Woman Theobald, Marjorie Rose (1941 - )

31 July 1941
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

Written by Sharon M. Harrison, The University of Melbourne

Marjorie Theobald is a leader in the history profession who has made a significant contribution to the writing of public history, through key publications on the history of education in Australia.

Theobald was born on 31 July 1941 in the Ballarat Hospital. At the time, her father was sluicing for gold at nearby Smythesdale. The family returned to their home at Castlemaine where she spent her childhood. Her parents, Marjorie Evelyn Robertson and Ernest Frederick Madigan, were married in 1935. Both families go back for many generations on the gold fields around Castlemaine. Her father rose to be chief design engineer at Thompsons Foundry, with only technical school certificates, and devoutly wished that she should go to university as he had not had the chance. His granddaughter Gretta is now a leading Australian engineer, an achievement which would have made him very proud.

Theobald was educated at Castlemaine High School in the 1950s when State high schools routinely out-performed all but a few of the independent schools. Like many of her generation, her studies at the University of Melbourne were funded through a teaching scholarship. Though she soon learned that this relegated her to the bottom of the heap at that elitist institution, she has always been very grateful for this opportunity as her parents could not have afforded to send her in the days because of the prohibitive fees. Theobald graduated with a BA and a Dip Ed, and went on to teach in state and independent secondary schools, with time off to have her two children, Bruce and Gretta, having married John Theobald, a Monash University academic, in 1964.

Returning to study in 1978, Theobald completing her MA at Monash University while teaching full-time basis at Ruyton Girls School. She was then granted a Commonwealth postgraduate scholarship at Monash and was awarded her PhD in 1985 for her thesis on private girls' schools in Victoria before 1875. After an appointment as postdoctoral fellow at Monash University in 1986-1987, she was appointed to the Faculty of Education at the University of Melbourne and remained there until 2001, having been promoted to Reader/Associate Professor in 1995. Within the Faculty she served as Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies. In the wider university she was staff representative on the Council of the University; a Member of the Board of Melbourne University Press; a Member of the Board of St Hilda's College; and Chair of the Human Research Ethics Committee for Arts, Education and Architecture. She was president of the Australian and New Zealand History of Education Society in 1994.

Her single-authored publications include Knowing Women: origins of women's education in Australia (1996) which was short-listed for the Victorian Premier's prize for non-fiction in that year; Ruyton Remembers, 1878-1978 (1978); and The Wealth Beneath Their Feet: a family on the Castlemaine goldfields (2010) which was short-listed for the Public Record Office/Royal Historical Society's Community History Awards in 2011. She has edited several collections of articles including Women Who Taught: perspectives on the history of women and teaching (1991) with Alison Prentice; Family, School and State in Australian History (1990) with Richard Selleck; and Melbourne Girls Grammar School Centenary Essays, 1893-1993 (1993) with Rosslyn McCarthy. She has published numerous articles in scholarly journals and books both in Australia and overseas. She was editor of History of Education Review for six years and has served on the editorial boards of several national and international scholarly journals. In 1987 she was awarded a Canadian Government Commonwealth Visiting Scholarship to work at the University of Alberta and the University of Toronto and in 1991 spent a semester as a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia.

Upon retiring from the University of Melbourne Marjorie returned to live in Castlemaine where she is writing a history of the gold rushes and the town which emerged from them. Having taken early retirement in order to work on her research and writing, she is much in demand as a speaker and a contributor to local publications.

Additional sources: Personal communication between Marjorie Theobald and Sharon Harrison, July 2013.

Published Resources

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