PAC ‘s only female enrolment in 1883

Author: Kate Pulford, College Archivist, PAC

Lilian Staple MEAD PAC 1883-1884

“’The only name of the feminine gender on our schoolroom walls.”

As we celebrate International Women’s Day today, we are delighted to share an article of interest from the Prince Alfred College Archives.

Our story is of a student enrolled from 1883 to 1884 and who is the only female to have attended Prince Alfred College in its 150 years. Her name is Lillian Staple Mead and she completed her matriculation at the College.

Within the text from our archives, it is said that during that time, there were no opportunies in South Australia for girls wishing to matriculate prior to entering the University of Adelaide.  Acknowledging this, the College Committee decided to admit young ladies who wished to prepare for the matriculation examination of the University of Adelaide, which had been established ten years earlier.

Lilian Mead was the first of four children from the first marriage of the Reverend Silas Mead (1834-1909) and Ann Staple (1836-1874). Both parents were born in England, with her father arriving in 1861 on the Parisian. They were married in Gumeracha 25 May 1864. Lilian was born in 1865 prior to another daughter (who became a Doctor) and two sons.

Following the College Committee’s decision on 11 April 1883, to admit young ladies who wished to prepare for the matriculation examination of the University of Adelaide, the following notice appeared in the Wallaroo Times of 14 April 1883 (transcript supplied by H. Daddow, letter 698 1997/79):

‘Higher Education for Ladies.  At a meeting of the Prince Alfred College Committee held on April 11, it was resolved (says the Register) that young ladies who wish to prepare for the matriculation to the University of Adelaide, be admitted to study at the Prince Alfred College.  This step was taken because it was felt that between the stage up to which the higher girls’ schools take their pupils and the university there was a grade of education for which there are at present no adequate arrangements in the colony, the Latin and Greek and higher mathematics forming no part of the regular course of any girls’ collegiate and that the Prince Alfred College was well able to supply this deficiency.’

The College Chronicle No.84, 5 Jan. 1906, p.309: ‘The only name of the feminine gender on our schoolroom walls is Lilian Staple Mead, and under that name the authoress has written (to quote the Register) “a charmingly and most interesting little volume entitled Patsie’s Bricks. It is crowded with interesting incidents from cover to cover”.’

Lilian Mead graduated with a B.A. from the University of Adelaide. She married Crosbie Brown in London in 1900 and wrote a number of books under her maiden name, examples of which include Patsie’s Bricksc 1903 and A Brother’s Need1903, and others which can be found online through book sellers.

The College is keen to know more about Lilian Mead.  Do you have anything to add? Or a photograph of her? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Kate Pulford
College Archivist