Leading 'excellence in infant work' in 1920s Australia

Kay Whitehead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article focuses on Inspector Lydia Longmore and 29 infant mistresses who were leading South Australian infant schools in the interwar year era. During 1926/1927 Longmore and each infant mistress in the state school system were interviewed by a journalist about her career path and current role, and profiles of their work featured week by week in the News, highly regarded newspaper. These accounts provide valuable insights into the early years of schooling and constitute the data for this article. The first section merges the women educators’ life histories with the development of the state school system in South Australia. The second section profiles their careers and professional networks in 1926/1927: 23 of the infant mistresses were in the capital city of Adelaide and six in large rural townships. The third section focuses on curriculum and pedagogy in the infant schools, as gleaned from the News, curriculum documents and Longmore’s reports. In so doing, the article highlights women educators’ shared commitments to progressive education (including Montessori’s ideas) and their collective advocacy with parents in the state school system. The final section explores some connections and disconnections with the early years of schooling in contemporary times.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-196
Number of pages12
JournalEarly Years: An International Research Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • early years of schooling
  • infant mistresses
  • Montessori
  • progressive education
  • Women educators


Dive into the research topics of 'Leading 'excellence in infant work' in 1920s Australia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this