Saturday, March 02, 2013

Sepia Saturday 2

My interpretation of this old photo was somewhat different than the suggested themes.  My initial reaction was 'working women'.  In an era when most women were expected to marry and have children, those hardy women who chose the career path were often derided and thought to be 'strange'.

There weren't many career choices at the time either. Girls could go into service, work in factories and shops, become nurses or teachers or work in offices and banks. The majority married and depending on their socio-economic status did some degree of work at home for their families.

How times have changed.  I had 3 great aunts, all of whom chose to continue into tertiary studies and become teachers. One of them married and combined a teaching career with motherhood - a very large family as well. The other two remained unmarried and continued to be very highly respected and well loved teachers here in Adelaide.

My great aunt Miss (Frau) Laura Heyne is on the far right. I'm not sure what shool this is, but the photo was taken in 1900. The children all look fairly well dressed - I just love the dresses the girls are wearing.

My aunt went on to become Senior Mistress in Chemistry, Physics  and Mathematics at Adelaide Boys High School - a rare achievement for a woman. Among her Matriculation Chemistry students were Sir Howard Florey (of penicillin fame) and Sir Marcus Oliphant who was involved in the development of the atomic bomb among other things

Liz Needle


  1. This sure is a perfect mix of so many personalities assembled in one photo! I too, wanted to do a post that was a bit different- and working women and factories I kind of figured would be covered well!

  2. Which was the greater achievement I wonder - being a Senior Mistress in those subjects or just that she did this at a boys' school.

    1. Both I think. Not many women studied the Sciences at a high level in the late 19th century and it was just as unusual for a woman to hold a senior position in a boys' high school, let alone the most prestigious boys' secondary school in the state.

  3. My grandmother taught school in the early 1920s. She was always proud of the fact that she was allowed to continue teaching for an additional year after she married because it was not the practice at that time. These students do look well dressed

  4. I think that career can be described as pretty illustrious, and unusual, and she must have been very satisfied at having tutored such minds.

  5. I bet she had some wonderful stories to tell about her teaching career and her students. And that is a magnificent old photograph - full of fascinating old stories as well.

  6. I love the girls' dresses too. It looks like they are wearing their best clothes for the photo.

  7. Behind great achievers are great teachers. Love the old class photo.