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Lillian de Lissa, Women Teachers and Teacher Education in the Twentieth Century

A Transnational History

Kay Whitehead

Beginning with Lillian de Lissa’s career as foundation principal of the Adelaide Kindergarten Training College in Australia (1907–1917) and Gipsy Hill Training College in London (1917–1947), and incorporating the lives and work of her Australian and British graduates, this book illuminates the transnational circulation of knowledge about teacher education and early childhood education in the twentieth century. Acutely aware of anxieties regarding the role of modern women and the social positioning of teachers, students who attended college under de Lissa’s leadership experienced a progressive institutional culture and comprehensive preparation for work as kindergarten, nursery and infant teachers.

Drawing on a broad range of archival material, this study explores graduates’ professional and domestic lives, leisure activities and civic participation, from their initial work as novice teachers through diverse life paths to their senior years. Due to the interwar marriage bar, many women teachers married, resigned from paid work and became mothers. The book explores their experiences, along with those of lifelong teachers whose work spread across a range of educational fields and different parts of the world. Although most graduates spent their lives in Australia or England, de Lissa’s personal and professional networks traversed the British dominions and colonies, Europe and the USA, fostering fascinating global connections between people, places and educational ideas.

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Family, friends and colleagues near and far have followed the research and development of this book. Mum, my sister Judy, Keren Wicks and Catherine George have patiently kept watch over my progress. Thank you to colleagues at Flinders University for their interest and support for my academic work; particular thanks to Susan Krieg for our many discussions about continuities and changes in early childhood education.

I acknowledge the transnational community of historians of education for their collegiality, stimulating conferences and inquiries into my jetlag after yet another flight from Australia. I have benefited greatly from a close association with the Australian and New Zealand History of Education Society, the International Standing Conference for History of Education and the British History of Education Society. Although I can’t name everyone, Ruth Watts and Joyce Goodman have been unstinting in their support for my research and I honour their longstanding contributions to feminist histories of education.

Many people have contributed directly to the book. I acknowledge the support of librarians and archivists in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, especially in the Kingston University Archives and Special Collections. Lynne Trethewey’s meticulous archival research into the Adelaide Kindergarten Training College graduates has underpinned several chapters. Kevin Brehony, Susan Feez, Marja Van Breda, Maartje Hazenoot, Amy Hamilton, Chris Evans Appleyard, Kerry Bethel and Sue Middleton have helped me resolve specific knotty issues. I owe an enormous debt (and many desserts) to Craig Campbell and Lyn Wilkinson who...

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