Betty Lawson (Stevenson)

Betty Lawson helped to form the Technical Teachers Association of Victoria (TTAV) in 1967 and in 1968 was elected its first woman president.

Honour Roll

She was the first woman principal of a co-educational technical school. Born in Melbourne in 1920, Betty started her teaching career in 1938 as a student teacher at the Ellinbank state school in Gippsland. She completed her Trained Primary Teachers' Certificate in 1940 and later earned a Commerce degree from the University of Melbourne whilst teaching and also raising three children.

Betty joined the Victorian Teachers Union (VTU) in the late 1950s and joined the Council in 1961 as a representative of Metropolitan Technical Women. At the time she was a Class II Assistant at Sandringham Technical School. Prior to that she taught at Box Hill Girls' Technical School.

In 1969 Betty was unsuccessful in her application for the position of principal at a co-educational technical school. She was refused the right to appeal on the grounds that the position was not advertised for women applicants. With the assistance of the TTAV, her right to appeal was upheld, a battle ensued and in the following year she finally won the position of principal of the Sunshine North Technical School. This opened up the system for other women.

In 1967, Betty was one of a group of technical teacher members who perceived a lack of representation in the VTU. They formed the Technical Teachers Association of Victoria. Betty served on the 1967 Interim Council as Vice President and the following year, she stood uncontested for the President's office. She was the first woman President of the TTAV and only its second President. Betty chose not to renominate the following year, but served on the TTAV Council for the next four years.

Betty was also President of the national body, the Technical Teachers Association of Australia. In 1974, Betty was awarded life membership of the TTAV in recognition of her executive roles and contribution to the national organisation. She was the first woman member to be honoured life membership and was one of only seven people in ten years to receive the honour. Betty retired from teaching in 1975.

When Betty was awarded life membership of the TTAV, she was commended for her leadership in many matters, particularly concerning women technical teachers. She said her goal was to achieve equality and justice for women teachers and in the late 1960s she was involved with the campaign for equal pay for women in the workplace.