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More than the ordinary domestic drudge: women and technical education in Auckland 1895-1922.


Like many of his generation George George, the director of Auckland's Seddon Memorial Technical College (2) (1902-22), considered marriage and motherhood as women's true vocation and believed in separate but equal education for girls that included some domestic training. In this regard, New Zealand historians often cite him as an advocate for the cult of domesticity, a prescriptive ideology that came to be reflected in the government's education policy during this period. (3) But as Joanne Scott, Catherine Manathunga and Noeline Kyle have demonstrated with regard to technical education in Queensland, rhetoric does not always match institutional practice. (4) Other factors, most notably student demand, but also more pragmatic concerns such as the availability of accommodation, staffing and specialist equipment, can shape the curriculum. Closer scrutiny of surviving institutional records such as prospectuses, enrolment data and the director's reports to the Department of Education, allow us to explore more fully who was given access to particular kinds of knowledge and resources, how long a particular course might take, the choices students made, what was commonplace and what was unusual, and what students might expect once they completed their studies.

To date, New Zealand historians have largely focused on the day technical school; yet in Auckland it was the part-time continuation classes, aimed at young people aged between fourteen and seventeen already in work, that dominated the institution numerically throughout this periods While less than half of all primary school pupils went on to post-primary education, it is perhaps noteworthy that of those who attended technical classes in Auckland, between forty and fifty per cent of technical day school pupils, and approximately one in three of the continuation class students, were females. (6) The earliest surviving enrolment register for evening classes (from 1913) suggests not only that women attended the technical college in significant numbers, but also that they represented a wide cross-section both in age (ranging from fourteen to fifty) and background. (7) Similarly, Shannon Brown in a study of female office workers in Auckland found the children of business, professional and white-collar men, as well as tradesmen, enrolled as day students at the college between 1906 and 1926. (8) While the rhetoric sometimes suggests otherwise, it was probably not the impoverished working-classes who dominated the technical college, at least not during the early years when students were required to pay fees. Even after free' place technical scholarships were introduced in 1904, fees were paid up front and then claimed back if students attended classes on a regular basis. (9) Thus, until such time as detailed quantitative analysis of the surviving enrolment registers is undertaken, I would urge caution in making assumptions about students' backgrounds. Further analysis of enrolment registers will ultimately provide more detailed information about the sex and age of students, their socioeconomic background and their prior education and employment experiences. Until such time, however, just by changing our focus to include the continuation classes, a more complex picture begins to emerge of the role technical education played in the lives of young women during the first two decades of the twentieth century.

Early definitions of technical education

The technical education movement that developed in New Zealand from the 1880s was closely linked to wider debates surrounding access to, and the relevance of, schooling. At the turn of the twentieth century, post-primary education was biased towards middle-class boys with an emphasis on academic aspects of the curriculum, matriculation, and entry into the university and the professions, even though only about one in twenty pupils went on to attend university. (10) At Auckland Grammar School, the city's state endowed post-primary school, both sexes received a similar education but in different classrooms. (11) Limited manual instruction (not usually considered the province of grammar schools) was available to the less academically able and as an extracurricular activity. The school, however, downplayed its existence and Auckland society preferred an emphasis on a classical style of education which provided credentials for upward mobility. (12)

Nevertheless, nationally there were calls for education to reflect more of life in the modern, industrial world. (13) The technical education movement attracted a diverse range of supporters; and Liberal politicians, keen to extend the free education system beyond the primary school, often reflected the gamut of opinion. While some wanted straight-out vocational training for the trades in the form of continuation classes for those already in the workplace, others believed there should be a greater emphasis on science teaching in the existing curriculum. (14) Another group, comprised mainly of educationalists (including the Inspector General of Schools George Hogben) supported by medical opinion, were concerned about the effects of cramming and rote learning and advocated a more realistic curriculum that included more practical work and less focus on book-learning. (15) A further lobby, worried about social issues such as wife desertion and a shortage of domestic servants, perceived a lack of domestic skills and wanted girls' schooling in particular made more relevant to future adult roles. (16)

In Auckland, the local Member of Parliament William Jennings was not alone in thinking that instead of loafing around the streets, as many New Zealanders are inclined to do', evening classes would create skilled and useful citizens'. (17) Yet while both the local grammar school board and the university college acknowledged the potential value of technical education, neither institution was keen to fully embrace it. Professor Frederick Brown (who actively supported technical education) later articulated a possible reason for this when he defined the perceived institutional boundaries in 1903: the technical school's function was to train the workers, while that of the university was to educate the country's professional leaders. (18) Both the university and the grammar school were keen to maintain the educational high ground.

Thus it was largely left to a small band of enthusiasts led by J. Henry Mackie (a coachbuilder who had attended the Working Men's College in Melbourne to learn the business aspects of his own trade) to raise the necessary funds to establish evening continuation classes aimed at those aged between fourteen and seventeen already in daytime employment. (19) When classes commenced in 1895 the Auckland Technical School Association offered utilitarian classes teaching a range of trades 'skills. Yet, from the outset, women were included. In July 1895, a local newspaper reported that '137 students of both sexes' had enrolled in eleven classes on offer. (20) Although no gender breakdown is recorded, it is likely that the women comprised the nineteen students enrolled in cookery and twenty in dressmaking, as domestic service and the clothing industry were major employers of women at this time. (21) By 1896, special day classes for ladies were advertised, and during the closing years of the nineteenth century women could take classes in freehand drawing, woodcarving, dressmaking and cookery. (22) The inclusion and timetabling of these classes (during the late afternoon), suggests that the school aimed to have broad appeal. Fluctuating rolls and continual financial difficulties meant that women's presence, as well as that of amateur' students, was welcomed. (23)

