Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Jane Sinclair Reid (1883–1968)

by P. T. Downie

This article was published:

Jane Sinclair Reid (1883-1968), educator of the blind, was born on 21 December 1883 at Esk Bank, Hartley, New South Wales, eldest of four children of Robert Sinclair Reid, Scottish sawmill manager, and his Brisbane-born wife Eliza Jane, née Howe. After her family moved to Bexley, Roberta, as she was known, was educated at Sydney Girls' High School from 1897 and the University of Sydney (B.A., 1904).

With no prior teaching experience or training, Roberta Reid began work at the Darlington school conducted by the New South Wales Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind (Royal New South Wales Institution for Deaf and Blind Children) in February 1904. Two years later she was appointed head teacher of the blind and with one assistant taught about twenty pupils. In 1908 she also assumed responsibility for the education of the deaf and blind child Alice Betteridge. With dedication and using Braille and the manual alphabet, she managed to teach her to read and communicate freely.

Miss Reid taught her pupils English, history, geography, arithmetic, typewriting and 'a little French' and shared her love of language and literature with them, arousing in some a lifelong interest. She also encouraged them to sing and play the piano, and cultivated an interest in current affairs by discussing newspaper items with them. She fought for the introduction of carpentry for the boys and domestic science for the girls and took them on outings to the Australian Museum. Her view of education extended beyond the classroom. She was opposed to blind people sitting for public examinations, believing appropriate employment opportunities would not be available to them; and that the resulting disappointment might ruin their lives.

By the 1930s Miss Reid and her staff of three were teaching forty-four children. After the school was requisitioned for military purposes in World War II they taught the local children in their homes or at a temporary day school at Strathfield and prepared correspondence lessons for the country children. When the institution opened a new school for the blind at Wahroonga in 1946, with the Department of Education assuming responsibility for classroom work, Roberta Reid was appointed headmistress; she retired in September 1948.

Tall and stately, Miss Reid always dressed immaculately. Although naturally reserved and anxious to foster such qualities as thrift and honesty, she took a warm interest in her pupils' welfare. She was remembered by them with respect and affection. The success of her methods was evident in the self-reliance of her ex-pupils and their ability to compete with sighted people. Considered by the institution 'the leading authority in Australia on the education of the blind', she continued to serve as a consultant. In June 1951 she was appointed M.B.E. A member of the Sydney University Women Graduates' Association and the Women's Club, she died at her Roseville home on 19 October 1968 and was cremated with Presbyterian forms.

Select Bibliography

  • L. Norman, The Brown and Yellow (Melb, 1983)
  • J. Plowman, We Grew Up Together (Syd, 1985)
  • New South Wales Institute for Deaf and Dumb and Blind, Annual Report, 1904-48
  • Insight, Dec 1981, Mar 1983
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 18 Oct 1948, 7 June 1951, 24 Oct 1968
  • Sun (Sydney), 7 June 1951
  • private information.

Citation details

P. T. Downie, 'Reid, Jane Sinclair (1883–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 25 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Reid, Roberta

21 December, 1883
Hartley, New South Wales, Australia


19 October, 1968 (aged 84)
Roseville, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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.