The House system was introduced to Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School to provide a wider and fairer form of competition within the School, as opposed to Form Competition. All activities within the School such as debating, acting, singing and not just sport, could make use of the House competition, allowing more pupils to participate rather than just spectate.
The naming of the Houses presented a problem and voting by the girls brought forth a variety of suggestions. Finally, it was decided to use the names of past Headmistresses, as having an intimate relationship with this School and to this School only. Only three Houses were established at first – Hunt, White and Armitage – with Connell and Carter Houses established as the School grew.
Miss Fanny Elizabeth Hunt (1892 – 1902)
Miss Fanny Hunt was born in Reading, England, educated in Southern England and presumably came to Australia with her family as a child.
Nothing is known of her until 1886 when she enrolled at the University of Sydney in the newly established Faculty of Science to become the first woman to graduate in Science from Sydney University.
In 1891, Miss Hunt was offered the position of Headmistress of the newly founded Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School, arriving in Ipswich on Saturday 31 October 1891, accompanied by her sister, Maggie to take up the challenge of starting a new school.
While a small, frail woman, Miss Hunt was known for her intelligence, tenacity, and a determination to do what was best for the pupils in her charge and for the future of secondary education in Ipswich.
Miss Hunt deserves all the praise that can be given to her, for this remarkable woman founded a school which has grown into a leading school in the State and did it in a quiet, unassuming way, which attracted little notice but achieved so much.
After leaving Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School due to ill health in 1902, she regained strength and went on to open a new school called Girton College in Toowoomba in 1914.
Miss Maud Connell (1902 – 1905)
While being the shortest-serving Headmistress, Miss Maud Connell knew the School from its first days, having been appointed as the Senior Assistant Teacher in 1892, after completing an MA degree at Melbourne University and holding a position at Hawthorn Ladies’ College in Melbourne.
Miss Connell was interested in teaching languages and after two years teaching at IGGS, resigned to follow her studies in Germany. Miss Connell resumed her Senior Assistant teaching position when she returned to Queensland at the Trustees’ request.
The Trustees then asked Miss Connell to accept the position of Headmistress, following Miss Hunt’s resignation.
Miss Connell was regarded as a highly successful teacher and in her time as Headmistress, the School increased in numbers and its academic record rose to great heights. Miss Connell also established a tennis tournament, a Croquet Club and introduced swimming lessons.
Miss Helen Frances White (1906 – 1927)
Miss White is the longest serving Headmistress and is well remembered as an active member of the Ipswich community, for the importance she placed on boarders enjoying the pleasures of home as much as one could in a boarding school, for her consultative nature with students in the design of the School badge and winter uniforms, and for introducing the School’s Honour Boards.
One of her first requests to the Trustees was that pupils might hold a Garden Party in the School grounds for a charitable cause to give pleasure to the girls and help to those who needed it. During the First World War, Miss White was very active in Ipswich, helping with the war effort and using the grounds of the School to hold fetes to raise money for the Allied cause.
A cricket pitch was provided at the boarders’ request and repairs made to the tennis and croquet courts to honour their wishes for more outside recreation.
Each girl was urged to realise her potential, with students inspired to seek knowledge beyond the limits of the classroom. The highlight of the week for some was Miss White’s Reading Circle during dinner hour.
Miss Lilian Mary Armitage (1928 – 1947)
Miss Lilian Armitage was an excellent scholar, graduating from Melbourne University with an MA in Classics and serving as a member of staff at Maryborough Girls’ Grammar School before coming to Ipswich.
Miss Armitage was a strict disciplinarian and this was to stand her in good stead in the years ahead. By 1930 the World Depression was making itself felt in Australia. Without funds to spend on repairs, Miss Armitage arranged fetes and entertainment to raise money for the School Improvement Fund and sought assistance via the Unemployed Relief Scheme to carry out work in the School grounds which would help the workers and the School.
Apart from having to make do with what she had, Miss Armitage introduced a Commercial Class to boost opportunities for students to get a job after leaving school.
After bringing the School through the Depression, Miss Armitage was confronted with World War II, causing more shortages with supplies, repairs, new buildings and staff, as teachers left to join the Forces. Domestic staff were also very difficult to find and the boarders took over quite a number of domestic duties, with the help and support of Miss Armitage.
The boarders also took to knitting and making camouflage nets as a war effort, with all members of the School participating in concerts and other forms of entertainment to raise money for the School and for the war cause.
Slit trenches were dug in the grounds, the front entrance of the School was cemented in to provide Air Raid Shelters and Miss Armitage had to face these changes with a good spirit.
It is said Miss Armitage found consolation in her little dogs, Ting-a-ling, a companion of her early years, and Patsy, a later replacement. They were also well remembered by the pupils of those times.
However, she also drew tremendous strength from all members of the School community, writing in her final report to the School in 1947, I never could forget the faith and pluck of those staff members and pupils who came back to school early in 1943, when there was every reason to fear the immediate future. That fear was faced with admirable courage, work was carried on, and standards were maintained, thanks to the loyalty and the unsparing help of all concerned with the School.
Miss Katherine Cameron Carter (1948 – 1964)
Miss Katherine Carter also studied in Melbourne where she held Senior positions at Clyde Girls’ School, Woodend, and the Methodist Ladies’ College, Hawthorne, before moving to Western Australia to become Headmistress of St Mary’s Church of England School for Girls, Perth.
Miss Carter loved teaching and her pupils, and would always see a better side to everyone. After the harsh shortages and restrictions throughout the war years, her kind and gentle touch did wonders in bringing school life back to normal, in increasing enrolments and in beginning the building program which was necessary after years of shortage and frustration.
Apart from introducing the House system, she introduced the Parents and Friends Association which held its first meeting on 24 March 1954.
Debating became a pastime for students to improve their public speaking, and the newly introduced Interhouse activities provided practice for girls to enter Interschool competitions, not only in Ipswich, but further afield.
Miss Carter also introduced hockey, which was a new activity being enjoyed at secondary level, the Science Club and a Girl Guide Company – 3rd Ipswich, while Athletics flourished during her time at the School.
Miss Carter loved writing plays and developed the practice of writing a new play each year to be performed by the girls at the end of the year in the midst of Christmas festivities. This became the renowned Annual Drama Festival, which was followed by Interhouse and local Drama competitions. The cup known as the Katherine Carter Drama Trophy for Best Production, was donated in memory of Miss Carter’s continued support of this venture.
Following her retirement in 1964, Miss Carter was honoured by the Queen with the award of MBE for her contribution to education in Queensland. The congratulations received in great numbers from ex-pupils around the world, testified to her influence on the young, and her well-deserved honour.
Kennedy, Thalia R. L. (1991). The first one hundred years. Boolarong Publications.