The Technical School under George

It was not until the Auckland Education Board took over the school in 1901 (after the passing of the Manual and Technical Instruction Act in 1900) that the school's survival looked more certain. (24) One of the Board's first tasks was to appoint a Director of Technical Education and, in late 1902, George George arrived from the English potteries town of Longton (now part of Stoke-on-Trent), where he had served as head of the Sutherland Technical Institute. There, George had worked closely with supportive manufacturers and workers keen to access specialist industrial education. (25) In Auckland, however, despite the fact that the city served as a manufacturing and distribution centre for the province, most local factories and workshops were relatively small-scale and George did not find a comparable level of interest in technical education; instead he noted 'a far greater desire for clerkship ... than for a trade'. (26) Nevertheless, he reorganised the existing classes that serviced the needs of the rapidly growing city into eight departments: building trades, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, plumbing, cabinetmaking, painting and decorating, commerce and domestic departments. Of these, women were restricted to the commerce and domestic departments, the latter initially consisting of just two subjects: plain (basic) cookery and dressmaking. (27)

George insisted that all students attend lectures before undertaking practical sessions, an approach that was somewhat at odds with the colonial mindset which tended towards a 'do-it yourself' mentality and learning on the job. (28) His initial, grandiose plans (which included extensive four-year courses) never took off--partly because the school lacked resources, but also because neither students nor their employers were willing to invest in extended periods of study. George, who had studied in Bristol during the 1890s where there was a close relationship between the Merchant Venturers' Technical College and the University College, envisaged that eventually the technical school might provide training from the elementary to university level, but few shared this far-sighted vision. Such high ideals conflicted with local notions of technical education; and George's lack of tact, unfavourable comparisons of New Zealand tradesmen with their European counterparts, his criticism of the Liberal's labour legislation, and insistence on initially recruiting qualified staff from overseas, did not endear him to everyone. (29)

George believed students should receive a good general education in addition to specific vocational skills, yet he quickly discovered that many of those enrolling for evening classes lacked a sound basic education. (30) Following the introduction of free place scholarships, he took the opportunity to provide more general education. First, in 1904, he established evening continuation classes at several local primary schools to bridge the gap between primary education and the standard deemed appropriate for entry into the technical college: the certificate of proficiency. From 1908, these classes also catered for junior and senior civil service examinations and matriculation and proved popular with young women as well as men, including a number of pupil teachers keen to enter the teachers' training college with better qualifications. (31) A second and more significant innovation, the establishment of a day technical high school (the second in New Zealand), occurred in 1906. (32) Regarded by George as a nursery' for the more advanced continuation classes, the day school offered a general education with a bias towards future occupations for pupils over the age of fourteen who had passed the proficiency examination. Initially, the day-school offered just two courses: science and technology for boys and commerce for both sexes. Later, a full-time domestic science course for girls (1908) and agriculture for boys (1912) were introduced, but neither was particularly successful in terms of enrolments. (33)

Women and vocational education

The philosophy of the technical school (and much later its motto) was learning for life' - a broad definition that included women. (34) While for some this was synonymous with domestic work, the local community had debated whether women should be educated for the domestic sphere or for paid work since the early 1870s. (35) By the time George arrived, there was growing acceptance that schools would prepare girls for both spheres, although ongoing debate concerning the balance between different aspects of the curriculum accompanied the introduction of free places and gained further momentum around the time of the First World War. (36) According to Rosetta Baume, a member of the Auckland Education Board and elected their representative to the Grammar Schools Board in 1917:
   At the very outset of the discussion educationalists disagree. Some
   contend that "differentiation" is the crux of the whole matter;
   that the education of boys and girls, must, by virtue of their
   different life-work differ at some stage of their school-life. ...
   Other leaders of thought repudiate this solution as a retrograde
   step--a narrowing of woman's sphere of work and influence--"a
   riveting upon her anew," as one woman said lately, "of the shackles
   of household drudgery and slavery." (37)

George, by virtue of his position, was soon drawn into this debate. As well as being director of the technical college, he was given responsibility by the Auckland Board of Education for overseeing the introduction of manual subjects in the city's primary schools. (38) Commencing in 1903, as part of wider curriculum reforms initiated by George Hogben, Auckland's primary schoolgirls were introduced to domestic training while boys undertook woodwork. To begin with, George reported considerable opposition from parents. (39) At the primary school level, manual training was justified to parents (and teachers) on pedagogical grounds, but it still proved difficult to convince Aucklanders of its value in an increasingly overcrowded curriculum. (40)

At the post-primary level, where the Department of Education initially had less influence, the grammar school maintained its traditional stance. Even after the grammar school girls moved to their own school site in 1909, the emphasis remained firmly on academic credentials. (41) Both James Tibbs and Blanche Butler (the second principal of the girls' grammar school) maintained that their function was to provide a good general education and credentials that would enable their pupils to take up vocational education at either the university or the technical college. (42) Butler saw no place for domestic science in her school, arguing that it would not find favour with parents in a syllabus that was already overcrowded. (43)

Domestic training

The introduction of cookery into the primary curriculum meant a considerable investment in facilities and equipment. Funded by the Department of Education, administered by the Board, and designed by George, Newton Manual Training School (in Upper Queen Street) was one of three manual training centres for primary pupils opened in the city in 1903. The facilities included a modern demonstration kitchen equipped with the latest gas range and gas burners in addition to a traditional range, and was considered as up-to-date as anything that existed in English technical schools at the time. Used by primary schoolgirls during the day and teachers on Saturday mornings, these facilities were also made available for evening classes. (44) Adult classes in plain cookery occupied two evenings each week: a lecture on principles on a Tuesday evening, followed by a practical class on Thursday. This covered a variety of cookery techniques, the selection and care of utensils, selection of food, and skills such as jam and pickle making, bottling, and salting of meats. George's wife, a qualified domestic science teacher, initially took the class whilst George recruited further trained staff from Britain. The following year, a more advanced course in high-class cookery designed with professional cooks in mind, was added to the prospectus; but unlike Brisbane where Scott, Manathunga and Kyle noted that both men and women attended such classes, this was not the case in New Zealand. (45) The advanced class proved less popular and, on occasion, was cancelled due to a lack of enrolments.

Laundry work also appeared in the evening class prospectus for the first time in 1904, but did not run due to a lack of enrolments. (46) Auckland's women did not appear keen to pay for classes to learn how to wash delicate fabrics, set and revive colours, remove stains, or iron; or to theorise about the selection of washing utensils or the wonders of soap, starch, soda and borax. (47) Rather these skills were learnt elsewhere--most probably in their own homes. George soon despaired that Auckland women considered it beneath their dignity to train as domestic workers.

