Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John William Foster Rogers (1842–1908)

by Suzanne G. Mellor

This article was published:

John William Foster Rogers (1842-1908), educationist and politician, was born on 16 July 1842 at Leeds, Yorkshire, England, son of Thomas George Rogers, and his wife Sarah, née Smyth. John, his five brothers and sisters were sent by friends to Port Phillip in January 1850, but after some schooling in Melbourne, John attended Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, England, from 1852.

In 1862 Rogers returned to Victoria and in 1864 founded a 'private' Catholic collegiate school for boys in Ballarat. The school enjoyed Dr Goold's patronage and it prospered until the mining collapse of 1869. He conducted a grammar school in Carlton about 1873 and was headmaster of the Melbourne Hebrew School in 1878 and of St Kilda High School in 1881. In 1883 he published in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide a treatise on Grammar and Logic in the Nineteenth Century as Seen in A Syntactical Analysis of the English Language; it gained good reviews in Melbourne and overseas, but, to Rogers's annoyance, the University of Melbourne refused to prescribe it.

In 1883 Rogers was appointed first lay inspector of schools under the Catholic Board of Education in Sydney, but when the system of inspectors was abolished in 1886 he was summarily dismissed. After a lawsuit he was awarded £2500 in lieu of five years' salary. Turning to publishing, Rogers visited London in 1887 for the successful first issue of The Australasian Federal Directory of Commerce, Trades and Professions. Conceived and edited by him, it contained informative articles and data on the Australasian colonies as well as a classified occupational directory. Rogers published in Melbourne further volumes that were useful propaganda for Federation. He was sometime editor and a regular writer for the Roman Catholic monthly Austral Light, first issued in January 1892, and wrote for the Advocate. With publishing stagnant in the depression, he became member of the Legislative Assembly for South Yarra in 1894-97; he contested East Melbourne in 1902 without success. His surplus wealth tax plan roused much comment but little came of it. In 1906 The Church and the Fine Arts by Rogers was published in Melbourne by the Australian Catholic Truth Society.

Rogers married first Catherine Mary Shanahan on 24 June 1867; they had two sons. By his second wife Letitia Catherine Craig, née Morony, whom he had married on 1 October 1881, he had two sons and a daughter. He died in his house at Malvern on 2 December 1908 survived by his wife and five children.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Fogarty, Catholic Education in Australia 1806-1950 (Melb, 1959)
  • Table Talk, 10 Feb 1888
  • Advocate (Melbourne), 5 Dec 1908.

Citation details

Suzanne G. Mellor, 'Rogers, John William Foster (1842–1908)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 21 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


16 July, 1842
Leeds, Yorkshire, England


2 December, 1908 (aged 66)
Malvern, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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