Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Mary Constance Hodgkin (1909–1985)

by Dorothy Parker

This article was published:

Mary Constance Hodgkin (1909-1985), anthropologist, lecturer and student adviser, was born on 5 April 1909 at Mobberley, Cheshire, England, daughter of Arnold McKerrow, manager of a lithographics works, and his wife Gwendolen Mary, née Jones. Mary was educated at Altrincham County High School for Girls and Victoria University of Manchester (B.Sc., 1930), where she majored in botany. On 13 February 1931 at the register office, St Pancras, London, she married Ernest Pease Hodgkin, a fellow student, who had been appointed government medical entomologist in the Federated States of Malaya. Four months later, after gaining her teaching diploma, she joined Ernest in Kuala Lumpur. A daughter and three sons were born there. She taught at several schools and was involved in the Girl Guides movement.

Following the Japanese invasion of Malaya Mary Hodgkin and her four children were evacuated in January 1942 to Perth and her husband was interned in Singapore. Helped by local Quakers to find temporary accommodation, she soon bought a house at Cottesloe, using a legacy from an uncle. She taught part time (1942-55) at various schools, including Presbyterian Ladies College (1942-54), and continued her association with the Girl Guides, becoming a district commissioner. In October 1945 Ernest joined his family and next year was appointed a lecturer in biology at the University of Western Australia.

In 1956 Mary Hodgkin returned to study as one of the first students in the new department of anthropology and comparative sociology established by Ronald Berndt at UWA (BA Hons, 1959; MA, 1962). In her honours thesis—published as The Asian Student in the University of Western Australia (1958)—she made useful suggestions (later implemented by the university) for assisting overseas students. Research for her master’s thesis covered a wider sample of students including those attending schools and technical colleges.

Appointed by the government of Malaya (Malaysia from 1963), Mrs Hodgkin served (1959-72) as a liaison officer for the country’s students at UWA, providing generous hospitality, practical help and emotional support to hundreds of them. From 1965 she also cared for students from Singapore. A Freda Bage fellowship of the Australian Federation of University Women enabled her to spend eight months in 1961 in Malaya to gauge the adjustment of returned graduates. Assisted by a grant from the Myer Foundation, she travelled to Britain and the United States of America in 1967 to learn how these countries aided Malaysian students. In 1972-80 she was UWA’s honorary adviser to overseas students.

Mary Hodgkin tutored and lectured (1965-77) in the department of anthropology; her students remembered her as a lively, interesting and caring teacher. Her publications included Australian Training and Asian Living (1966) and The Innovators: The Role of Foreign Trained Persons in South-East Asia (1972). Active in the Anthropological Society of Western Australia, she was made an honorary life member in 1982. She served on the council of the Girl Guides Association of Western Australia until 1974. In 1972 she was awarded an honorary Ahli Mangku Negara by the Malaysian government, and in 1976 the British Empire medal. She enjoyed painting in water-colours. Survived by her husband and their four children, she died on 1 March 1985 at her Mosman Park home and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Wood (ed), If This Should Be Farewell (2003)
  • Anthropology News, vol 22, no 3, 1985, p 2
  • Weekend News (Perth), 12 Jan 1963, p 29
  • West Australian, 7 Mar 1981, p 45
  • family information.

Citation details

Dorothy Parker, 'Hodgkin, Mary Constance (1909–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 18 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • McKerrow, Mary

5 April, 1909
Mobberley, Cheshire, England


1 March, 1985 (aged 75)
Mosman Park, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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