Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Elizabeth Inglis Lothian (1881–1973)

by Cecily Close

This article was published:

Elizabeth Inglis Lothian (1881-1973), teacher of classics, was born on 22 October 1881 at Gateshead, Durham, England, second child and eldest daughter of John Inglis Lothian, a publisher's cashier, and his wife Lillias, née Smith. Thomas Carlyle Lothian was her brother. The family arrived in Melbourne in 1888. Elizabeth attended St Kilda State School until 1895 when she entered Presbyterian Ladies' College, East Melbourne, on a half-scholarship. In the following year she passed the matriculation examination in eight subjects, but remained at school and obtained exhibitions in 1898-99.

A non-resident student of Ormond College, Lothian read classics at the University of Melbourne (B.A. Hons, 1903; M.A., 1908; Dip.Ed., 1914). After teaching for a year at Healesville, she shared the Wyselaskie scholarship in classical and comparative philology and logic. She entered Newnham College, Cambridge, in 1905, and completed part one of the classics tripos with second-class honours in 1907. That year she returned to Melbourne.

In 1908 Miss Lothian became classics mistress at Tintern Ladies' College, Hawthorn. Joining the staff of (Melbourne) Church of England Girls' Grammar School in 1914, she was soon made senior classics mistress. She was appointed to the Victorian School Board's classics standing committee in 1922. Retiring from teaching in 1946, she was remembered for her ability to bring classical civilization to life. Her own love of the subject was nourished by contact with the Classical Association of Victoria—of which she was a member (from 1913) and councillor (1927-60)—and by a five-month sojourn in Greece with Jessie Webb in 1923.

From her schooldays Lothian had been associated with groups providing support and companionship to educated women. At P.L.C. she had been one of 'The '98 Brigade of Friendship', which included Marion Phillips and Elizabeth's early academic rival and lifelong friend Enid Derham. Lothian belonged to the Princess Ida Club at university, the Catalysts (1910), the Lyceum Club (1914) and the Victorian Women Graduates' Association (1920). Having been a Fabian at Cambridge, she joined the Fabian Society of Victoria in 1908 and served on its executive. She remained in touch with university life by teaching classics at Queen's (1914-54) and Ormond (1918-19) colleges. Co-secretary (1917-37) of a provisional committee dedicated to the foundation of University Women's College, she served the college as a councillor (1938-50), member (1938-60) of the education committee and classics tutor (1938-53).

For most of her life Lothian lived with members of her family and was a kindly aunt to her brother's children. Bed-ridden in her final years, she retained vigour of mind and an interest in the institutions for which she had worked. She died on 6 May 1973 at Box Hill and was cremated with Presbyterian forms. In 1932 she had spoken of 'The Modern Woman' as progressing 'from clothes to politics', with the possibility of the 'strongest willed' breaking away from what had been expected of them. She did not herself seek to lead or break with custom, but by quiet and purposeful activity smoothed the way for those who wished to travel farther.

Select Bibliography

  • K. Fitzpatrick, PLC Melbourne (Melb, 1975)
  • F. Kelly, Degrees of Liberation (Melb, 1985)
  • R. Mathews, Australia's First Fabians (Melb, 1993)
  • Presbyterian Ladies College (Melbourne), Patchwork, 1895-1910, and enrolment record
  • MCEGGS Magazine, 1973
  • MCEGGS Archives.

Citation details

Cecily Close, 'Lothian, Elizabeth Inglis (1881–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


22 October, 1881
Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England


6 May, 1973 (aged 91)
Box Hill, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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