Domestic service was the major female occupation throughout George's directorship, even if, as a proportion of the female paid workforce, it shrank over time. (48) Considered as the Cinderella of professions; the lot of the general servant in particular was not an attractive proposition to many women. (49) As early as 1892, the New Zealand Official Handbook had noted that young women favoured work in shops or factories, preferring 'the slightly higher wages and regular hours of commerce and manufacture to the obligations of domestic service'. (50) Auckland's domestic servants, like those elsewhere, sometimes complained publicly of long hours and poor treatment in private homes. (51) Given a choice, young women preferred work in ... offices, shops, factories, tea-rooms, restaurants, hospitals, and other places where systematised work, regular hours, and recognised positions replace the irregularities and uncertainties of domestic life'. (52) In this way, as well as contributing financially to their families, young women could still help their mothers at home and have some free time for leisure activities. (53)

The inclusion of domestic training within technical education was regarded by some as a way of elevating the status of domestic servants (and domestic work generally), but a consistent shortage of servants meant that there was little inducement for women to gain new skills as work was readily available without formal training. (54) When George failed to attract prospective domestic servants to the technical college, he tried a different tack--he appealed to middle-class women so that they could pass the knowledge gained on to their servants:
   It would appear that the majority of the ladies in Auckland
   consider it infra dig. to receive special training in such subjects
   as Cookery and Laundry Work. This, I think, is to be deplored, as
   with the generally unsatisfactory state of domestic service, it
   would seem to be of advantage for mistresses to be able to impart
   special knowledge such as can be obtained from the Technical School
   to their servants, even although they may not require to make use
   of it themselves. (55)

This appeal marked a change in emphasis--it was now up to all women to acquire specialist knowledge which they could apply to managing their own homes, with or without the support of servants. We do not know how successful it was, as no enrolment data for this period has survived, but in 1906 a separate prospectus appeared entitled Special Classes for Ladies', listing day-time classes in art needlework and embroidery, dressmaking, cookery, laundry work and millinery. (56) The application of science and new scientific management theories to women's work was welcomed by some, not only as a way to lighten women's load, but also as a means to raise the status of domestic works. (57) By 1912, however, even George commented that he was no longer convinced that domestic training alone would provide an adequate solution to New Zealand's domestic problem'. (58) While cookery and laundry work failed to attract large numbers of students, continuation classes in dressmaking and millinery proved far more popular although no distinction was made as to whether the classes were for those engaged as apprentices in the trade, or those wanting home-based skills. (59) By 1908, there was a morning, an afternoon, and two evening classes in basic dressmaking as well as a more specialised course in tailoring and cutting aimed at tradesmen and women. Millinery, introduced for the first time in 1905, was also popular and an afternoon, as well as an evening class, was established. In addition, the Board of Education appointed itinerant instructors to take classes in rural centres. George, however, complained that students treated dressmaking classes more as an entertainment, that they gained little from them, and that many students left after a short times. (60) Reading between the lines of George's reports it appears that many students may have wanted basic dressmaking and hat-making skills and accessed the classes for only as long as it took to gain them; they were not interested in improving their general education. (61) Young women (many taking advantage of the free place regulations) were often learning how to make their own clothes and trim hats in order to save money. (62) At the same time, however, they were also acquiring highly marketable skills as the number of women employed in the clothing industry grew during the first decade of the century. (63)


While domestic training did not prove particularly popular with Auckland's young women, commerce classes did. A demand for clerical and bookkeeping skills preceded the founding of the technical school and led to the establishment of a number of private commercial colleges in the city from the 1890s onwards. The early inclusion of commerce (shorthand continuation classes were offered from 1895) was encouraged by the way in which technical education was initially funded--a capitation system whereby the government paid a grant based on students' hourly attendance. (64) The setting up of classes did not call for a large expenditure of energy or money, it was relatively easy to find teachers, and the classes were popular. (65) George soon noted commerce's domination, although typewriting was severely restricted during the early years as the Department of Education initially only provided funding for six typewriters. (66)

From the outset George, following the English example, worked closely with the Auckland Chamber of Commerce to meet local needs. Firms were so keen to employ students that within a few years demand outstripped supply. (67) George insisted on a good general education as well as specialist skills. He included commercial arithmetic, commercial geography, and English (which included precis writing and correspondence) as compulsory subjects; and French, bookkeeping, typewriting and shorthand as optional ones. But during the early years few students took the full course. (68) Men and women studied commerce together in the same classroom, with men learning to type and women studying bookkeeping. By the time of the First World War, however, there was more gender differentiation with shorthand and typing now regarded as female occupations, while men were more likely to take up accountancy. (69)

Commerce proved a popular option with parents and daughters who wanted to have the ability to earn their own living. (70) Regarded by many as an attractive alternative to domestic or factory occupations, office work did not suffer from such low status or the same lack of dignity. (71) Even George considered it as suitable work for women, as in his opinion it did not require 'a tremendous amount of brains, and brought young women into contact with 'a better class of people' than factory work. (72) It soon became obvious to him (as it was to directors of technical education in other parts of New Zealand) that girls would go into commerce regardless of attempts to try to persuade them otherwise. As historians McKenzie, Lee and Lee have previously argued, despite the Department of Education's vigorous promotion of subjects such as agriculture for boys and domestic science for girls, ambitious parents and pupils were more attracted to alternatives that they perceived as higher-status work. (73)

While the majority of young women studying commerce were destined for a brief period in an office as a typist or clerk before marriage, a few embarked on advanced commercial studies. Students who completed preliminary training in bookkeeping, and who had turned eighteen, could take up accountancy and, after 1911, were able sit the special examination for the diploma in bookkeeping conducted by the University on behalf of the Society of Accountants. (74) While few young women pursued this option, which challenged contemporary notions of women's work, by 1917 the Auckland University College Commerce Students' Association commented on the number of women studying for the diploma. (75)

Day courses

When the day-school commenced in 1906 in addition to a general education, students devoted some of their time to vocational training. At Auckland, commerce was the first (and only) day-school course offered to girls. Although the reasons for this are not spelt out by George, it is likely that this was because commercial classes were relatively easy and cheap to set up, they were popular, and because the existing resources for practical work in domestic subjects were already stretched. When domestic science was finally introduced in 1908, George made no mention of training domestic servants, but instead emphasised the future role of wives and mothers:
   Nothing is of greater importance to the community than that our
   girls should receive such training as will fit them to become good
   wives and mothers, and the course of training now offered at the
   College for the first time is such as will prove useful to girls,
   no matter what station in life they may occupy.

