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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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:
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
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)
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:
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
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
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:
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.
(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,
(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
(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
(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),
(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,
(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,
(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,
(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,
(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,
(58) AJHR, 1913, E-5, p. 14.
(59) Short Prospectus of Evening Classes for the Session 1907, SMTC
(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,
(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,
(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
(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
(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,
(91) Prospectus of Day Classes for Boys and Girls, Session 1908,
(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,
(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
(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.
(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)
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)
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)
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)
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)