Brisbane, QLD

Monday, April 4, 2011


When I was 15 and I had passed the Intermediate Certificate, my girl friends were all excited because they could leave school and get a job. I had decided that I wanted to be a PE teacher, which meant doing another two years of high school and then going to Teachers' College. My parents were very supportive and valued education for both my brother and me. After all, this was one of the reasons they migrated to Australia so that it would be easier for us to get a good education. While I was staying over at a friend's house, I tried to encourage her to stay on at school but her father said, " Girls don't need an education they will only get married, have kids and stay home to be a housewife."

I found this attitude unsettling and confusing. Its not what my parents believed but as I was taught to respect my elders, I didn't say anything. However, when I returned to school after the summer holidays I discovered there were not many girls in 4th and 5th Year (now called Year 11 and 12) and realised that most families had the same attitude. (That was the fifties for you).

I enjoyed school life, especially the sports and social events, but I also liked some of the subjects that I was taking. English and Maths were compulsory, I liked English and hated Maths. My favourite subjects were Biology and Geography and I struggled through Modern History and Economics. Funny thing is that I love History now but not then when I was young and on the threshold of life looking to the future, I wasn't interested in the past.

Towards the end of 1958, our Biology teacher took us on an excursion to study ecosystems in the "bush".

I'm the short one standing next to the teacher at the back. Somewhere hidden we had pencil and paper.
It is interesting to notice that only girls opted to do Biology, while boys and girls did Physics and Chemistry.
The teacher helped us cook a BBQ lunch and after the lessons ..........

.....we had loads of fun swimming in a rock pool.
I loved living in Australia and being able to go bush walking and swimming as part of my education.


  1. Oh, that stupid thinking about woman makes me so angry. My mother was educated as a teacher in the thirties. She has worked a couple of years but had to stop when she married my father in 1939.It was not allowed to teach as a married woman, she had to do the household!
    This rule lasted until the sixties! Can you imagine now, what a waste.

  2. Girls don't need an education was still a prevalent thought well past the 50s. My sister had to put up a huge fight to continue onto Senior and become a teacher. I didn't have to because I made it inevitable by winning a scholarship. But the same thing come up when I planned to go to Uni ... winning another scholarship secured my position there too.

    I must say though that most of the girls I went to school with had married and started their families well before I finished my Uni course.

  3. The attitude about women probably wasn't much different here in the USA during the 50's. But girls still went to "high school" through grade 12 and THEN became mothers and housewives. My mother had one year of college before getting married .. in 1955.

  4. Unfortunately in the 70's my parents still had the attitude that it wasn't worth educating girls. According to my mum i was only going to have a family and stop work. Well I had my family, but I am still working. You were very lucky. x

  5. I had parents who valued education, as you did, and the attitude that "girls don't need education" was one that I found confusing, too. I had a girlfriend in high school who had a father who thought that way. He would sit at the end of their dining table, beer in hand, and pontificate about why "no girl needs no fancy education." Ahem. He was a stupid man and while I, too, was taught to respect my elders, this was the first time in my life I thought that "grown ups" might be my intellectual inferiors. Heresy!

    When I was at University I had a professor who was my advisor towards my degree. He also felt that I should just "go home and cook something---you are taking up a spot at this school that a man might use." This was 1970. I told him, politely, that he'd better keep his opinions to himself as times were changing and his antique attitude was not going to serve him well. Then I changed advisors. I should have brought him up in front of the Dean. Oh, well. Water under the bridge now, but you know, it still makes me furious!

  6. Fortunately after WW II, men had realized that women needed good education too because while they were playing soldiers at the front the housewives had to work as employees or teachers or whatever. So in my generation girls had to have a good education, even when a lot of them gave up their jobs once married because they couldn't find anybody in Germany to keep the children, there was no daycare and school only until 1 pm ! Now it's a little better but school still ends at 1 ! after that the children are on their own unless they have a grandma to take care of them, or a key around the neck.

  7. We are so fortunate to be living in a time where attitudes have changed for the better in regards to education and a woman's role and contribution to society.

    You ARE tiny, really shows in that group picture :) Feisty and tiny! Qualities that helped you go a long way!

    Very enjoyable read, thank you for sharing.

  8. I've enjoyed catching up with all your posts Diane. The memories of your friend Maragaret, the ski trip you went on and today's. I'm glad your parents were wise enough to encourage you to continuw your studies. Sadly the attitude about women was so common back then and still exists in many parts of the world. My maternal grandmother was never able to go to school in her country before she came to the US and worked very hard when she did come here to send my mother and her sister and brother to school through high school. She was so happy they had that opportunity.

  9. I enjoyed catching up on your story. The story is fascinating (and informative) and I like the old photos -- what a great way to give them new life.
    The attitude that girls don't need an education hung on for quite a few years after the 50s here in the States, but now there are more women in college than men. I think that's a sign of progress.

  10. HI Diane, Reading your story is such a joy!!!! You were the athletic one --whereas I was the musician...

    What is so awesome is the fact that your parents did everything they could to give you and your brother the best education possible.

    Back from vacation --trying to catch up a little!!!!

  11. Fascinating series of comments you have teased out here, Dianne. I was dead-set leaving after the Intermediate because all the other girls were. I was struggling enough being in a higher grade than they were. Then the teachers heard about my plans. When I returned to school for 4th Form (Year 10) in 1964, there was me and two boys from Denman. It was a solitary last two years of High School. Like Joan, I also snagged scholarships to enable me to go further.

    I loved Modern HIstory, English and Geography. Could not understand either Maths or Economics and struggled with General Physics & Chemistry.

  12. like that swimming hole. i am from the same era, and got married and had babies right out of 12th grade. should have gone on to school, but my parents and all adults in my life, were the old school, girls are for marriage and babies. i am glad that has changed, but I fear it has gone just a little to far the other way.

  13. Thank goodness for change. Sometimes you wonder how we all made it with those attitudes.

    Love the swimming hole -- and the cookout.

  14. I am glad things changed over the years. It would be pretty sad for women who really wanted to continue their education. You did great, Diane! I'm sure your parents were very proud of you.

  15. You had so many wonderful experiences while still so young.
    My parents stood beside me as well and found a way to send me to college. I was the first in my family to go to college. My Dad made bank payments for years so that I could go.
    I look at your photos and can not in this day imagine any school trip with a man teacher and all those girls. :)

  16. That is true, I thought the same thing.

  17. This chapter makes us appreciate the opportunities that we had. Really, when I think back to the opportunities before my friends and I as we graduated in the mid 6o's we were encouraged by the nuns and our parents to become teachers, nurses or government workers. I went to a private girl's school and there were 42 of us who graduated. We had to write 3 government exams and were encouraged to subscribe to Time magazine so we would pass the University Entrance exams. I recall meeting many of my classmates on the small university campus and I think we were pretty evenly divided between the 3 lines of work. It's wonderful to see the changes that have occurred since then.

  18. My parents were the ones that did not value education, either for girls or boys. I think it was because my father only went to grade 6 and my mother to grade 8, but they enjoyed many years of high paying employment. My mother still dismisses any form of higher education, and does not understand why my daughters wanted to go to college. She does not understand that you just can't get a job anymore without an education.

  19. This is an interesting post and I love the pictures. I had seven sisters and four daughters and education was important to all of them as they all graduated from college.