Ruth Gibson

Gladys Ruth Gibson (1901-1972), educator and worker for the advancement of women, was born on 29 December 1901 in Adelaide, the eldest daughter of Emma and James Ambrose Gibson, a collector for the Blind Deaf and Dumb Institute. She was educated at Unley High School, Adelaide Teachers' College and the University of Adelaide, graduating BA, DipEd.

Ruth Gibson began work as a student teacher at Goodwood in 1919, before taking her teaching diploma. She later taught at a number of primary and secondary schools in Adelaide and the country, before being appointed an inspector in 1941 at an unprecedentedly young age. She served at various times in her career on the University Public Examinations Board, the Technical Schools Curriculum Board and the Social Studies Committee. In her professional life she showed energy, dedication and a particular commitment to women's education. Ruth was a foundation member and honorary treasurer of the Australian College of Education (which in 1963 awarded her a Fellowship), a member of the foundation committee of St Ann's College (for women attending Adelaide University) and a president of the South Australian Women Graduates' Committee.

She is chiefly known for her work with the National Council of Women at the state, national and international levels. In 1938 she was one of ten Australian delegates to the Jubilee Conference of the International Council of Women in Edinburgh, Scotland. South Australian president from 1951-54, her term in office was extended to include the royal visit when she arranged and presided over a women's welcome to the Queen. From 1952-56 she was president of the Australian National Council of Women and from 1953-56 vice-president of the international body. Her interest and involvement with women's issues prompted the Commonwealth government to select her as one of Australia's official guests at the coronation and to appoint her an Australian representative at the tenth and eleventh sessions of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women held in Geneva and New York. At the latter she was elected rapporteur to the Commission. The business of these sessions included the access of women to education and economic opportunity, tax and legal questions and the nationality of married women. She travelled extensively overseas to attend conferences and executive meetings of the International Council of Women and UNESCO.

Her mother died when Ruth was 21, and she became the centre of strength in a closely knit family, remaining so all her life. Her wide interests also involved her in office-bearing positions in the United Nations Association, Adelaide Soroptimists, the Good Neighbour Council, and the Royal Flying Doctor Service. However, she never allowed the duties or responsibilities of office to overshadow her concern for individuals, as was shown in many small practical acts of kindness and consideration.

Ruth Gibson was awarded the CBE in 1970. She died on 23 August 1972. A sundial was erected in her memory at the Adelaide Festival Centre by the women of South Australia, and a Ruth Gibson Memorial Fund provides an award to applicants wishing to undertake some project which would benefit women.

Philippa L Fletcher