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Enid Joske (1890–1973)

by Alison Patrick

This article was published:

Enid Joske (1890-1973), college principal, was born on 7 September 1890 at Prahran, Melbourne, eldest child of Alexander Sydney Joske, a surgeon from Sydney, and his English-born wife Louisa, née Isaacs. The parents were not wealthy, but their son became a doctor and the three of their four daughters who remained unmarried were educationally equipped to follow a profession—two as teachers and one as a nurse.

Educated at the Church of England Girls' Grammar School, Melbourne, Enid won the Florence Stanbridge scholarship which enabled her to be a resident student (from 1909) in the women's hostel attached to Trinity College, University of Melbourne (B.A. Hons, 1912; Dip.Ed., 1913). She was employed as a teacher, first at her old school and then at Lauriston Girls' School, Malvern (1917-27). While at Lauriston, she helped to found the pioneering Children's Free Lending Library at Prahran. Returning from leave spent in Siam, Japan and New Zealand, she was invited in 1927 to apply for the principalship of her old college, renamed Janet Clarke Hall. She had not been first choice, and later discovered that she had been expected to stay only three months. Miss Joske remained there for twenty-five years. She did not forget Lauriston, and, after the school was incorporated, served (1948-52) on its foundation council, but J.C.H. became her life.

The Joske régime (1928-52) was steady, placid and wise. She inherited an institution which lacked physical cohesion, had only recently recovered from a serious dispute over discipline, and encountered the consistent hostility of (Sir) John Behan, the warden of Trinity. She dealt with these problems in her own unobtrusive way. Small and quiet, Miss Joske was also ubiquitous, a characteristic resented by some students until they discovered a care for their concerns which more than atoned for her occasional mistakes. Her main personal handicap, serious deafness, became almost an asset, as legends proliferated about her judiciously selective use of her hearing-aid. Unlike Behan, she never faced a crisis over student discipline. Although the basic boundaries of conventional decorum changed little between 1928 and 1952, Joske enforced her rules with humour and discretion. She met no agitation in J.C.H. for a move towards the much freer style of University Women's College. Miss Joske's college reflected the accepted mores of its time—but without rigidity.

Over the building programme, which finally brought the college under one roof and gradually enlarged it, she resolutely pressed the J.C.H. interest, with the creation of the gardens as a contribution from her own expertise. The subsequent naming of the Enid Joske Wing (1956) acknowledged her efforts, sustained in the face of the warden's lack of sympathy for all J.C.H. concerns. Behan's antagonism had an impact in ways he did not foresee. The underlying point of difficulty was that Miss Joske's position as principal was anomalous. Independently run, J.C.H. remained a Trinity possession, which the warden had the right to criticize and control. Although it was the oldest and largest of the women's colleges, Miss Joske had no place on the heads of colleges' committee. Yet neither was J.C.H. integrated into the Trinity fabric, nor were the claims of the women considered with those of the men. For Behan, J.C.H. was at best an unwanted appendage, at worst the source of dangerous distractions for the Trinity men whose interests he saw as paramount. The resultant frictions drove J.C.H. in upon itself, and fostered a sense of distinctive identity.

Miss Joske's attitude to Behan was tactful and generous. If she saw separation from Trinity as inevitable, she never pushed for it, and she was fully aware of the Trinity case against it. But from 1946 she gladly accepted the greater autonomy offered by Behan's successor R. W. T. Cowan. While she was principal, she tacitly strengthened the case for independence by consolidating a happy and confident institution, academically sound, with loyal domestic staff and some distinguished tutors. She also widened student horizons by the quality of the visitors to high table. Her college had grown and prospered. Nine years after her retirement in 1952, independence was achieved.

When she withdrew to Harfra, her cottage at Harkaway, there was concern lest she feel lonely and bereft. The concern was misplaced. She made another garden, and for twenty years entertained a stream of visiting ex-students. She died on 17 October 1973 at Harkaway and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • L. Gardiner, Janet Clarke Hall 1886-1986 (Melb, 1986)
  • University of Melbourne Gazette, Aug 1956, Mar 1974
  • Lauriston Girls' School Archives
  • Janet Clarke Hall Archives
  • J. C. V. Behan diaries (University of Melbourne Archives)
  • private information.

Citation details

Alison Patrick, 'Joske, Enid (1890–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 24 June 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]


7 September, 1890
Prahran, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


17 October, 1973 (aged 83)
Harkaway, Victoria, Australia

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