Fostering Women Leaders through Educational Exchange 1930-1980: a Linkage project funded by the Australian Research Council in partnership with the Australian-American Fulbright Commission, La Trobe University, and the University of Wollongong.


What makes it possible for women to exercise leadership? This three-year project in partnership with the Australian-American Fulbright Commission studies the history of Asia-Pacific women from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the Philippines who participated in specific educational exchange programs with the US in the mid-twentieth century.

We ask, how did US-sponsored cross-cultural encounters and international networks facilitate and transform the practices of leadership in the US, Asia and the Pacific? Our aim is to provide an historical perspective on leadership that can inform contemporary debates on the conditions for fostering women as leaders.

About the project

Among the first countries to sign up to the Fulbright Program established in the wake of the Second World War were New Zealand and the Philippines (in 1948), Australia (in 1949) and Japan (in 1951). Each of these countries had its own distinct and evolving relationship with the US: Australia and New Zealand were Anglophone Allies who had fought alongside the US in the Pacific, the Philippines was a US colony (1898 to 1946), and Japan was occupied by the Allies (1945-1952). US mid-century conceptions of leadership (individual and governmental) had specific and concrete meanings in these countries. This project focuses on what these meant for women. We aim to:

  • test our hypothesis that US funding programs played a critical instrumental role in fostering women's leadership in these countries
  • reconnect and develop the extensive literature investigating the separate histories of women in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines and the US
  • explore the reciprocal impact on women in these five countries of this cultural exchange
  • identify and explain the significance of educational exchange and international networks for women's leadership


Professor Tanya Fitzgerald

Professor Tanya Fitzgerald (Chief Investigator on the project) is Professor of the History of Education and Head of Humanities and Social Sciences at La Trobe University. She is the author of numerous books and articles on the history of women's education, and contemporary perspectives on leadership and policy in higher education.

Recent books include Historical Portraits of Women Home Scientists: the University of New Zealand 1907-1947 (Cambria Press, 2011, with Jenny Collins) and Women educators, leaders and activists 1900–1960: Educational lives and international networks (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, with Elizabeth M Smyth). A co-authored book Portraying lives: Women headmistresses and professors 1880s – 1940s (2015, IAP Publishing, with Josephine May) is currently in production.

Tanya is the President of the Australian and New Zealand History of Education Society and co-editor of the Journal of Educational Administration and History.

Dr Alice Garner

Dr Alice Garner joins the project as Consultant Historian to the Australian-American Fulbright Commission. Alice was from 2009 Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Industry) on the ARC-funded Linkage project A Study of the Fulbright Program in Australia 1949-2009 and is currently preparing a monograph from this study. Alongside her research work, she teaches in the Victorian secondary school system.

Dr Mayuko Itoh

Dr Mayuko Itoh is a Senior Research Assistant on the project based at the University of Wollongong. Mayuko is an experienced oral historian who completed a doctoral dissertation in Historical Studies at the University of Melbourne. She has published articles on Japanese migrant women in international marriages in Australia.

Dr Caroline Jordan

Dr Caroline Jordan is Research Associate on the project, based in History at La Trobe University. Caroline publishes on Australian art and women's history. She is working on a project about the interventions made by the Carnegie Corporation of New York in the Australian and New Zealand art worlds in the early-to-mid twentieth century.

Professor Diane Kirkby

Professor Diane Kirkby (Chief Investigator on the project) is Research Professor in History at La Trobe University and Adjunct Professor of Law and Humanities, University of Technology,Sydney. She has published major works on the intersections between Australian and US history, women's history and feminism, legal history and labour history.

Diane is currently working on a monograph on the trans-Pacific life of American journalist Jennie Scott Griffiths, and holds an Australian Research Council grant for a history of international labour organising for maritime workers.

Professor Vera Mackie

Professor Vera Mackie (Chief Investigator on the project) is Senior Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Wollongong and Director of the Centre for Critical Human Rights Research. She has published on the history of feminism in Japan and has participated in several major transnational history projects with a focus on the Asia-Pacific region.