Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Doris Anne Beeston (1897–1940)

by Helen Jones

This article was published:

Doris Anne Beeston (1897-1940), kindergarten teacher, was born on 22 September 1897 at Hindmarsh, Adelaide, daughter of John Spencer Beeston, clerk, and his wife Anne Japp, née Boath. Educated at Hindmarsh and Adelaide high schools, Dorrie attended Adelaide Kindergarten Training College (1915-17). There she studied the Montessori methods introduced by Lillian de Lissa and gained a diploma with first-class honours. In 1918-21 she was directress of the Franklin Street Free Kindergarten Training Centre for Students, in Adelaide's poor West End, where she expanded social work among parents and 'old scholars'. Tall, calm and earnest, with her dark hair severely pulled back, Miss Beeston 'had a presence'.

A Congregationalist, in 1922-23 she directed the Montessori Kindergarten of the Mathison Congregational Church at Croydon, Sydney, before returning to Adelaide and taking charge of the Bowden Free Kindergarten in 1924. In June, Beeston became the first paid general secretary of the South Australian Kindergarten Union. She influenced educational goals, nurtured malnourished, ill-clad children during the Depression, and inspired other people to work with her. Using her 'clear business head and organizing ability', she steadily expanded the union and embarked on fund-raising campaigns with her friend Jean Bonython.

Beeston had been secretary (1924-27) of the local Dalcroze Society. In 1935 she investigated nursery schools in Victoria, began similar programmes in Adelaide and was appointed to the foundation South Australian Board of Social Study and Training. She was a member of the National Council of Women's child welfare and housing committees. Next year she organized a national kindergarten conference in Adelaide, joined the Women's Centenary Council of South Australia and helped to stage the pageant, Heritage.

In 1937 Beeston won the Catherine Helen Spence scholarship which enabled her to go abroad to study child welfare, including parent education. From March 1939 she visited nursery schools and kindergartens in Britain and France, and attended lectures by specialists on early childhood. When World War II began she helped to evacuate young children from London to Kent. In 1940 she began a course under de Lissa at Gipsy Hill College, Brighton, and accepted the wardenship of its emergency nursery school. Having volunteered to serve Britain's Children's Overseas Reception Board, she was appointed an escort.

On 1 August Beeston sailed from Liverpool for Australia with 477 child evacuees in the Batory. During the dangerous, ten-week voyage she supervised sixteen boys, aged 7 to 14, and reached Adelaide on 15 October. Recalled for duty within two weeks, she left Sydney for England in the Rangitane, but was killed on 26 November 1940 when a German raider shelled the vessel in the Pacific Ocean.

After news of her death reached Adelaide, a memorial service was held in St Peter's Anglican Cathedral on 13 January 1941. Through a public appeal, the Kindergarten Union raised money for the Doris Beeston memorial building which was opened in July 1941 at the Kindergarten Training College, North Adelaide.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Jones (ed), Jubilee History of the Kindergarten Union of South Australia 1905-1955 (Adel, 1975)
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 16 Oct, 5 Dec 1940, 14 Jan 1941
  • Kindergarten Union of South Australia, Executive and Organizing Committee minutes, 30 June 1924, 15 Oct 1935, 11 Feb 1936 (State Records of South Australia)
  • South Australian Education Dept correspondence files (State Records of South Australia)
  • C. H. Spence Scholarship Advisory Committee minutes, 23 Oct 1940, 2 Nov 1945 [sic] (South Australian Education Dept, Adelaide)
  • private information.

Citation details

Helen Jones, 'Beeston, Doris Anne (1897–1940)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 25 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


22 September, 1897
Hindmarsh, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


26 November, 1940 (aged 43)
at sea

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.