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An Enduring Legacy

What motivated 35 year old Emily Hensley to travel across the world in 1890? She was leaving behind family, a successful academic career and the girls’ school she had founded in Devon. Along with her adventurous spirit, she had a passion for the education of women and had accepted a post as Principal of the Trinity College Hostel for Women (later named Janet Clarke Hall).

Emily was no cossetted, spinster daughter. In 1872, after a strong academic education, she won the right to be one of the first five students at Newnham College, Cambridge, receiving distinctions in her studies. Her time at Cambridge amongst the early pioneers clearly left its mark and she was a passionate advocate of education for women for the rest of her life.

After ten years of teaching girls, Miss Hensley opened a girls’ high school in Tavistock, Devon. She was drawn to the position at Trinity, arriving in Melbourne late in 1890, with Alice Taylor also a Newnham student. Conflict with the Warden of Trinity, Alexander Leeper, over the role of the Women’s Hostel escalated until eventually both women resigned late in 1892, intending to return to England. They were persuaded, however, to establish a girls’ school in Domain Road and thus Merton Hall, named after Emily’s residential college at Newnham, was born in 1893.

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Emily Hensley (centre front row) with her family at Cambridge in 1874
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Emily Hensley (centre front row) with her family at Cambridge in 1874
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The School thrived, after starting with nine students, including one boarder. It was designed as an academic school for girls and employed qualified teachers in a wide curriculum offering. Miss Taylor married in 1895 and Miss Hensley remained until the end of 1898 when she sold her school to the Morris family, returning to England, via India and America. On her death in 1916, Ada A’Beckett (Lambert), a science teacher she had employed in 1893, wrote that Miss Hensley left “a lasting influence on the educational life in Melbourne”.  

The School thrived, after starting with nine students, including one boarder. It was designed as an academic school for girls and employed qualified teachers in a wide curriculum offering. Miss Taylor married in 1895 and Miss Hensley remained until the end of 1898 when she sold her school to the Morris family, returning to England, via India and America. On her death in 1916, Ada A’Beckett (Lambert), a science teacher she had employed in 1893, wrote that Miss Hensley left “a lasting influence on the educational life in Melbourne”.  

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Miss Hensley left a lasting influence on the educational life in Melbourne.

Ada A’Beckett (Lambert), Melbourne Girls Grammar Science Teacher in 1893

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The Legacy Lives on Through The Emily Hensley Award

Over 127 years later, in the name of the Emily Hensley Award, we remember that influence and the woman who showed courage, integrity, self discipline and compassion in her own successful studies, who took these into her professional life and who embedded them into the foundation of our School.

Camilla Bachet (2001) was an inspiring inaugural recipient of the Award in 2018 and her presentation at the International Women’s Day Breakfast this year gave further evidence of her commitment to these same values in her engineering work with the provision of water to communities in need.

Natalie Molino (2008) the 2019 recipient of the Award is also a passionate woman, with her focus on healthy and sustainable food and its power to inspire change. She is working in different ways with businesses, non-government organisations, and policy makers to move our food system towards a healthier and more equitable future.

Nominations for the Emily Hensley Award are open in October each year.

The Legacy Lives on Through The Emily Hensley Award

Over 127 years later, in the name of the Emily Hensley Award, we remember that influence and the woman who showed courage, integrity, self discipline and compassion in her own successful studies, who took these into her professional life and who embedded them into the foundation of our School.

Camilla Bachet (2001) was an inspiring inaugural recipient of the Award in 2018 and her presentation at the International Women’s Day Breakfast this year gave further evidence of her commitment to these same values in her engineering work with the provision of water to communities in need.

Natalie Molino (2008) the 2019 recipient of the Award is also a passionate woman, with her focus on healthy and sustainable food and its power to inspire change. She is working in different ways with businesses, non-government organisations, and policy makers to move our food system towards a healthier and more equitable future.

Nominations for the Emily Hensley Award are open in October each year.

The Legacy Lives on Through The Emily Hensley Award

Over 127 years later, in the name of the Emily Hensley Award, we remember that influence and the woman who showed courage, integrity, self discipline and compassion in her own successful studies, who took these into her professional life and who embedded them into the foundation of our School.

Camilla Bachet (2001) was an inspiring inaugural recipient of the Award in 2018 and her presentation at the International Women’s Day Breakfast this year gave further evidence of her commitment to these same values in her engineering work with the provision of water to communities in need.

Natalie Molino (2008) the 2019 recipient of the Award is also a passionate woman, with her focus on healthy and sustainable food and its power to inspire change. She is working in different ways with businesses, non-government organisations, and policy makers to move our food system towards a healthier and more equitable future.

Nominations for the Emily Hensley Award are open in October each year.

Article written by

Pip O'Connor

Multimedia Historian

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