Woman Stewart, Nancy (1919 - 1997)

Claremont, Western Australia, Australia
Clinical Psychologist, Lecturer and Teacher

Written by Deborah Towns, Swinburne University

Nancy Stewart was born in Claremont, Western Australia in 1919. Her father was a school principal who moved around the state, so Nancy attended many schools including Katanning, Mount Lawley, Geraldton and Fremantle. After passing her Leaving Certificate she began her teaching career as a monitor in Princess May Girls' High School and then in Fremantle, Mosman Park, East Perth and Highgate Primary Schools. While teaching she attended the University of Western Australia from 1937 and completed a joint major in English literature and psychology in 1940. The University of Western Australia was only the second university in Australia to offer a major in psychology and she was one of the first to be able to complete this degree locally. From 1939 she also studied for her teaching certificate at Claremont Teachers' College.
During World War Two, the Commonwealth Employment Service was established to place people in the most appropriate jobs. Children aged fourteen were tested to assess their capabilities. With her qualifications in psychology Stewart was employed by the West Australian Education Department to help with the testing and was to deal with 'problem children' and provide what was called 'guidance'. When she commenced this work in 1944, she was the first woman to be employed in the Guidance Branch. She was then appointed to the Welfare Department, South Australia in 1945, where she went on to become their first full-time psychologist in 1947. When the Child Guidance Clinic opened in 1950 she returned to Western Australia where she was appointed the state's first psychologist. The following year she travelled to London and gained employment as a psychotherapist. While there Stewart studied with one of the founders of child psychoanalysis, Anna Freud and gained a certificate after the course which would be considered as comparable to a Master of Clinical Psychology of University College, London, today.
After six years in London Stewart returned to Perth and with others developed a professional career path for psychologists. Throughout her career Stewart was committed to increasing the professional recognition of psychologists. In 1945 she was a foundation member of the Australian branch of the British Psychological Society, which became the Australian Psychological Society in 1966. She was the honorary secretary and chair of the Society at various times and was later made a Fellow. From 1957 to 1979 she was a lecturer in clinical psychology at the University of Western Australia. She died in 1997.

Archival Resources

The University of Melbourne Archives

Published Resources

Book Sections

  • Abernethie, Loarine, 'Interview with Nancy Stewart by Loraine Abernethie', in Hunt, Lynne and Trotman, Janina (eds), Claremont Cameos, Women Teachers and the Building of Social Capital in Australia, Interview Transcript, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia, 2002, pp. 101 - 111. Details

Online Resources

See also