Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Eleanor Lilian Gladys Gough (1887–1967)

by Joan E. Cobb

This article was published:

Eleanor Lilian Gladys Gough (1887-1967), teacher of dressmaking, was born on 21 February 1887 at Bathurst, New South Wales, second of six children of native-born parents Henry Alexander Gough, sheriff's officer, and his wife Amy Margaretta, née Riley. While living at Maitland, in 1905 Eleanor passed the junior public examination by private study. She trained in dressmaking, probably at the local technical college, before being recruited in 1913 by the Department of Public Instruction to teach at Paterson and Gresford. Transferred to Sydney Technical College as assistant-teacher of dressmaking and millinery, she took up her appointment in 1917. Four years later she began studying part-time at the University of Sydney (B.Ec., 1925). Succeeding Mary Roberts in 1925 as lecturer-in-charge of the department of women's handicrafts, she was based in new premises in the old Darlinghurst gaol, later renamed East Sydney Technical College.

Miss Gough presided over far-reaching changes to the syllabus. Although the primary aims of the women's handicrafts department were to train teachers and to improve domestic skills, specific vocational courses, beginning with professional cutting and power machining, had been introduced for women in industry. Courses were extended in rural areas by the better organization of circuit teaching. In country towns a successful series of women's handicraft courses usually attracted other subjects and often led to the establishment of branch technical colleges. Gough's responsibilities soon became heavier than those of many of her better-paid male colleagues. In addition to overseeing a major city school, she supervised a network of metropolitan and country classes, circuit classes and correspondence lessons. Under her direction, the courses increased in popularity and waiting-lists grew longer. The enrolment of 635 in 1918 had risen to 2461 by 1930; by the time of her retirement in 1951, she had charge of 10,778 students.

As president of the Technical College Vocations Club for staff, students and former students, Gough helped to set up a cafeteria (1927), a reading circle, a small library and a store; social activities included excursions and dances; and wider contacts were formed. For many years she served on the editorial sub-committee of the Technical Gazette of New South Wales. Assisted by some of her colleagues, she also published two textbooks, Processes in Dressmaking (1928) and Principles of Garment Cutting (1941).

During her twenty-six years as head of her department, Gough coped with the combined effects on her department of the Depression, World War II and educational expansion, particularly under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. A slight, refined and delicate woman, she was respected for her efficiency, general calmness and the dignity with which she handled her job. She moved with serenity, usually dressed in one of her superbly cut suits, with her cloche hat pulled fashionably down. She died on 10 August 1967 at Mosman and was cremated with Anglican rites. In 1956 the Vocations Club had established the Miss E. L. Gough scholarships in recognition of her activities.

Select Bibliography

  • Technical Gazette of New South Wales, 16, pt 1, 1928, 17, pt 1, 1929
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 13 Dec 1934
  • D. Feltham, History of the School of Fashion in the Department of Technical and Further Education, 1886-1986 (M.Ed. thesis, New South Wales University of Technology, 1986)
  • TAFE records, History Unit (Department of Technical and Further Education, Sydney).

Citation details

Joan E. Cobb, 'Gough, Eleanor Lilian Gladys (1887–1967)', 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]


21 February, 1887
Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia


10 August, 1967 (aged 80)
Mosman, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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.