Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Gladys Gordon Everett (1888–1971)

by Ruth Teale

This article was published:

Gladys Gordon Everett (1888-1971), headmistress, was born on 6 May 1888 at Nelson, New Zealand, daughter of Albert Everett, a New Zealand-born draper, and his wife Ada, née Gordon, from Melbourne. Educated at Nelson College (Girls) and Victoria University College, Wellington (B.A., N.Z., 1912; M.A., 1916), Miss Everett taught in New Zealand before becoming foundation house mistress of Presbyterian Ladies' College, Pymble, Sydney, in 1918. Made principal in 1920, she resigned in August 1921, to the regret of the school council. She studied in France at the University of Grenoble (certificat d'Études Françaises, 1922) and the Sorbonne (certificat d'Études phonétiques Élémentaires de Paris, 1923), then travelled in Italy and Germany. From 1925 she taught French at the Girls' Grammar School, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, England, before serving as headmistress (1930) of Katanning Church of England Girls' School, Western Australia.

Chosen from a field of twenty, in December 1930 Everett was appointed headmistress of Abbotsleigh Church of England School for Girls, Wahroonga, Sydney. Under her guidance enrolments more than doubled, reaching 660 in 1954; the waiting list, opened in 1938, has never closed. Tradition was fostered by her introduction in 1931 of a house system and by the annual celebration (since 1933) of the school's foundation day. Through judicious purchases of houses and land in 1933 and 1937, she expanded the school: in June 1939 a new classroom block was opened, containing facilities for science, and art and craft. Unlike some boarding schools in Sydney, Abbotsleigh did not close during World War II; instead, it began in 1944 an entrance examination for the junior school. One of Everett's ambitions was realized when a separate junior school was opened in 1954. It was named after her. She left bequests for a chapel and library expansion.

Among girls' church schools, Abbotsleigh became noted for its academic and cultural curriculum. Increasing numbers matriculated and undertook university studies; drama and speech training, music, art and ballet were promoted. The head's own collection of Post-Impressionist paintings was hung in the school. She herself taught French and divinity. Although rules on dress and behaviour in public were tirelessly enforced, Miss Gordon Everett (as she styled herself) maintained at school a more relaxed discipline, particularly among her senior 'gels' who referred to her as 'Ev', though not to her face. Tall and spare, with golden hair, an athletic gait and a presence reinforced by her habit of carrying her deceased fiancé's army cane, she brought to the school administrative abilities, personal charm and a belief in the virtues of a cultured womanhood.

Retiring in May 1954, Miss Everett lived close to the school. In 1960 she was appointed M.B.E. She died alone on 18 June 1971 while travelling in Russia. Her portrait by Joshua Smith is held at Abbotsleigh.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Burrows, History of Abbotsleigh (Syd, 1968)
  • Kobeelya, 1922-1982 (Katanning, WA, 1986)
  • J. K. Conway, The Road from Coorain (Lond, 1989)
  • Weaver, June 1934, June 1938, Dec 1954, Mar 1972
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Nov 1930, 6 May 1954
  • Abbotsleigh School archives
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Ruth Teale, 'Everett, Gladys Gordon (1888–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Gordon Everett, Gladys

6 May, 1888
Nelson, New Zealand


18 June, 1971 (aged 83)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.