Fewings, Eliza Anne (1857–1940)

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Fewings, Eliza Anne (1857–1940)

British and Australian educational reformer . Born in Bristol, England, on December 28, 1857; died in Wales in 1940; daughter of Charles and Sarah (Twining) Fewings; trained as a teacher under her brother, headmaster of the King Edward VI Grammar School in Southampton.

Eliza Fewings, known for her dedication to educational reforms in England and Australia, began her teaching career at the Roan Girls' School in Greenwich, England. From 1886 to 1896, she was headmistress of Dr. Williams' Endowed High School for Girls in North Wales, and also served on the Council of Bangor and Aberystwyth University Colleges. During this time, she campaigned for and won equal status for women at Aberystwyth College.

In 1896, Fewings became headmistress of the Brisbane Girls' Grammar School in Australia, so appointed by Queensland Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith and an all-male board of trustees. Concerned about standards at the school, in 1897 she petitioned for external assessment and the introduction of external examination, but was unsuccessful. She became the object of controversy in 1899, when she was dismissed on grounds of incompetence. The women in the community, among whom she was highly regarded, rallied on her behalf, writing to the newspapers in her defense and demanding public forums. Upon her dismissal, Fewings started a new school, the Brisbane State High School for Girls (later known as Somerville House). By 1903, it had secured external assessment and was the largest girls' school in Queensland, with 150 students.

Fewings, who made several trips overseas to study educational developments, served on the University's Extension Committee, and was a member of the Council of the Brisbane Technical College and of the board of Brisbane School of Arts. She returned to England in 1908, but traveled to Brisbane in 1921 to celebrate the 21st anniversary of Somerville House. She died in Wales in 1940.


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

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