   ... it is most important that our girls should grow up to be
   womanly women', and take an intelligent interest in the home and
   its duties. The Domestic Science Course which has been instituted
   this year at the College is designed to supplement the
   home-training which girls usually receive, and while their general
   education is not lost sight of, to better fit them for the duties
   of homemaker. (76)

General education, much valued within the community, was still stressed. Emphasis was also put on character building' and cultivating appropriate virtues such as neatness, accuracy, resourcefulness, courtesy and good manners, although George was careful to equate these with civility rather than servility. (77)

Whilst George ultimately highlighted women's future roles as wives and mothers, he also promoted the course as providing an excellent foundation for those wanting to enter the paid workforce as housekeepers, dressmakers, milliners and nurses. In its first year, 1908, twenty-four students enrolled--the maximum that could be accommodated. (78) Designed as a two-year course it covered cookery (including invalid cookery), dressmaking and needlework, millinery, housewifery, laundry work, physical education, human physiology (health and hygiene) and some basic chemistry. Pupils also received instruction in handwriting, English (including composition, precis writing, letter writing and literature) and practical mathematics. (79) The course, however, never comprised more than a third of the girls attending the day-school and of these, many stayed for only a year. According to George, parents reported that the girls have become so helpful to them at home on account of the tuition they have received at school, that they cannot possibly spare them for another year'. (80) Students were often required at a comparatively young age to contribute to the household income through paid or unpaid work, and frequently left school with their parents' blessing. (81) But while only around half of all day-school pupils continued into a second year; George reported, and surviving enrolment rolls indicate, that some would then take up evening classes. (82)

In presenting evidence to the Royal Commission on the Cost of Living in 1912, George remarked that girls attending the day-school were well set up to make a start in dressmaking and other branches of women's work'. He also noted that he would like to see trained domestic workers recognized as something more than the ordinary domestic drudge'. (83) But, as already noted, it proved difficult to raise the status of domestic work and George conceded that while he considered domestic training an important part of girls' education, girls generally did not. George tried to make the subject more appealing. In 1915, for example, he introduced a childcare component in association with the matron at a local creche, but while this was enthusiastically received by students it failed to result in increased enrolments. After the First World War an increased demand for domestic science teachers led to a brief burst in the subject's popularity among day pupils, but in comparison with commerce its appeal remained limited. (84)

Such was the dominance of commerce throughout New Zealand that, in 1908, the Department of Education made changes to the regulations governing capitation to encourage the larger day technical schools to lessen their emphasis on commercial subjects and include more practical training. (85) Thereafter, at Auckland, day girls taking commerce were required to devote two hours each week to domestic training while the boys undertook woodwork and metalwork classes. (86) The inspectors hoped that this deliberate attempt at social engineering would have the effect 'in not a few cases of enabling pupils to discover that their powers would probably be better employed elsewhere than in an office'. (87) It did not. Instead, George reported that girls often left the technical college course after just a year, preferring to pay private commercial colleges so that they could devote all their time to shorthand and typing, a situation he later reported again after the government amended the free place regulations for girls in 1917, requiring all girls (including those at the grammar schools) to receive compulsory domestic education. (88) As David McKenzie has previously noted, it is ultimately not politicians and educationalists who define the knowledge of most worth', but students, parents, and potential employers. (89)

The extension of domesticity into new fields

While George regarded women's primary role as wives and mothers, he also accepted that some women might have to earn their own living. As early as 1906, he quoted from a report on technical education in the state of Massachusetts suggesting that such women should be prepared for industries closely allied to the home. (90) While cooks, housekeepers, dressmakers and milliners readily fitted this definition, George also encouraged the extension of domestic skills into professional fields such as teaching and nursing that required credentials for registration purposes. (91)

Between 1902 and 1914 as well as being director of the technical college George was responsible for overseeing the introduction of manual subjects into the city's primary schools and, as such, teacher training became an important part of his work. In 1904, for example, 325 students (many of them women) enrolled in teachers' classes compared with 312 in other classes. (92) In the absence of a teachers' training college, George trained teachers in the new curriculum. (93) In addition, he also provided evening and Saturday morning classes for teachers and pupil teachers studying for C and D examinations set by the Department of Education. (94) After Auckland Training College reopened in 1906, technical college staff continued to provide specialist classes for teachers and teacher trainees in art, nature study, agriculture, woodwork (for men) and cookery (for women) and hygiene and physiology classes. (95) These classes attracted a significant proportion of female students. Of 164 women whose names appear on the 1913 enrolment register for continuation classes, the largest cohort (55) were teachers or pupil teachers. (96)

Teachers were not the only group of women to receive domestic instruction as part of their professional training. In late 1908 George, who considered that the domestic course in the day-school provided an excellent basis for entry to nursing, invited the local hospital board to recognise it as such. (97) The following year, new regulations under the Nurses Registration Act (1901) saw the college provide classes in invalid cookery to probationary nurses in local hospital board employment. (98) A compulsory subject, trainee nurses now had to provide a certificate stating they had attended a course and passed an exam in invalid cookery before they could sit their final state exam. In Auckland, the hospital board contracted for a course of forty-five hours of evening classes comprised of lectures, demonstrations and practical work. The syllabus covered theoretical aspects of diet and nutrition including the feeding of children and infants; as well as practical sessions where students learnt how to make and present a variety of foods suitable for invalids. (99) George only ever mentioned these classes in passing in his annual reports, probably because they formed a minor part of the college's work, but they provided another key opportunity for women wanting professional registration and up to forty women took the course in any given year. (100)

