Australia's first woman PM fought her way to top

Julia Gillard rose to the top in the male-dominated world of Australian politics, winning acclaim for a fiery denunciation of misogyny, but ultimately she lost the faith of voters and her own party.

While the trailblazing feminist became Australia's first woman prime minister, Australia never fully embraced her.

She ousted Kevin Rudd from the leadership in 2010 in the uncompromising fashion that characterised her climb to power, but Gillard had to fight off repeated challenges.

She called another leadership ballot on Wednesday and lost to her arch-rival, a defeat that will see her quit politics at the next election. But Gillard believes she achieved some of her goals.

"I came into politics believing government could be about providing opportunity and it wouldn't matter whether you came from a rich background or a poor background, you're a migrant, you're an indigenous Australian, you were entitled to lead a life of opportunity partnered with your own endeavour and hard work," she said.

"That's how I've lived my life and that's how I've brought the reforms that we've focused on as a government, nothing more important than the school funding reform.

"I'm not interested in public accolades, I'm not interested in applause," she added.

Getting things done was never straightforward for Gillard, who won only the narrowest of victories in the 2010 election, resulting in a hung parliament which forced her to cobble together a minority government with the support of independents.

But she was tough, most famously displaying her hard exterior in a speech in October 2012, when she ripped into conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott in an extraordinary outburst watched by millions on YouTube.

"I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man, I will not," stormed Gillard, who had to scale the male-dominated ranks of the Australian Labor Party.

The speech was an overnight sensation and briefly boosted her in the polls. But the former industrial relations lawyer always struggled to win over public opinion, and according to pollsters was never in a winning position since assuming the prime ministership.

Everything from her Australian drawl to her penchant for white jackets was criticised, often to the extreme.

She was once called "deliberately barren" for her childlessness and only this month was faced with a menu from a Liberal Party fundraiser offering a dish called "Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail - Small Breasts, Huge Thighs & A Big Red Box".

When she reversed an election pledge on a carbon tax, Gillard was subject to a furious backlash and dubbed 'Ju-liar', while rallies were held in which protesters held placards reading "Ditch the Witch".

The Welsh-born immigrant said in December her formidable inner strength and calm were among her chief attributes.

"I have always had a very strong sense of myself and not had that easily pushed and pulled by the views of others," she said.

But her brutal removal of then-boss Rudd in a shock backroom coup, always overshadowed her time in office and she has never enjoyed his celebrity status.

Suddenly Australia had a female, atheist, unmarried, childless -- and unelected -- prime minister.

Considered a brilliant negotiator, she battled to guide a carbon pollution tax and a controversial tax on mining profits through parliament.

Julia Eileen Gillard was born on September 29, 1961 in Barry, south Wales. She was just four when she sailed to Australia with her parents on a 10-pound migration scheme hoping a warmer climate would cure her chronic lung problems.

A bright student, she read arts and law in Adelaide where her family had settled. She became president of the Australian Union of Students in 1983.

She forged a career in industrial relations law before delving into politics as chief of staff to then-Victoria state opposition leader John Brumby.

After an initial rejection by the Labor Party for a parliamentary seat, Gillard entered the House of Representatives in 1998, winning the safe seat of Lalor.

She lives with her partner, former hairdresser Tim Mathieson.