Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Caroline Jacob (1861–1940)

by Helen Jones

This article was published:

Caroline Jacob (1861-1940), headmistress, was born on 18 January 1861 at Sevenhill, South Australia, daughter of John Jacob, pastoralist, and his wife Mary, née Cowles. Well-educated by her mother and at Mrs Woodcock's School, North Adelaide, Caroline gained a first-class certificate in general education from the South Australian Institute in 1877, then taught at Winnold House, Mount Gambier, her mother's school, until she joined the South Australian Education Department and began part-time university study in 1879; she won the Thomas Elder prize for physiology in 1886. From 1885 she taught at the Advanced School for Girls under headmistress Madeline Rees George.

Determined to extend girls' higher education, she bought Tormore House, which she and her sister Annie reopened on new lines in 1898; they intended to prepare girls for university examinations. The excellent response soon enabled them to build new premises in pleasant grounds in Childers Street, North Adelaide.

Caroline Jacob designed Tormore's balanced curriculum to stretch students' capabilities, including, as compulsory subjects, English, Latin, mathematics, French or German, class singing and calisthenics, and encouraging botany, physiology and sport. Some boarders learned domestic subjects. Staff included botanist Ellen Benham, artist Rosa Fiveash and old scholars whom Caroline trained through tutorials. She delighted in her students' academic and public attainments, while applauding those who undertook 'woman's highest work, the training of their own children'.

In 1907-11 she owned Unley Park School, bicycling eight miles between her schools several times weekly. In 1912 an educational tour of England reinforced her admiration of English girls' public schools. Her innovations at Tormore included school diaries to facilitate parental understanding, school uniform to eliminate frippery, Swedish physical training in a fine gymnasium donated by her father, rowing and cricket, and a badge and motto, Aspice finem (Look to the goal). She worked for the Collegiate Schools Association, the Headmistresses' Union (which she founded), the Kindergarten Union and its Training College, and the South Australian Advisory Council on Education. Many of her students became teachers, five being headmistresses.

A dedicated Anglican, in 1913 Miss Jacob was appointed to the council of the Adelaide Diocesan Missionary Association. Tormore had close links with the Church, and when enrolments declined in World War I, she approached Bishop A. Nutter Thomas to take it over. Both strong-minded, they 'failed to come to terms'. In 1920 she reluctantly closed Tormore.

She taught at Launceston Church of England Girls' Grammar and Adelaide High schools and travelled abroad in 1926-27; later she devoted herself to the Girl Guide movement and her Old Scholars' Association. Miss Jacob died at her home on the Esplanade, Henley Beach, on 4 November 1940. Tormore old scholars gave the Caroline Jacob memorial wing in the Erora, New Guinea, mission hospital and erected a memorial plaque in Christ Church, North Adelaide.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Angove, Tormore (priv print, North Adel, 1962)
  • Tormorean, 1899-1920
  • Register (Adelaide), 21 Dec 1900
  • Tormore Old Scholars' Association, minutes, SRG 196/1, and teachers' records, GRG 18, Tsf 450/6, 1876-1887 (State Records of South Australia)
  • C. Jacob by H. Jones, taped ABC radio broadcast, Personalities remembered, SRG 196/25 (State Records of South Australia)
  • letters from C. Jacob to her mother (Jacob papers, held by family).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Helen Jones, 'Jacob, Caroline (1861–1940)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


18 January, 1861
Sevenhill, South Australia, Australia


4 November, 1940 (aged 79)
Henley Beach, Adelaide, South Australia, 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.