While nursing and teaching could be regarded as an extension of women's traditional roles, a third course that led to exams required for professional registration, pharmaceutical chemistry (pharmacy), did not fit quite as easily into the same mould. Commencing in 1912, the two-year course was open to both sexes. (101) But few women enrolled, as entry to this male-dominated profession first required an apprenticeship. This allowed mainly for women's participation if they were assisting male relatives--it was virtually unheard of for women to become professionally qualified in their own right. (102) Notions of suitable work, based on prevailing ideas about feminine and masculine roles often backed by medical arguments, meant that women's involvement in occupations beyond those perceived as extensions of their domestic role required initiative, personal commitment and a thick skin. (103) Nevertheless, the availability of training in new occupational areas such as pharmacy and accountancy suggests that the technical college also pushed the bounds of femininity, albeit if only for a small number of women. By the time of the First World War, even the technical inspectors recognised that the social changes occurring might now be irreversible:
   The trite saying that "women's sphere is in the home" has, for very
   obvious reasons arising out of the war; lost a good deal of its
   force, inasmuch as a large proportion of them will never have a
   home of their own, and while it may be true that the avenues to
   domestic service are sufficiently open and wide to admit all, it is
   nevertheless true that there are a large number of young women and
   girls who have a perfectly natural distaste for the drudgery and
   monotony so often associated with housework and nothing would
   induce them to enter upon it. At the present time the possibilities
   of employment for women as shop-assistants and clerks are many but
   there is a steadily increasing number of well-educated young women
   and girls who must earn their own living and for whom employment of
   a better type, other than teaching, will have to be found. (104)


While George espoused the tenets of the cult of domesticity before several commissions, within his own institution the inclusion of women was encouraged not only by broad definitions of technical education, but also by the way in which it was funded. As educationalists and politicians argued over the relative importance of various aspects of the curriculum, students and parents made their own decisions based on both familial and local employment options. Seddon Memorial Technical College attracted not only women who wanted to gain skills in women's traditional sphere such as cooking and dressmaking, but also others who used the available classes as a springboard to qualify for pink-collar and professional occupations. While most worked for only a few years and withdrew from the formal economy on marriage, they had, even if only for a brief period, an opportunity to experience life beyond ordinary domestic drudgery'.

During the early 1920s, New Zealand was plunged into economic uncertainty. In 1922, as part of wider government cutbacks, the Department of Education announced it would no longer fund classes considered of 'low educational value' if they did not meet a specified number of students. The classes identified included woodwork for amateurs, dressmaking, cookery, millinery, typing and shorthand. While this change in policy particularly hit the smaller technical colleges, its overall effect on women's presence in technical education has yet to be investigated. (105) Nevertheless, at the technical college in Auckland changes to the funding of evening classes, modifications in the management structure, the passing of the Apprentices Act (1923), and the arrival of a new principal would all contribute to narrower definitions of technical education that were far more male-orientated. (106) The final irony perhaps lay in George's departure from the college when, amidst scandal, he abandoned his own domestically-trained wife, and children, and absconded to Sydney with a woman who had worked in the college office. (107)



(1) I am grateful to the two anonymous readers and Dr Dorothy Page for comments on an early draft of this paper.

(2) Also known as Auckland Technical School and Auckland Technical College, the institution was renamed Seddon Memorial Technical College in 1912, in recognition of Premier Richard Seddon's support for technical education. (Seddon had been minister of Education between June 1903 and his sudden death in June 1906.)

(3) Erik Olssen, 'Women, Work and Family: 1880-1926' in Women in New Zealand Society, ed. Phillida Bunkle and Beryl Hughes (Auckland: Allen and Unwin, 1980), 176; Margaret Tennant, 'Natural Directions: The New Zealand Movement for Sexual Differentiation in Education During the Early Twentieth Century' in Women in History, ed. B. Brookes, C. MacDonald and M. Tennant (Wellington: Allen and Unwin, 1986), 93; Ruth Fry, It's Different for Daughters: A History of the Curriculum for Girls in New Zealand Schools 1900-1975 (Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER), 1985), 18; Roger Openshaw, Gregory Lee and Howard Lee, Challenging the Myths: Rethinking New Zealand's Educational History (Palmerston North: Dunmore Press, 1993), 112; Melanie Nolan, Breadwinning: New Zealand Women and the State (Christchurch: Canterbury University Press, 2000), 106; Melanie Nolan, 'Putting the State in its Place: The Domestic Education Debate in New Zealand' History of Education, 30/1 (2001): 17.

(4) Joanne Scott, Catherine Manathunga, Noeline Kyle, 'Technical Bodies: Towards a Gendered History of Technical Education in Queensland, 1880s-1940', History of Education Review, 29/1 (2000): 1-15.

(5) In 1906 (the first year of the day school) there were 83 day pupils and 911 enrolled in evening classes, by 1920 this had increased to 343 on the day school roll and 1,345 enrolments in continuation and associated classes. (Appendices to the Journal of the House of Representatives (AJHR), 1907, E-5, p. 19; 1921, E-1, p. 39).

(6) AJHR, E-5, various years. It is hard to determine accurate figures for the continuation classes as the statistics combine all special classes and associated classes in Auckland. Also definitions altered radically in 1921, when teachers' classes were excluded from the statistics.

(7) While some worked as domestic servants, there also appear to have been a significant number of young women helping in their own homes. Twenty-six worked in offices and a handful gave their occupation as 'shop assistant', whilst one student was enrolled during the day at a private commercial college. The largest cohort (55) worked as teachers or pupil teachers. Seddon Memorial Technical College (SMTC), Student Records--Evening Classes, 1913, Series 7, NZMS 823, Auckland City Libraries (ACL).

(8) Shannon R. Brown, 'Female Office Workers in Auckland 1891-1936' (M.A. (History), University of Auckland, 1993), 121-27.

(9) Teachers were the exception, Auckland Education Board paid for their classes. New Zealand Herald (NZH), 21 March 1903:3; Prospectus, 1904, p. 9; SMTC/1002, Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

(10) AJHR, 1901, E-12, p.7; see also Margaret Slingsby Newman's comments to the Cohen Commission, AJHR, 1912, E-12, p. 88.

