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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jones, Kathleen Annie Gilman (1880–1942)

by L. M. M. Mitchell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Kathleen Annie Gilman Jones (1880-1942), educationist, was born on 30 September 1880 at Fazeley, Staffordshire, England, daughter of Charles Jones, smallware mill manager, and his wife Harriett, née Gilman. Kathleen was educated at Hiatt Ladies' College, Wellington, Shropshire, and at Newnham College, Cambridge, where in 1903 she gained a second class in the mathematical tripos. After obtaining her Cambridge Teachers' Diploma, she taught in Birmingham and Salford, before proceeding to South Africa as vice-principal of the Queenstown High School for Girls. In 1914 she came to Australia as joint headmistress of Ascham School, Sydney, and in 1916 became headmistress of Melbourne Church of England Girls' Grammar School.

Besides administering a leading boarding and day-school in wartime, she was engaged on building projects: a hall, laboratory and classrooms were completed in 1919. Her educational and feminist activities included membership in 1917-38 of the Council of Public Education (vice-president, 1922-23), the Schools Board in 1922-25 and 1927-36, and of the body which became the Incorporated Association of Registered Teachers of Victoria (president 1925 and 1935). She was especially involved in the establishment of the I.A.R.T.V.'s teacher-training institute (later Mercer House). Her main concerns were teacher qualifications, educational standards, superannuation and salary inequities: her school's salary scale was used in the 1940s by women teachers in their struggle for a wages board. She employed married teachers, contrary to custom, always upholding the status of professional women.

As a member of the Headmistresses' Association of Victoria (president 1923-24), Miss Gilman Jones worked to maintain the Homecraft Hostel (later Invergowrie) as 'an educational experiment' in a tertiary home-making course. Vice-president of the National Council of Women of Victoria in 1925, she supported the appointment of women principals for girls' high schools and the promotion of women as municipal and parliamentary candidates. She was vice-president of the Victorian Women Citizens' Movement in 1930-34 and president of the Australian Women Voters' Association in 1922. She was a ready and fluent speaker, holding her own amicably on male-dominated committees.

As a headmistress who understood how to delegate responsibility and obtain co-operation, Kathleen Gilman Jones introduced educational experiments. She inaugurated parent-teacher conferences; mathematics and science were strengthened, as were music and musical appreciation (with Dr A. E. Floyd); public speaking and drama were encouraged; some sport was compulsory and also annual medical inspection; a 'Home-making Fifth' gave status to less academic programmes; speakers and artists of repute visited the school regularly; and the use of libraries was taught, especially for new studies in civics and international affairs.

She affirmed the Church character of M.C.E.G.G.S., with its parish role, and she herself taught divinity, took boarders' Sunday School classes and conducted daily assemblies, stressing direct giving, social service and missionary work. Her own generosity to deserving young students was known to few but the recipients. In the chapel she planned, but never saw, her memorial was dedicated in 1967.

The Aileen Dent portrait at the school conveys the impressive dignity of Kathleen Gilman Jones: her letters, in their distinctive handwriting (she had no personal secretary until 1933), reveal her directness and her humanity. Her recreations were walking, swimming, golf, music and reading. Before she left, in 1938, a university scholarship was founded in her name. She retired to Merton Cottage, Etchingham, Sussex, England, and died at Kent & Sussex Hospital, Tunbridge Wells, on 16 September 1942, of burns after a house fire, having endured prolonged suffering with characteristic fortitude.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Lloyd, Melbourne Church of England Girls' Grammar School (Melb, 1928)
  • Melb Church of England Girls' Grammar School, Jubilee History (Melb, 1953) and School Magazine, 1915-42
  • Melbourne Church of England Girls' Grammar School Archives
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

L. M. M. Mitchell, 'Jones, Kathleen Annie Gilman (1880–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 9 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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