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Presbyterian Ladies' College

This independent school was established in 1875 in East Melbourne as a sister school for Scotch College. Presbyterian Ladies' College (PLC) was one of the new 'academic' secondary schools for girls, its beginnings allied with the admission of women to the University of Melbourne in 1881. Crucial to its early success was the appointment of Oxford don, Charles Pearson as academic headmaster, though his politics brought about his dismissal in 1877, when he was succeeded by Andrew Harper. To prove that women were the intellectual equals of men, PLC had to achieve academically, yet it also had to produce 'true women'. Henry Handel Richardson (ex-pupil Ethel Richardson) captured these tensions in The getting of wisdom (London, 1910), though her unflattering portrait was contested by another ex-pupil, Leonie Kramer, in Myself when Laura (Melbourne, 1966). With teachers such as J.P. Wilson in mathematics, the school did indeed achieve brilliant results, though it developed a distinctive curriculum, blending 'male' academic studies with 'female' studies of music, modern languages and art. In 1938 PLC appointed its first woman principal, Scotswoman Mary Neilson, and in 1958 moved to its present Burwood site. Now governed by the continuing Presbyterian Church, it remains single-sex.

Marjorie Theobald

Fitzpatrick, Kathleen, PLC Melbourne: the first century, 1875-1975, Presbyterian Ladies' College, Melbourne, 1975. Details