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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Story, Ann Fawcett (1846–1911)

by Sheila Tilse

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Ann Fawcett Story (1846-1911), cookery instructor, was born on 25 September 1846 at St Mary-in-the-Castle, Hastings, Sussex, England, daughter of William Morris, agricultural labourer and later gentleman, and his wife Jane, née Cramp. Having completed a year's full-time course at the National Training School for Cookery, South Kensington, and gained a first-class certificate, she was employed by a leading firm of London caterers. On 1 May 1867 Annie married Wilson Fawcett Story, son of a tanner, in the parish church of Stoke Newington, Middlesex. With her husband (by then a hidebroker) and their seven children, she arrived in Sydney in the Forfarshire on 16 January 1882.

Following the birth and death of her youngest child in 1883, Mrs Story was appointed by the Board of Technical Education to teach cookery to women of all ages. She also demonstrated the preparation of meals for invalids at (Royal) Prince Alfred Hospital. When shortage of funds caused the cancellation of her popular classes in 1886, she joined the Department of Public Instruction as a lecturer in domestic economy at Hurlstone Training College.

Given encouragement and the freedom to follow her own ideas, Annie set about reviving the teaching of cookery in New South Wales public schools. She began the experiment at Fort Street Model School in 1889. Next year she was appointed instructress of cookery; in 1891 she was made directress, responsible for organizing classes, writing curricula and generally overseeing the scheme. At her suggestion, the training of specialist cooking teachers began in 1892 and portable kitchens were bought to extend the classes to country areas. Mrs Story travelled to twelve centres throughout the colony to examine students and award certificates. After a disagreement in 1896 she left the school service and returned to Sydney Technical College; while the department did not replace her, the system she had initiated was continued under district inspectors.

In 1898 Mrs Story accepted the challenge to establish Victoria's first cookery centre at Queensberry Street State School where she impressed members of the royal commission on technical education chaired by Theodore Fink. Her clear-eyed, pleasant face revealed her self-assurance, directness and determination. Firmly opposed to the idea that her curriculum was intended to train domestic servants, Mrs Story stated in an article in the Education Gazette and Teachers' Aid (July 1900): 'Teach women to make homes healthy, happy and prosperous, and the streets will gradually lose much of their charm' for young people. That year she began lecturing at the Victorian teachers' training college and campaigned vigorously for a school of domestic economy; although approved in 1901, the plan was delayed by financial problems.

In 1904 Annie Fawcett Story resigned and went to live with a daughter in Cape Town, South Africa; she was a widow when she died of tuberculosis at Sea Point on 11 February 1911; she was buried in nearby Maitland cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Docherty, The Emily Mac (Melb, 1981)
  • J. I. Peacock, A History of Home Economics in New South Wales (Syd, 1982)
  • Education Gazette and Teachers' Aid, 25 July 1911, p 230.

Citation details

Sheila Tilse, 'Story, Ann Fawcett (1846–1911)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 24 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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