Dr Marie de Lepervanche (1946)
Although I was sometimes a naughty girl at school and had more than one visit to Miss Ralston’s study for a ‘talking to’, my memories of schooldays are not unhappy ones. Quite the contrary. As I grow older (and I am now more than half-way through my 9th decade), I realise more and more how fortunate I was to have been at Wenona in the 1940s. In those days, it was not common for girls to be expected, or even encouraged, to go to university, but that encouragement was there in my final years at Wenona.
This encouragement came especially from two exceptional teachers, Miss Mills, our English teacher who taught us to think critically at what was a very conservative time, and Miss Grace, who taught Geology, a subject not then commonly available in schools and certainly not in girls’ schools. Geology opened up a marvelous world for me and I continued the subject at university, even gaining a prize for field-work at graduation. Alas, university professors did not encourage girls as my school teacher had. When I asked the then male professor for a reference to pursue post-graduate field-work he refused, saying ‘who would employ a slip of a girl like you?’. Who indeed? This was the end of my geological career as available jobs went to returned servicemen from World War II. Even so, and after travelling and working overseas, and ultimately a full-time career in anthropology at the University of Sydney for thirty years, I’ve retained a lasting interest in, and fascination for, what geology can teach us about our world. That interest began and was nurtured at Wenona for which I remain very grateful indeed.