Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Nancy Jobson (1880–1964)

by G. E. Sherington

This article was published:

Nancy Jobson (1880-1964), headmistress, was born on 17 April 1880 at Clunes, Victoria, daughter of Christopher Jobson, merchant from Northumberland, England, and his second wife Elizabeth Cameron, née McColl (d.1926). Educated at Presbyterian Ladies' College, Melbourne, in 1897 she entered the University of Melbourne (B.A., 1900; M.A., 1902). Later she became senior resident and sports mistress at P.L.C. In 1910-18 she was headmistress of Southland Girls' High School, Invercargill, New Zealand, and in 1919 first principal of the Presbyterian, Queen Margaret College in Wellington. After two years she moved to Queensland to become headmistress of Fairholme Presbyterian Girls' College, Toowoomba. In 1921 she was appointed principal of the Presbyterian Ladies' College, Pymble, Sydney.

Part of a new wave of Australian headmistresses, Miss Jobson partly abandoned the traditional goals of academic attainments and examination success, and hoped to interest her girls in 'excellence' in home management and the cultivation of refined manners and artistic sense. Emphasizing the differences between the schooling of boys and girls and the importance of 'woman's sphere' in the family and home life, she introduced courses in domestic science and music. She tried to instil a female ethic of service to the community: the school supported welfare work in hospitals and most senior girls joined the Christian-based Toc H. In November 1924 she outlined her views in an article, 'The education of girls', in the Australian Teacher. She visited Italy, 'that land of art, history and beauty' in 1928.

Enrolment grew from 256 in 1921 to 414 in 1929 and the number of boarders from 95 to 161. However the Depression brought a crisis: by 1932 enrolment was only 208. Among other economies, the school council wished to close Grey House where Miss Jobson had lived with a few senior boarders. She resisted the move strongly and in November 1932 the council gave her six months notice. In what became a matter of public knowledge and legal dispute, she appealed to the Presbyterian Assembly, but finally accepted a settlement and resigned in mid-1933. Next year Miss Jobson founded Hopewood House, a finishing school for girls which concentrated on homecraft and secretarial studies; it closed in 1943. Her last active years were spent at the International Correspondence Schools, teaching Latin, Greek, English and logic. She was appointed M.B.E. in 1955.

Tall, rather impressive, but aloof, Miss Jobson depended often on others for support and help: her mother lived with her, and her sister Jeanie, who had earlier taught at Ballarat High School and whose letters to the troops were published in 1917, assisted Nancy at Toowoomba and at P.L.C., before being killed in an Italian railway accident in 1925. Her companion at P.L.C. Winifred Wilson and Florence Suiter, a domestic science teacher, accompanied her to Hopewood House. They lived together in retirement at 10 Hope Street, Pymble, where Nancy Jobson died on 22 June 1964; she was cremated. Her brother Alexander was a soldier and financial reporter.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Jobson, Cheering Letter to the Australian Troops at the Front … (Melb, 1917)
  • M. O. Reid, The Ladies Came to Stay (Melb, 1960)
  • M. D. Gambrill, A History of Queen Margaret College (Wellington, 1969)
  • Hopewood House, Prospectus and Booklet of Photographs (np, nd)
  • Presbyterian Church of New South Wales, Minutes of Proceedings of General Assembly, 1921-33
  • Presbyterian Ladies' College, Pymble, Magazine, 1921-33
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June 1955, 23 June 1964
  • Presbyterian Ladies' Colleges, Council minutes (Presbyterian Library, Assembly Hall, Sydney)
  • private information.

Citation details

G. E. Sherington, 'Jobson, Nancy (1880–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 20 May 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]


17 April, 1880
Clunes, Victoria, Australia


22 June, 1964 (aged 84)
Pymble, 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.