studies at the University of Melbourne.

The book was launched in Parkville on Monday 18 November, with around 45 staff, family members and other stakeholders in attendance.

Emeritus Professor Lindsay Falvey launched the book, with presentations by Professor John Fazakerley, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, and the authors; a photo gallery is below.

The women featured in the Breaking New Ground are:

  • Emeritus Professor Nancy Millis
  • Pat Howard (m: Scales)
  • Liz Burnet (m: Dexter)
  • Peg Webb Ware (m: Lade)
  • Gwen Hotton
  • Mary Cook (m: Dixon)
  • Katherine Neal (m: de Pury)
  • Barbara Hall
  • Vyrna Smith (m: Beilharz)
  • Judith Yuncken (m: Lumb)
  • Liz Shallard (m: Kerry)
  • Joan Powling
  • Andrea Wilcox (m: Lindsay)
  • Enid Johnson (m: Woodside).
Dr Ann Westmore and Associate Professor Helen Billman-Jacobe
Dr Ann Westmore and Associate Professor Helen Billman-Jacobe sign copies of the book at the launch.

Several of the women were able to attend the launch: Liz Dexter with her husband Mick, Vyrna Beilharz, Gwen Hotton, Mary Dixon, Katherine de Pury and husband Guill, Barbara Hall, Judith Lumb, Joan Powling and Liz Kerry's daughters Pam and Angela.

The book also features many images of the women and Dookie from that period.

While 1943 was the first year women were officially able to study at Dookie, there was one earlier exception: Irene Lowe (m: Rogers), was the first woman to study the Bachelor of Agricultural Science at the University of Melbourne and was allowed to study at Dookie in 1915.

If you are interested in ordering a copy of the book, Breaking New Ground: Biographies of women agricultural science students, University of Melbourne 1942–1965, is now available for purchase.

Banner image: Associate Professor Helen Billman-Jacobe introduces Dr Ann Westmore at the launch of Breaking New Ground. Photos and story by Stuart Winthrope.