Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jeanette Anne Gilbert (1883–1960)

by Doris H. Swan

This article was published:

Jeanette Anne Gilbert (1883-1960), educationist, was born on 3 August 1883 at Red Hill, Brisbane, eleventh child of James Gilbert, a Scottish-born clerk, and his wife Lucia Christina, née Peterson, from Denmark. Educated at Petrie Terrace Girls' and Infants' School, and at Brisbane Girls' Grammar School, in January 1902 Jeanette became a pupil-teacher at her old primary school. She returned there in 1909, after teaching in schools at Bundaberg (1905-08) and Pinkenba (1908-09). Appointed in 1912 to the recently opened Gympie High School, she was transferred in 1916 to the Central Technical College, Brisbane.

In 1912 Miss Gilbert had enrolled as an external student at the University of Queensland (B.A., 1917). Promoted in 1918 to the staff of the Teachers' Training College, Brisbane, she was granted leave in 1922 to complete a diploma of education at the University of Melbourne. For a Queensland woman teacher to hold such qualifications was then uncommon. In July 1923 she rejoined the staff of the T.T.C. where she lectured in teaching method, theory of education, music and needlework. She was promoted to senior lecturess in January 1937. A more than competent pianist, she was a superb needlewoman and published a textbook, Needlework and Garment-making for Schools (1934, 1944). Although her 16- to 17-year-old female students were daunted, even cowed, by the worked-buttonhole and the repair of the three-cornered tear, they long remembered the presentation and content of her lectures.

Miss Gilbert's influence went beyond routine instruction into the realm of ethics. Duty—to pupils, employer and, lastly, self—was paramount in her view of the aspiring teacher's armoury. Hard work was obligatory, not demeaning, and the student-teacher worth her salt had to sew her own clothes—beautifully, for preference. Distressingly often, Miss Gilbert observed breaches of general deportment in the way that students answered the telephone, entered a room or wrote a letter, and her scheduled lecture was occasionally abandoned to enable her to deal at length with some mass violation of the code of behaviour. The fact that she was still fine-tuning these nuances of etiquette and decorum as late as World War II, without fear of rebellion or ridicule, indicated the awe in which she was held. Yet, she was known to have joined her infants on the floor at story-time, to have shown kindness to the student far from home, and to have been a safe repository for confidences and a loyal support to colleague or friend. The respect that student-teachers had for her gradually evolved into affection.

Tall, but not slim, Miss Gilbert was stately and regal in the manner of King George V's consort: like Queen Mary she was never seen to smoke, seldom to eat, and never to tire. She retired in July 1944. Due to the low monetary worth of female professionals of her time, she lived out her remaining years very privately in the old-fashioned, genteel endeavour of making ends meet. She died on 16 March 1960 in South Brisbane and was buried with Presbyterian forms in Toowong cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • N. R. Anderson, Kelvin Grove Forty Years 1942-1981 (Brisb, 1981)
  • S. Pechy and P. Thomas, Telling Tales (Brisb, 1992)
  • J. Gilbert staff card, History Unit, Queensland Department of Education, Brisbane
  • Brisbane Girls' Grammar School Archives
  • University of Melbourne Archives
  • University of Queensland Archives
  • Gilbert family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Doris H. Swan, 'Gilbert, Jeanette Anne (1883–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 24 May 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]


3 August, 1883
Red Hill, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


16 March, 1960 (aged 76)
South Brisbane, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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.

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.