(11) The Auckland Girls' Training and High School, established in 1877, was forced to amalgamate with the boys' school in 1888 after funding difficulties. After the introduction of Free Place Regulations in 1903, the grammar school roll grew rapidly leading to the establishment of an entirely separate girls' grammar school on its own site. This was accompanied by the emergence of a more gender-diversified curriculum. See Heather Northey, Auckland Girls 'Grammar School: The First Hundred Years 1888-1988 (Auckland: Auckland Grammar School Old Girls' Association, 1988)

(12) AJHR, 1901, E-12, pp. 5, 7, 10; Kenneth Trembath, Ad Augusta: A Centennial History of Auckland Grammar School 1869-1969 (Auckland: Auckland Grammar Old Boys' Association 1969) 72-3, 88, 102, 113; Northey, Auckland Girls 'Grammar, 38. For a general discussion on this point see David McKenzie, 'The Technical Curriculum: Second Class Knowledge?', in The School Curriculum in New Zealand: History, Theory, Policy and Practice, ed. Gary McCulloch (Palmerston North: Dunmore Press, 1992), 31.

(13) For example, see the comments of William Walker (Minister of Education), New Zealand Parliamentary Debates (NZPD), vol. 114, 1900, p. 697.

(14) NZPD, vol. 100, 1897, p. 293; vol. 114, 1900, p. 699; H. Hill 'Technical and Scientific Training', Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 35 (1902): 156-8, 166-7.

(15) Herbert Roth, George Hogben: A Biography (Wellington, NZCER, 1952) 40, 57-8, NZPD, vol. 100, 1897, p.290; NZH, 26 April 1899:3; Nolan, Breadwinning, 104; in relation to girls' education in particular see Auckland Star (AS), 19 February 1914:4, Evening Post, 18 February 1914:9.

(16) AJHR, 1897, H-6, p.ix; 'The Training of Domestic Servants' (delivered to the annual meeting of the National Council of Women in Auckland), NZH, 18 April 1899:3; see also Margaret Slingsby Newman's comments to the Cohen Commission, AJHR, 1912, E-12, pp. 88-9; Nolan, Breadwinning, 108.

(17) NZPD, Vol. 114, 1900, p. 697; AS, 9 April 1895:2; NZH, 21 July 1903:6.

(18) NZH, 24 March 1903:3.

(19) Louise Shaw, Learning for Life: The Origins of Auckland University of Technology 1895-2000 (AUT/Ministry for Culture and Heritage, 2002), 13-18; Edward Bartley, 'Early Reminiscences of Auckland', NZMS 1051, ACL.

(20) NZH, 9 July 1895:6.

(21) David Thorns and Charles Sedgwick, Understanding Aotearoal New Zealand., Historical Statistics (Palmerston North, Dunmore Press, 1997), 75.

(22) NZH, 7 March 1896:3, AJHR, 1897, E-5, p. 4. Considered as respectable female cultural accomplishments, freehand drawing and woodcarving were seen as developing aesthetic skills and women's 'taste' in areas such as dress and home decoration while technical drawing, a subject considered more useful for vocational purposes, was strictly reserved for men (AJHR, 1912, E-12, p. 176). It is also likely that women may have attended classes in shorthand, as they did elsewhere in New Zealand at this time, but no specific mention of this has been found.

(23) AJHR, 1898, E-1c, p.20; 1911, E-5, p. 15.

(24) The technical school was managed by the Auckland Education Board until 1919, when a Board of Managers consisting of representatives of the Board, the Auckland City Council, and pupils' parents took over the running of the school. In 1921 representation on the Board of Managers was extended to include local employers, employees and a representative of the school committees.

(25) NZH, 24 March 1903:3; AJHR, 1912, E-12, p. 162.

(26) AJHR, 1906, E-5, p.20; 1912, E-12, p. 165.

(27) By 1905 freehand drawing classes were offered to teachers and to girls enrolling in a specialist course in tailoring and cutting. Auckland Technical School, Prospectus of the Evening Classes, 1908, p.67, SMTC 1002, AUT; AJHR, 1905, E-5, p. 13, 1906, E-5, p. 20.

(28) Stuart Wallace, 'Town versus Gown in Auckland 1872-1919', New Zealand Journal of History (NZJH) 7/2 (1973): 185; David McKenzie, Gregory Lee and Howard Lee 'The Transformation of the New Zealand Technical High School', Delta Research Monograph No 10 (Massey University, 1990), 6; AS, 16 May 1910:4.

(29) McKenzie, Lee and Lee 'The Transformation of the New Zealand Technical High School', 27; John Nicol, The Technical Schools of New Zealand (Wellington, NZCER, 1940), 8; Auckland Technical School, Prospectus for the Session 1903, SMTC/1002, AUT; NZH, 21 March 1903:3; AJHR, E-5, 1903, p. 13; Reports from Mr Isaac (Technical Inspector) to Mr Hogben

(28) October 1904, 8 December 1904, BCDQ A739 951b Archives New Zealand, Auckland; AJHR, 1912, E-12, p.164. Some MPs such as John Jenkinson (Canterbury) envisaged that the technical schools would one day be attached to the university colleges but others wanted technical education limited to practical education in the form of a trade. (see NZPD, vol. 114, 1900, pp. 701-2)

(30) Report of the Director for the Year 1903, pp.11-12, SMTC/1005/1, AUT.

(31) Report of the Director for the Year 1903, p. 12, SMTC/1005/1; Prospectus of the Evening Classes, 1908, SMTC/1002; Report of the Director for the Year 1914, pp. 45, 56, SMTC/1005/7, AUT.

(32) The first technical day school opened in Wellington in 1905. See Noel Harrison, The School That Riley Built: The Story of the Wellington Technical College from 1886 to the Present Day (Wellington: Wellington Technical College, 1961)

(33) Prospectus of Day Classes for Boys and Girls, Session 1908, SMTC/1002 AUT; Shaw, Learning for Life, 30-1.

(34) The motto, vitae non scholae discimus (We learn for life, not for school) was adopted in 1928.

(35) Judith Elphick, 'What's wrong with Emma? The Feminist Debate in Colonial Auckland', NZJH 9/2 (1975):126-141; Mrs. Shayle George, 'The Education of Girls' (Auckland, Upton and Co., 1874).

