|Death: ||Jul. 19, 1935|
Eleanor Mary Poulett Harris (known as Nellie) was the daughter of Tasmanian educationalist, Richard Deodatous Poulett Harris. Nellie was born in 1861, the oldest of the children from Richard's second marriage (to Elizabeth Eleanor, nee Milward.) Whilst she had older half-siblings, both in Tasmania and England from her father's first marriage; her younger full-brother was Henry (an A-Grade cricketer, born in 1866.) She also had some younger sisters, Anna May (born 1869) and the twins, Louisa Violet and Harriet Lily (born in 1873.)
Eleanor followed in the footsteps of her father,an educationalist and Anglican priest who had founded the University of Tasmania, Hobart High School and the Hobart Branch of the Masonic Lodge. (Notably, one of her half-sisters from her father's first marriage, Georgiana, became the first female school principal in Christchurch, New Zealand.) A devout Anglican, Nellie worshipped at All Saints in South Hobart (it is unclear whether it was High Church [Anglo-Catholic] at that time, as it is now, or Low Church, in the tradition of her father's own preaching at Holy Trinity in North Hobart.)
Herself educated at the non-denominational Hobart High School, Nellie then studied at the University her father founded and, in 1879-1880, at the age of 18, achieved the best result of any female ever to graduate from that institution, at a time when the University of Tasmania had not fallen into disrepute as it has today. She majored in Music, with strong complimentary results in English and French to the accolades of her peers, with an Associate of Arts (AA) certification.
Her career after this began with her teaching at the Hobart Ladies' College (now part of the modern-day Saint Michael's Collegiate) and as a private tutor at her father's Peppermint Bay residence, before founding the Ladies' Grammar School and Kindergarten with her younger twin sisters, Violet and Lily, in 1895. This was located at 26 Davey Street, Hobart. Speculation suggests that Nellie may have been at least partially inspired to found her school by a Canon Shoobridge, who was rector of Holy Trinity in North Hobart during the 1890s. It is documented that, at this time, Shoobridge was desirous that a school for the teaching of girls and infants be established. Because of Richard Poulett-Harris' work at the parish, it seems likely that the Ladies' Grammar School was at least partly the result of Shoobridge's advocacy.
As principal and music teacher, she quickly built the school but suffered great tragedy in her personal life,as the younger twin Lily, her fellow teacher at the school she founded,died in 1897,at the age of only 23, of tubercular peritonitis and her father died on December 24th, 1899, having battled depression and seen his house at Peppermint Bay burn down just a few years before, losing a life's worth of valuable papers and work. Nellie placed deeply moving memorial plaques to them both in All Saints, South Hobart and Holy Trinity, North Hobart, respectively.
Nonetheless, her school blossomed. It grew from ten to seventy students in the first four years of operations, several students taking the senior examination for admission into university. Reputedly, she provided a low-stress study environment in which students did not feel the need to "cram" for examinations, obviously quite innovative even by modern standards.
She sold the Davey Street property to the Collegiate School in 1903 and relocated to an entirely new property in 4-6 Albuera Street,on the border of South Hobart and Sandy Bay. This new property was advertised as having the very latest facilities for student hygiene and comfort, of interest to note given the very harsh and draughty conditions in most of the rudimentary school premises of that era. Here she had six classroom teachers and a number of part-time specialists in her employ. Some of these part-timers appear to have also taught at Hobart's Quaker School, indicating a partnership of sorts with them. Nellie and Violet both specialised in teaching music.
Other specialist subjects provided by her school were German, elocution, drawing and painting, drill, needlework and physical education. Another, specialist, music teacher taught piano-forte a few days each week. Nellie taught males to the age of 10 but prepared females for both junior and senior examinations, nobly passing on the knowledge she had garnered in her own time as a student.
She taught into the new century and the tragic years of the Great War but it is unknown if she passed her father's predominantly pacifist attitudes onto her students.
It is known that she became interested in a variety of causes, including the MCL (Missionaries to Children League), a movement to provide free kindergarten education and the Women's League, a group seeking to provide women with a strong political education, hence with suffragist leanings.
Finally, circa 1920, she retired to New Norfolk whilst Violent continued to reside in Albuera Street. Nellie, a true female intellectual before her time and compassionate Christian teacher of young women, passed away in July 1935 at the age of 73 and is buried alongside her dear forever young sister Lily and her father Richard Deodatus, at Cornelian Bay Cemetery in Hobart, Tasmania. Sadly, her school, having been taken over by another family upon her retirement, did not survive and is now all but forgotten (an unrelated Government school still exists in Albuera Street at this time, across the road from her establishment.)
Nevertheless, this visionary, pioneering lady's legacy is passed down to future generations through those she taught at the school she created.
Nellie's grave is located at Cornelian Bay Cemetery, Hobart, Plot J80. She was buried on July 22nd, 1935, in an Anglican service.
Cornelian Bay Cemetery And Crematorium
Created by: D. L.
Record added: Jan 02, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 46233919
Great work at uncovering social history. I always like to read about early Tasmanians. Thanks for providing this insightful bio.|
Added: Jan. 6, 2010
A highly interesting and somewhat inspiring person. I have garnered a great deal of knowledge on this stage of my research project, despite the scant details available about Miss Poulett-Harris and her school.RIP.|
Added: Jan. 2, 2010