Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Mary Valentine Gutteridge (1887–1962)

by Elizabeth J. Mellor

This article was published:

Mary Valentine Gutteridge (1887-1962), kindergarten principal, was born on 14 February 1887 at Launceston, Tasmania, eldest of five children of British-born parents Matthew Wilkins Gutteridge, medical practitioner, and his wife Mary Kate, née Penney. When her father accepted a position at the Homoeopathic Hospital, Melbourne, Mary was educated at Faireleight school, St Kilda. Aged 18, she left for England to train as a kindergarten teacher at the Froebel Institute, Roehampton. In 1911 she was appointed principal of the junior school, Church of England Girls' Grammar, Melbourne. Six years later she returned to London where she worked in a nursery school and as a volunteer nurse; she later established a nursery school in Paris for displaced children, with assistance from the Rothschild foundation.

In 1922 Miss Gutteridge was appointed by the Free Kindergarten Union of Victoria to the dual position of acting-principal of the fledgling Melbourne Kindergarten Training College and supervisor of the twenty-four kindergartens affiliated with the union. As principal (1923-36) of the college, she carried out a demanding range of duties, including lecturing, student supervision, advertising and taking care of the domestic minutiae associated with running the student hostel. She extended the period of kindergarten training from two to three years, and made the individual child the focus of teaching. In an effort to improve the health of kindergarten children, she and Dr Vera Scantlebury Brown facilitated the establishment (1927) of the Forest Hill holiday-home, and the introduction of medical inspections and dental services.

Assisted by a Rockefeller fellowship in 1928, Gutteridge studied at Columbia University Teachers College, New York (B.Sc., 1929), and at child research centres in the United States of America. She also travelled in Britain, Europe, Russia and Asia. Back in Melbourne, she took on an additional role as director (1930) of the State's first nursery school, opened as part of the Keele Street Kindergarten, Collingwood. She created a one-year course in nursery-school education for qualified kindergarten teachers, promoted the study of early childhood with a grant from the Australian Council for Educational Research, and published The Story of an Australian Nursery School (1932).

The F.K.U. praised her as 'an invaluable officer' and granted her further study leave in 1933. Once more she went to London where she resigned on the grounds of ill health, though she subsequently returned to Columbia University (M.A., 1937; Ph.D., 1940). Her resignation apparently soured her relationship with the F.K.U. She achieved an international reputation, however, as a scholar and teacher at Columbia, the University of Minnesota and (from 1941) at the Merrill-Palmer Institute, Detroit, where she became head of the department of early-childhood education.

On her retirement in 1952, Gutteridge settled in Brisbane; she continued to assist in kindergartens and children's homes until she grew frail with Parkinson's disease. She died on 15 June 1962 at Wavell Heights and was cremated with Anglican rites. Described as a professional in her field, she was remembered for her 'patrician appearance, her intelligent love of children and her gift of friendship'.

Select Bibliography

  • L. Gardiner, The Free Kindergarten Union of Victoria 1908-80 (Melb, 1982)
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 18 June 1962
  • P. Walford, An Investigation Made into the Contribution of Mary V. Gutteridge to the Kindergarten Movement in Victoria 1922-1936 (B.Ed. thesis, Institute of Early Childhood Development, Kew, Melbourne, 1979)
  • Free Kindergarten Union of Victoria, Annual Report, 1925-26, 1933-34 (University of Melbourne Archives)
  • Gutteridge family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Elizabeth J. Mellor, 'Gutteridge, Mary Valentine (1887–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 18 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]


14 February, 1887
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia


15 June, 1962 (aged 75)
Wavell Heights, Brisbane, Queensland, 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.