(36) When, in 1908, Anne White law (the first principal of Auckland Girls' Grammar School) described women's 'most useful womanly occupation' as the home the Taranaki Herald described her viewpoint as 'somewhat old-fashioned' (Taranaki Herald, 23 December 1908:4). New Zealand Graphic and Ladies Journal, vol. 8, no. 30, 25 July 1891:206; 'The Modern Girl', Auckland Weekly News, 2 February 1905:52; 'The Education of Girls', White Ribbon, 14/3, February 1908:7; Openshaw, Lee and Lee, Challenging the Myths, 102; Nolan, Breadwinning, 106, 118.

(37) R.L. Baume, 'One Aspect of the Education of Girls', N.Z. Capital and Labour Review, 1 October 1917:27.

(38) AJHR, 1904, E-5, p. 14; Report of the Director for the year 1914, p.1, SMTC/1005/7, AUT.

(39) Report of the Director of Technical Education and Manual Training 1904, p.1, SMTC/1005/2; 1914, p.16, SMTC/1005/7, AUT.

(40) AJHR, 1905, p. 12; 1906, E-5, p. 20; AS, 15 May 1908:4; see also comments to the Auckland Grammar Schools' Board in Report to Chairman, AGSB from Blanche Butler and Annie Morrison, 25 June 1917, AGSB 1917, ACL.

(41) AJHR, E-12, 1912, p.136; J.L. Millman, 'Aspects of Girls' Secondary Education in Auckland 1900-1945' (M.A. (Education), University of Auckland, 1987), 24.

(42) AJHR, E-12, 1912, p. 137; AS, 28 March 1917:8; Report from the Headmaster and Headmistresses, Auckland Grammar Schools, 25 June 1917, AGSB 1917, ACL.

(43) Report to Chairman, AGSB from Blanche Butler and Annie Morrison, 25 June 1917, AGSB 1917; Letter to Chairman, AGSB from Blanche Butler, 20 August 1918, AGSB 1918, Millman, 'Aspects of Girls' Secondary Education in Auckland 1900-1945', 41. Domestic science was introduced into the girls' grammar school in 1918, after the Department of Education altered the Free Place Regulations to make it compulsory. Commerce was introduced, after repeated requests from parents, in 1922. [Auckland Girls' Grammar School: A Brief History of the School Published by the Old Girls' Association to mark the 75th Jubilee, September 1963 ([Auckland]: Old Girls' Association, 1963), 39]

(44) NZH, 21 July 1903:6; Auckland Technical School Prospectus for the session 1903, SMTC/1002, AUT.

(45) In 1917, it was reported that there had only ever been one male enrolment recorded in cookery throughout New Zealand. Scott, Manthunga and Kyle, 'Technical Bodies', 6; AJHR, E-5, 1911, p. 15; E-5, 1918, p. 16.

(46) Auckland Technical School, Prospectus for the Session 1903, Prospectus for the Session 1904, SMTC 1002; Report of the Director for the year 1904, SMTC/1005/2 AUT.

(47) Auckland Technical School, Prospectus for the Session 1904, SMTC/1002, AUT.

(48) Olssen, 'Women, Work and Family: 1880-1926', 162-3; Thorns and Sedgwick, Understanding Aotearoa, 75.

(49) Otago Witness, 18 January 1900:59.

(50) New Zealand Official Handbook (Wellington: Government Printer, 1892) 161; see also comments of Mrs. Gibson on 'The Training of Domestic Servants': a paper delivered to the National Council of Women, NZH, 18 April 1899:3; Otago Witness, 18 January 1900:59.

(51) For example, see NZH, 14 June 1897:3, 23 March 1906:7; AS, 12 May 1909:8, 20 May 1909:3.

(52) AJHR, H-11, 1909, p. xv; see also NZH, 25 January 1908 (supplement):1; 3 March 1911:6.

(53) AJHR, H-18, 1912, pp.133-34.

(54) NZH, 18 April 1899:3; Mrs. Leo Myers, The Do-Little Dialogues on the Domestic Situation and its Solution' (Auckland:Gordon and Gotch Propriety Ltd., 1912), 4.

(55) Report of the Director of Technical Education and Manual Training, 1904, p.6, SMTC/1005/2, AUT.

(56) Prospectus of Special Classes for Ladies for the Session 1906, SMTC/1002, AUT.

(57) 'The Perennial Problem' White Ribbon vol. 12, no. 141, February 1907:4; Heath McDonald, "'This Educational Monstrosity": A Study of the Foundation and Early Development of the School of Home Science' (B.A. (Hons) University of Otago, 1984), 9.

(58) AJHR, 1913, E-5, p. 14.

(59) Short Prospectus of Evening Classes for the Session 1907, SMTC 1002, AUT.

(60) Report of the Director of Technical Education and Manual Training, 1906, pp. 6-7, SMTC/1005/4, AUT.

(61) AJHR, 1911, E-5, p. 7.

(62) AJHR, H-18, 1912, p. 73; E-5, 1920, p. 11.

(63) Olssen, 'Women, Work and Family: 1880-1926', 163; Fry, It's Different for Daughters, 61. In 1905, classes in tailoring and cutting were offered to women as well as men, but did not prove to be as popular.

(64) There are similarities between this and the EFTS (Equivalent Full-Time Student) system of funding of more recent times.

(65) AJHR, 1908, E-5, p. 27; 1912, H-18, p. 552.

(66) Report of the Director of Technical Education and Manual Training, 1906, p.11, SMTC/1005/4, 1903, p.6, SMTC/1005/1, AUT. (By 1908 the college had acquired forty typewriters.)

(67) AJHR, 1902, E-5, p. 13; 1904, E-5, p. 6; 1914, E-5, p. 64.

(68) Report of the Director of Technical Education and Manual Training, 1903, p.5, SMTC/1005/1; 1904, p.6, SMTC/1005/2, 1905, p. 9, SMTC/1005/3, AUT.

(69) Brown, 'Female Office Workers in Auckland 1891-1936', 98; Chas E. Wheeler, 'Women in New Zealand Industry', The Ladies' Mirror, December 1923:14.

(70) AJHR, 1915, E-5, p. 43.

(71) AJHR, 1908, E-5, p. 27; 1906, E-5, p. 20; 1913, E-5, p. 14; NZH, 25 January 1908 (supplement):1.

(72) AJHR, 1912, E-12, p. 166.

