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Davey, Constance (1882–1963)

Davey, Constance (1882–1963)

Australian psychologist who specialized in work with children with special needs. Born Constance Muriel Davey at Nuriootpa, South Australia, on December 4, 1882; died on December 4, 1963; daughter of StephenHenry (a bank manager) and Emily Mary (Roberts) Davey; educated at country schools; B.S., University of Adelaide, 1915; M.A., 1918; Ph.D., University College, London, 1924.

From 1908 to 1921, Constance Davey studied part time at the University of Adelaide and taught mathematics and economics at a girls' school. While working on her Ph.D. in psychology at University College in London, she traveled throughout England, the United States, and Canada to observe teaching methods for children with special needs. From 1924 to 1942, she was a psychologist in the South Australian Education Department, where she established the state's first "opportunity class" for children with developmental difficulties. She also organized an extended-care program to provide vocational guidance and introduced a plan to train special-education teachers. In addition to her work at the Education Department, Davey assisted outside agencies as a consultant in handling children with problems. From 1927 to 1950, she lectured at the university and in 1934 helped establish courses to train social workers. In 1938, she was appointed to the government committee examining child delinquency, during which time she recommended reforms based on guardianship.

Also a political activist and a feminist, Davey was a 30-year member of the Women's Non-Party Political Association (League of Women Voters), working to see women represented on public boards and commissions. She helped draft a bill for the Guardianship of Infants Act in 1940, which supported equal parental guardianship. Davey championed reforms in the Children's Court, seeking the right for women to serve as jurors. From 1945, as senior research fellow at the university, she worked on a historical study of South Australian laws relating to children, which was published in 1956 as Children and Their Law-makers. She was elected a fellow of the British Psychological Society in 1950 and was appointed OBE in 1955. Constance Davey died of cancer on December 4, 1963.


Radi, Heather, ed. 200 Australian Women. NSW, Australia: Women's Redress Press, 1988.

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