Celebrating Women’s History Month

Dr Ruby Claudia Emily Davy

SALISBURY has always been at the forefront of innovation and modernisation. Always spearheading change and leading the way.

That’s why during March, we’re celebrating Women’s History Month, as a way to reflect on how far our society has come and how instrumental Salisbury and its residents were when leading change.

Australia’s first female Doctor of Music was born right here in the Salisbury City Centre. Dr Ruby Claudia Emily Davy was considered a musical prodigy as a child, improvising tunes and writing music by the time she was seven.

Born in 1883, music was a part of Dr Davy’s life from a young age, with her parents – William Charles Davy and Louisa Jane Litchfield – accomplished musicians in their own right.

Ahead of her time

By the time Dr Davy was 11 she had won a scholarship for senior pianoforte playing and was the Dux of Salisbury Primary School (formerly Salisbury Public School). Dr Davy set up her very own ‘Salisbury School of Music’ in the rooms adjacent to her parents’ shoemaking business. By the time she was 13, she had 27 pupils.

As she built her career as a concert pianist, she gave recitals all over Australia, including Adelaide and Melbourne, as well as in the UK and the US.

Further Education

In 1907, she received her Bachelor of Music from the University of Adelaide. Upon graduation, Dr Davy continued to teach music at the Salisbury School of Music and from a studio at Allan’s Music Shop in Rundle Street, in addition to performing and accompanying other artists. She also opened her own music school in Prospect and another two in Melbourne later in life.

In 1918, she graduated from the University of Adelaide with a Doctorate of Music – not only was she the first woman in Australia to do so, but it would be another 58 years before it was replicated by another woman. In 1922 she received the Fellowship of Trinity College, London.

Dr Davy went on to teaching, with her students giving concerts in the Salisbury Institute Hall and later the Adelaide Town Hall. In 1924 she broke all previous records when her students gained 108 examination successes with a National Prize as well as gold and silver medals.


Dr Davy died in Melbourne in 1949 but not before bequeathing 300 pounds to the University of Adelaide. The University set up a scholarship in her name, the Dr Ruby Davy Prize for Composition, which still survives today.

In celebration of Women’s History Month we look back on our past to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women who have broken down barriers, fought for social justice or who have paved the way for our younger generations. And Dr Ruby Claudia Emily Davy certainly epitomises that.