(73) McKenzie, Lee and Lee, Transformation of the New Zealand Technical High School, 12; in relation to agriculture see also Howard Lee and Gregory Lee, 'Putting the "Equal" into "Educational Opportunity": The Politics of Education in New Zealand District High Schools, 1869-1969', Waikato Journal of Education 3 (1997): 181-210.

(74) Prospectus of the Evening Classes, 1908, p.23; Report of the Director for the year 1914, p.46, SMTC/1005/7, AUT.

(75) AS, 28 March 1917:4.

(76) Prospectus of Day Classes for Boys and Girls, Session 1908, pp. 5-6, 11 SMTC/1002 AUT.

(77) Prospectus of Day Classes for Boys and Girls, Session 1908, p. 6, SMTC/1002 AUT.

(78) NZH, 5 December 1908, 3.

(79) Prospectus of Day Classes for Boys and Girls, Session 1908, SMTC/1002, AUT; NZH, 5 December 1908, 3.

(80) Report of the Director for the year 1914, p. 33, SMTC/1005/7, AUT.

(81) AJHR, 1908, E-5, p.2 5;H-18, 1912, p. 321; letter from John Payne, NZH, 16 November 1908, 4; see also comments of Thomas Sidey of Dunedin in NZPD, vol. 125, 1903, p. 551.

(82) AJHR, 1917, E-5, p.18; Evening Cass Enrolments, SMTC, NZMS 823, ACL.

(83) Report and Evidence of the Royal Commission on the Cost of Living in New Zealand, AJHR, 1912, H-18, pp.320-1.

(84) AJHR, 1916, E-5, p.21; 1920, E-5, p.9; 1912, H-18, pp. 321-2; 1913, E-5, p. 14.

(85) New Zealand Gazette, 18 December 1908, p. 3204.

(86) AJHR, 1912, E-12, appendix, p. 721; AJHR, 1915, E-5, p. 30.

(87) AJHR, 1910, E-5, p. 13.

(88) 'Transaction of the Tenth Session of the Australasian Medical Congress, 1914', p.93 cited in Tennant, 'Natural Directions', 96; AJHR, 1919, E-5, p. 9.

(89) McKenzie, 'The Technical Curriculum: Second Class Knowledge?' 30.

(90) Report of the Commission of the State of Massachusetts on Industrial and Technical Education, 1906 cited in Report of the Director of Technical Education and Manual Training, 1906, p. 9, SMTC 1005/4, AUT.

(91) Prospectus of Day Classes for Boys and Girls, Session 1908, p.11.

(92) AJHR, 1905, E-5, p. 13. In 1914 over 600 teachers and pupil teachers enrolled in these classes (AJHR, 1915, E-5)

(93) AJHR, 1904, E-5, p. 14; Report of the Director for the year 1914, p.1; Louise Shaw, Making A Difference. A History of the Auckland College of Education 1881-2004 (Auckland, Auckland University Press, 2006) 32.

(94) AJHR, 1905, E-5, p. 12; 1906, E-5, p.19; Report of the Director for the year 1914, pp. 24-25. At this time in New Zealand, teaching certificates were awarded by the Department of Education according to a teacher's capability. The higher level certificates (A and B) required a master's or bachelor's degree, the lower level C certificate required one section of a bachelor's degree, and D certificates were set and marked on a regional basis by the Department. The technical college took on responsibility for teaching new subjects in the school curriculum as well as employing a local headmaster to teach academic subjects to pupil teachers out of school hours. As well as academic qualifications, teachers were also certificated according to their level of teaching ability on a scale of 1-5. Thus an experienced and well-qualified teacher would hold an A1 certificate, a rare occurrence. The majority of teachers at this time held either a D or an E certificate, the latter being phased out at this time. [See A.G. Butchers, Education in New Zealand: An Historical Survey of Educational Progress Amongst the Europeans and the Maoris since 1878 ; Forming with Young New Zealand A Complete History of Education in New Zealand from the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century (Dunedin: Coulls Somerville Wilkie, 1930), 66, 249.]

(95) AJHR, 1908, E-5, pp. 32, 34.

(96) SMTC, Student Records-Evening Classes, 1913, Series 7, NZMS 823, ACL.

(97) NZH, 5 December 1908:3.

(98) AJHR, 1910, E-5, p. 33.

(99) Kai Tiaki, 2/2 (1909):72.

(100) AJHR, 1910, E-5, 1919, p. 10; 1920, E-5, p. 11.

(101) AJHR, 1913, E-5, p. 40.

(102) Young women frequently had difficulty in obtaining apprenticeships in retail pharmacies but as hospital pharmacy began to open up during this period, opportunities for women began to increase. See Louise Shaw, 'From Family Helpmeet to Lady Dispenser. Women Pharmacists 1881-1939', NZJH, 32, 1 (1998): 23-42.

(103) For a general discussion of the arguments see Nolan, Breadwinning, 104-6; see also The Ladies' Mirror, June 1 1923, p. 18.

(104) HR, 1916, E-5, p. 13.

(105) Liz Gordon, 'Ideology and Policy in the History of New Zealand Technical Education 1900-1930' (M.A., Massey University, 1984), 137; AJHR, E-5, 1924, p. 6. (The Department of Education justified cutbacks in domestic training with the argument that young women now received basic tuition at either primary or secondary school.)

(106) AJHR, 1924, E-5, p. 7; 1928, E-5, p. 6; E-5, 1929, pp. 7, 8.

(107) Histories of the institution (including my own) do not mention the breakdown of George's family life. In the context of an institutional history it does not seem appropriate, but in this context it is. I have yet to find any official record of the scandal as records relating to this period are incomplete. There is a veiled mention of it in Hector Bolitho, My Restless Years (London: Parrish, 1962), 42. The story, however, has passed down through staff and was repeated to me informally on several occasions. It was also independently verified in a phone conversation with one of George's descendants.

Author: Louise Shaw is a freelance historian. She has written commissioned histories for both the Auckland University of Technology: Learning for Life: The Origins of Auckland University of Technology 1895-2000 (AUT/Ministry for Culture and Heritage, 2002) and the Auckland College of Education: Making a Difference: A History of the Auckland College of Education 1881-2004 (Auckland University Press, 2006)

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Author:Shaw, Louise
Publication:History of Education Review
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Date:Jan 1, 2009
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