Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Best, Amy Jane (1844–1932)

by M. Tamblyn

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

Amy Jane Best (1844-1932), schoolmistress, was born in Hobart Town, the eldest child of Henry Best, newspaper proprietor, and his wife Jane, née Whyte. After years of experience abroad as schoolteacher and governess, she arrived in Western Australia in 1885 to become headmistress of the Girls' College, a boarding school in Perth established in 1879 by Bishop Henry Parry. When it closed for financial reasons in December 1888 Amy Best opened her own undenominational day school in the centre of the city in 1889. This Central High School for Girls, better known in Perth as 'Miss Best's', was for nineteen years a powerful influence in the lives of Perth girls and, as the only school of its type, filled an essential need in the isolated colony. With a staff that increased to four full-time and two part-time assistants Amy Best provided education for girls up to 18. Her teaching expressed her belief that what mattered most to a woman in education was a knowledge of history and languages and above all a love of the best in English literature. After fifty years some of her pupils were still impressed by the breadth of her vision as well as by her sense of fairness and impatience at humbug.

In addition to her teaching Amy Best interested herself in the feminist movement and was a foundation member and executive of the women's Karrakatta Club, supporting votes for women and equal pay. When the gold rush brought increasing population and new girls' schools in outer suburban areas, Amy Best closed her school in 1907. She lived in retirement at West Perth until her death on 28 May 1932 at the age of 88. In 1936 in her memory old girls from her school made a bequest to the University of Western Australia for the annual award of the Amy Jane Best prize to the outstanding second-year woman student in English literature.

Select Bibliography

  • Western Australia Year-Book 1900-03 (Perth, 1904)
  • Standard (Perth), 21 Jan 1886
  • West Australian, 4 Oct 1888, 10 June 1932
  • Western Mail (Perth), 2 June 1932
  • R. Jull, Notes on the Early Karrakatta Club (State Library of Western Australia)
  • Parry papers, 1876-93 (State Library of Western Australia).

Citation details

M. Tamblyn, 'Best, Amy Jane (1844–1932)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/best-amy-jane-2986/text4359, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 14 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

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