Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Bryan, Edith (1872–1963)

by Geoffrey Swan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Edith Bryan (1872-1963), teacher of the deaf, was born on 29 June 1872 at Derby, Derbyshire, England, eldest of six children of William Lloyd, master tailor, and his wife Mary, née Johnson. Educated at the local council school, in 1887-91 Edith served as a pupil-teacher at the Royal Institute for the Deaf and Dumb, Derby. Having obtained a diploma (1892) from the College of Teachers of the Deaf, London, she taught in Ireland at the Dublin Institute for the Deaf, then at the Jews' School for the Deaf, London, before returning to Derby in 1893. By 1895 she had arrived in South Australia where, on 29 June at St James's Church, West Adelaide, she married Cecil Charles Bryan, another teacher from the Derby institute, who was appointed senior teacher at the Blind, Deaf and Dumb Institution, Brighton. Following her husband's death in January 1897, Edith took a private teaching post at Portrush, Antrim, Ireland, then returned to England in 1899 to teach at the Deaf School, Bristol.

Appointed head teacher of the school section of the Queensland Blind, Deaf and Dumb Institution, Brisbane, she arrived there on 12 November 1901. When the Queensland government assumed responsibility in 1918 for what had previously been a charitable organization, Mrs Bryan became an employee of the state. Because of the increase in numbers resulting from the compulsory clauses of the Blind, Deaf and Dumb Instruction Act of 1924, it was deemed appropriate that a man should take over the school in 1926; Edith retained charge of the deaf section of the school until she retired in 1937.

Bryan had been trained in the oral tradition of teaching the deaf. Children entering the school were taught orally until their aptitude could be ascertained; they were then placed in either an oral or a sign-language group. She had been deeply influenced by the work of Thomas Arnold and used his textbooks in training pupil-teachers. Familiar with the 1889 recommendations of the royal commission on the condition of the blind, the deaf and the dumb in the United Kingdom, she was an advocate for change in Queensland: she supported early compulsory education for the blind and the deaf, and recommended appropriate teacher-training. According to some of the pupil-teachers she had trained, Mrs Bryan was a quietly assertive woman, with natural dignity. The deaf community, for whom she continued to work after her retirement, had great faith in her integrity and competence. Her proficiency in sign language was frequently enlisted in interpreting.

An active member of the Queensland Adult Deaf and Dumb Mission which she had helped to establish in 1902, she chaired a parent support-group which she had also promoted. The mission named the Edith Bryan Hostel in her honour. At its opening in 1950 she was described as 'one of the world's foremost workers for the deaf'. She died on 29 March 1963 at Ascot and was cremated with the forms of the Baptist Church of which she had been a lifelong member.

Select Bibliography

  • Queensland Deaf and Dumb News, 1937-39
  • Queensland Adult Deaf and Dumb Mission, minutes, 1902-63 (held by Queensland Deaf Society Inc, Newmarket, Brisbane)
  • Queensland Special Education Archives (Special Services Resource Centre Library, Annerley, Brisbande)
  • Bryan staff card, History Unit, Department of Education (Queensland), Brisbane
  • Queensland Institute for the Blind, Deaf and Dumb records (Queensland State Archives).

Citation details

Geoffrey Swan, 'Bryan, Edith (1872–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 26 June 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2019

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Lloyd, Edith

29 June 1872
Derby, Derbyshire, England


29 March 1963
Ascot, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence