During World War II when the boarders were evacuated to Stanthorpe, a limited house system was instituted to encourage participation in sport. The two houses were called Leslie and Cunningham, named after two local pioneers.
After the school was reunited at Vulture Street in 1945, it was decided to divide the school from Form IVA (Year 12) to Form IIB (Year 3) into four groups. The Houses were named to honour women in Australian history who had been outstanding in some special way. First Form and Kindergarten (Prep, Years 1 and 2) had their own system, Elves, Goblins, Fairies and Pixies.
Caroline Chisholm, wife of Captain Archibald Chisholm, is probably the best known of the four women selected for house names. She arrived in Australia in 1838, via Madras, where she had started a school for widows and daughters of soldiers. She was horrified by the condition of young women immigrants who arrived in Australia without resources or support and who were often driven to prostitution to survive. She devoted herself to fighting for better arrangements for new arrivals without institutional support. She won the interest and sympathy of Governor Gipps’s wife who allocated a barrack to use as an office and sleeping quarters so that she was always available to help those in need. Despite suffering abuse and intimidation she attracted the support of a group of women with social influence, as well as the assistance of some churches and other well-disposed people. Caroline worked for better quarters and supervision of those on the long voyage to Australia and encouraged girls to go to the country to work for reputable families that she had vetted. She was to be honoured by having her portrait on the five dollar note. The colour for Chisholm House is Yellow.
Within a short time of her arrival in Hobart in 1836, Jane Franklin, wife of Governor Sir John Franklin, set about founding a high school for girls; for females of the upper classes whose training she believed had been neglected. She planned for the school to be away from Hobart Town and the influence of Government House. Jane intended the girls be taught by staff who saw teaching as a calling and the curriculum was designed to train both mind and body. Initially she hoped for some government support but then realised this would involve having interference with the running of the school, so she opted for independence. She was interested in the welfare of women convicts and corresponded with Elizabeth Fry on the subject. Native plants and animals were of interest to her and she encouraged work that was directed towards their preservation. The colour for Franklin House is Red.
Elizabeth Macarthur came to Botany Bay in 1789 with her husband, John. She adapted well and assumed family and work responsibilities when her husband was absent in England for eight and a half years. It was Elizabeth who, often under straitened circumstances, managed Macarthur’s property where he mainly raised sheep and she was one of the first to ship merino wool to Britain. The colour for Macarthur House is Blue.
Lucy Osburn was one of five nursing sisters chosen by Florence Nightingale in 1868 to train nurses for the much needed hospital in Sydney. Miss Osburn was to be the leader of the group as she had knowledge of the tropics and had held responsible positions in two London hospitals — St Thomas’s and King’s College — and at Kaiserworth, Dusseldorf. Though quick tempered Lucy, like Miss Nightingale, had high ideals, courage and a determination not to accept defeat when the needs of her work were not being met. Lucy faced hostility from Sir Henry Parkes, the lay Superintendent of the Sydney Hospital, and from the staff there as well, but overcame many obstacles put in her way. The colour for Osburn House is Green.
The Houses have competed for the Adamson Shield since 1947, the shield being the gift of Dr R V Adamson, father of Shirley. In 1948 Mr D J Drysdale gave a shield for competition in Choral singing between the Houses. This is the shield still presented at Choral Festival. It was not until 1983 when the school was much larger that two more Houses were started – Durack and Gilmore.
Mary Durack (nee Costello) married Patrick Durack in 1862. He was one of the great pioneer pastoralists who crossed uncharted lands to the Cooper’s Creek area of Queensland in the 1860s, and later worked his way overland to settle in the Kimberley District of Western Australia. While his wife is not given a place in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, she deserves a place in history, being an archetypal colonial wife, surviving all the difficulties of the outback. She gave unstinting support to her adventurous husband, who was often away for long periods, and she reared to adulthood six of her eight children. Mary Durack, her grand-daughter, gives an insight into her story in Kings in Grass Castles. While her inclination was for a settled suburban life she showed endurance and resourcefulness when travelling with small children through harsh lands. She experienced drought and flood, having at times to live off the land, economic depression, loneliness and fear of hostile Aborigines. She died in 1893, a loved and respected matriarch. The colour for Durack House is Black.
Mary Gilmore (nee Cameron), born 1865, was in her time a teacher, feminist, social reformer and writer. Her upbringing in rural New South Wales gave her an appreciation of the ups and downs of daily life there and an understanding of the destruction of the land, with its subsequent impact on Aboriginal life and folk lore. She resigned from teaching in 1895 to throw herself into radical issues, including the fight for women’s suffrage. Mary joined William Lane’s New Australia Movement and participated in the utopian socialist experiment in Cosme, Paraguay, arriving in 1897. There she married William Gilmore, returning to Australia in 1902, the socialist experiment being unsuccessful. Lucy now concentrated on writing, having her work published in The Bulletin, and The Australian Worker. Her prose and poetry combined her abiding concern for social issues with an appreciation of the life and legends of pioneering days, best expressed in Wild Swans. She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1937 and, for over 50 years, she was a celebrated and highly respected member of the literary scene, dying in 1962. The colour for Gilmore House is Pink.