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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Tillyard, Pattie (1880–1971)

by Patricia Clarke

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Pattie Tillyard (1880-1971), community leader, was born on 30 August 1880 at Borstal, Kent, England, daughter of William Robert Craske, commercial clerk, and his wife Fanny, née Downing. From Rochester Girls Grammar School she went in 1900 to Newnham College, Cambridge, where she completed her natural sciences (botany) tripos with second-class honours at a time before the university granted degrees to women. One of ten similarly situated women on whom Trinity College, Dublin, conferred an honorary B.A. (1905), she was awarded a belated M.A. (Cantab.) when Cambridge changed its policy in 1921.

Tall, with dark hair and deep blue eyes, Pattie became a science mistress at Hitchin Girls Grammar School, Hertfordshire. After studying for a diploma in public health, she spent three months at the Nile delta with her brother before travelling to Australia in 1909 to join her persistent suitor Robin John Tillyard whom she married at St Michael's Anglican Church, Vaucluse, Sydney, on 23 June 1909. While raising their four daughters, she was a member of the educational committee of the Australasian Trained Nurses' Association (New South Wales). In 1919 the family moved to New Zealand and she was appointed to the Nelson Colleges board: when protests were made about a female appointee to Governor-General Lord Jellicoe, he merely inquired 'What is wrong with her qualifications?' During these years the colour and monochrome illustrations she provided lent distinction to her husband's published works. After arriving in 1928 in isolated Canberra, she became noted for her widespread hospitality. Her visitor's book remains an evocative record of early Canberra social life. 'My nature', she once said, 'is akin to that of a homeless cat, so adjustment was not difficult for me'.

A councillor (1929-32) and frequent vice-president of the University Association of Canberra, Pattie represented it on the Canberra University College Council (1942-45). She was a member of the Canberra Community Hospital Board (1935-37), standing for election because she felt that 'there ought to be women on every governing body'. As a former suffragist, she regarded the right to vote as a 'privilege and a duty' which was 'to a great extent neglected' by Australian women. She was commissioner of the Girl Guides Association (A.C.T.), and president (1929-33) of the Young Women's Christian Association, the Association of Women Graduates, Canberra, the Victoria League and the Women's Hockey Association. She retained the supreme confidence of a 'Newnhamite' in her ability to chair a meeting, take charge of an organization, or entertain the highest in the land. During World War II she was chairman of commandants of the Lady Gowrie Services Canteen which, after the war, staffed Canberra Community Hospital canteen. In 1951 she was appointed M.B.E.

A striking figure on her old-fashioned Cambridge bicycle, in her later years she became the 'grande dame' of Canberra; at 89 she reluctantly relinquished her driving licence. Survived by her daughters, she died on 10 March 1971 and was buried in St John the Baptist churchyard, Canberra. The Australian Federation of University Women (A.C.T.) erected a memorial to her at the Australian National University in 1976.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian National University Reporter, 9 Apr 1976
  • Canberra Historical Journal, no 24, Sept 1989
  • Canberra Times, 24, 30 Sept 1935, 1 Jan 1951, 13 Mar, 28 May, 13 Nov 1964, 11 Mar 1971, 29 Mar 1976
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Aug 1970
  • Canberra News, 1 Sept 1970
  • P. Tillyard's Visitor's book, 1928-71 (privately held)
  • private information.

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

Patricia Clarke, 'Tillyard, Pattie (1880–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 23 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Craske, Pattie

30 August 1880
Borstal, Kent, England


10 March 1971
Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence