Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Craig, Elinor Frances (1888–1969)

by K. E. Gill

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

Elinor Frances Craig (1888-1969), headmistress, was born on 8 February 1888 at Swansea, Tasmania, eldest child of Rev. William Waters Craig, Presbyterian clergyman, and his wife Frances Jane, née Morris. After William was called to Singleton, New South Wales, young Frances completed her primary schooling there and attended Casino Grammar School, but her father, who taught classics, made an invaluable contribution to her education. Frances began her teaching career in 1912 at a private school at Newcastle and later enrolled at the University of Sydney. In 1917 she was appointed resident mistress at Brisbane High School for Girls (Somerville House from 1920, a private school run by the Presbyterian-Methodist Schools Association). She graduated from the University of Queensland (B.A., 1919) to which she had transferred in 1917.

Having taken leave to complete the final year of her arts course, Craig returned to the school as senior resident mistress in 1919. Absent on leave in Europe from November 1925 to February 1927, she spent her time mostly in France; at the Sorbonne, Paris, she qualified for a diploma in French language and literature. In England she studied the work and methods of schools for girls, particularly Cheltenham Ladies' College. On her return to Brisbane, she was acting-principal of Somerville House while its joint-principals, Constance Harker and Marjorie Jarrett, were overseas. In 1928 Craig was appointed principal of Ravenswood Methodist Ladies' College, Gordon, Sydney.

In 1932 she accepted an invitation to become vice-principal of Somerville House, following Harker's retirement which had left Jarrett as sole principal. Jarrett retired in 1940 and Craig took over as principal in January 1941. Somerville House was commandeered by the Australian Military Forces in February 1942 and later used as headquarters by a supply section of the United States Army. Pupils from north of the Brisbane River were transferred to Raymont Lodge, Auchenflower, while those from the south went to the former Queen Alexandra Home, Coorparoo; boarders were sent to Moiomindah at Stanthorpe which became the school's administrative centre. Based at Stanthorpe, Craig held together the three dispersed centres and frequently commuted by rail to maintain a presence in Brisbane. Due to her efforts, the school resumed its former premises with minimal inconvenience in January 1945 and classes commenced on 6 February.

Now able to bring to fruition the plans she had long formulated, Craig introduced a course, independent of public examination requirements, to prepare senior girls for careers in business. The school was also divided into houses to create opportunities for healthy competition in art, music and drama, as well as in sport. Miss Craig retired in 1953 but, due to the unexpected early retirement of her successor, returned in 1956 as caretaker principal until a new headmistress began duty in 1957. Frances Craig was tall, elegant and dignified in appearance; her administration was marked by breadth of vision and by a sense of proportion. She died on 16 January 1969 at Mosman, Sydney, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • P. G. Freeman (compiler), History of Somerville House (Brisb, 1949)
  • R. Goodman, Secondary Education in Queensland, 1860-1960 (Canb, 1968)
  • Somerville House Magazine, 1953, 1969
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 17 Jan 1969
  • private information.

Citation details

K. E. Gill, 'Craig, Elinor Frances (1888–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 1 June 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 13

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