Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    The role of women in the Victorian Education Department, 1872-1925
    Biddington, Judith ( 1977)
    This thesis examines the role of women teachers in the state schools of Victoria from 1872 to 1925. As women constituted half of the teaching service, and as the Education Department drew a distinction between teachers on the basis of sex, it has been possible to look at the women teachers as if they formed a homogeneous group. An examination of the legislation, the periodic reviews, the practices of the Department and other contemporary evidence, makes it clear that women teachers were essential to the maintenance of a widespread, comprehensive education system. This conclusion is based on two major factors, supply and cost. For many reasons women were always available as teachers and were employed extensively. As their employment was combined with the practice of paying women less than men for the same, or very similar tasks, the development and maintenance of a system of education was made easier for the governments of Victoria in spite of almost constant pressure for economy. These two aspects form the basis of parts 1 and 2. Through two case studies, part 3 approaches the role of women differently. The assumption is made that women do not form a homogeneous group but are divided by broad issues of class, religion and politics as well as narrow and more specific issues. Two kindergarten experts, women with diverse backgrounds, provide the material for the first case study. Their expectations, contribution and recognition are examined, as is their relationship with other members of the teaching service. The second case study concentrates on the Victorian Lady Teachers' Association, a small, militant, feminist group which worked to have any differentiation between teachers based on sex removed. Although the group was not representative of all women teachers, it frequently spoke for them and was an important educational force. The two case studies, therefore, look at some of the varied roles filled by women, but more particularly highlight the differences amongst them and the difficulties of making generalizations about women or women teachers.