Miss Mary Hamilton

miss mary hamilton 1932 - 1941

Miss Mary Hamilton was PLC Sydney’s third – and first female – Principal. She provided a calming influence after Dr McQueen’s very public and disquieting departure and led the College during the Great Depression.

Evelyn Mary Hamilton (1895-1985) was born in Victoria, the descendent of early Presbyterian settlers. She received both her BA and DipEd from the University of Melbourne. Before her appointment at PLC Sydney, she taught at Frensham School in Mittagong and in Queensland and then spent four years in France studying phonetics and doing educational work with the French YWCA.

Miss Hamilton could not have chosen a more challenging time to become Principal. Not only was the College at a low ebb, but by mid-1932 almost 32% of Australians were out of work.

She charted a “steady as you go” approach, followed a non-controversial path with regards to the curriculum, maintained the tradition of service to the community, and gradually the enrolment, and the financial situation, improved. In 1938 there were 262 pupils.1

The prospectus of the time states that the “School offers a full course from Kindergarten to Leaving Certificate Honours”.2 The curriculum included English, Ancient and Modern History, Economics, Geography, French, Latin, Mathematics, Botany, Chemistry, Geology and Physiology. The pupils also could take cooking and dressmaking, drawing, class singing and music appreciation. They were expected to participate in team games and to learn to swim.

During Miss Hamilton’s tenure full-time staff members increased to 23, with 12 additional teachers who taught “extra” subjects. The sesquicentenary of European settlement in Australia and the College’s 50th jubilee were both celebrated in 1938. The events garnered a sense of unity and purpose both nationally and within the Croydon campus. 

There was a service of thanksgiving at St Stephen’s Church in the city with a congregation numbering about 1100, including current and past students, and members of staff and College Council.3

Four days later, on Jersey Day, Lady Wakehurst, the wife of the Governor of NSW, officially opened the new gymnasium. The gym, which replaced the studio that had been brought from Ashfield in 1891, was a gift to the College from the ex-students to mark the jubilee year.

The celebrations finished with two garden performances of the pageant Under This Gum Tree given on 9 and 11 April. Ably written by Miss Flora Eldershaw, the Senior Mistress, this project involved every student in the school. The pageant was inspired by the big white gum tree that still stands in the grounds and illustrated the different periods of Australian history that the tree could have witnessed. She incorporated lines from Australian poets Mary Gilmore, A.B. “Banjo” Paterson, and Henry Lawson into her script.

As the decade progressed, the world political situation again became fragile with the increased fear of a more powerful Nazi Germany. Indeed, by Miss Hamilton’s last Speech Day address in 1941, Australia had been at war for more than two years. Miss Hamilton served PLC Sydney solidly for ten years. She resigned at the end of 1941 and joined the war services of the YWCA with the Australian military forces and was stationed in Tasmania.4

  • Hamilton Junior School Years 3-6 and Hamilton Hall honour the College’s third Principal.
  • Adelaide Elizabeth Perry (1891-1973) was an Art teacher and Art Mistress at PLC Sydney from 1930 – 1962. She studied with Frederick McCubbin at the National Gallery School and later at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. She exhibited works at the Salon des Artistes Français in Paris. Her works are held by the Art Gallery of NSW, National Gallery of Victoria, the National Library and the Queensland Art Gallery.

1 The Golden Hope Presbyterian Ladies’ College 1888-1988, John McFarlane, 1988, p. 80.
2 Series 3 Prospectus, Prospectus c1938-1941.
3 PLC Sydney Archives Series 11 College Anniversaries & Histories Box 116. NSW Presbyterian, 23 March 1938.
4 Series 43 Principals, Miss Mary Hamilton Box 401.



Miss Mary Hamilton
Portrait by Adelaide Perry