Woman Hyslop, Jocelyn Sophia

Academic, Religious sister and Social work educator

Written by Jane Miller, The University of Melbourne

Jocelyn Hyslop was born in Britain in 1897, the only daughter of Canon Archibald Richard Frith Hyslop (MA, Cambridge) and his wife, Alice Sophie Hyslop (nee Maynard). She attended St Leonard's school, Scotland, which had been founded by suffragist Dame Louisa Lumsden to provide girls with an education equal to that of boys, and was Head of School and Captain of Games for her house. At the London School of Economics and Politics (LSE) Hyslop gained the Social Sciences Certificate with distinction (1919); Diploma of Sociology (1920); BSc (Economics) 2nd Class Honours, with special subject Sociology in 1927; Mental Health Certificate with distinction (1932). Her studies were supported by the Loch, Metcalfe and Child Guidance (Commonwealth fund) scholarships (London School of Economics Register). Her application to enrol for a doctorate was accepted but not pursued for financial reasons. (correspondence, LSE Archives, LSE Secretary 4/11/1931). In England she worked in direct practice and as an academic, having a lifelong interest in disadvantaged children.

In 1934, aged 37, Hyslop arrived in Australia, recruited by Melbourne's Council of Social Training to establish generic social work education on the lines Council members had observed in England and America. (Specialist 'almoner' training had commenced in 1929). She was strongly influenced by a brief study tour of the USA en route to Australia, predicting that Australia might be able to find a better model of social work education than either the American or the English. She was especially impressed by the fact that in America they were 'teaching for a profession' in contrast to Britain which taught a broad social science course (Argus, 8 December 1934).

It was Hyslop's uncompromising insistence on high academic standards which resulted in the Social Work course being granted University status in late 1940. According to Social Studies Board Chairman, Professor Boyce Gibson, Hyslop had 'the gift of enthusiasm and of imparting it, [a] clear sense of strategy and [a] pronounced talent for organisation. (Registrar's Correspondence, University of Melbourne, 1944). As the founding head of Social Work at the University, she displayed dynamic and charismatic leadership, conceptualising and implementing a course of training which established professional social work in Victoria, setting the directions for the ensuing 30 years.

Hyslop battled local ignorance about the profession, lack of trained social workers to assist her, difficulties in recruiting and retaining qualified academic staff; the challenge of attracting high quality candidates to the course and, until its entry to the University, financial constraints. Through radio, newspapers and public platforms, she promoted a modern view of social work. As she told the Argus in 1944 'It is not giving charity - soup, flannel and groceries - as in the good old days in England: neither is it … telling people how to bring up their children' (Argus, 25 October 1944).

After a serious illness (probably contributed to by the strain under which she had worked for the previous ten years) Hyslop resigned in 1945 to enter a religious order. In 1946 she travelled to South Africa and in 1953 was professed as a Sister with the Anglican Community of the Resurrection. She died at the age of 77 in 1974. Her memorial in the Community chapel notes her original mind, enthusiasm and 'great gift with children' (Obituary, Community of the Resurrection Chapel, Grahamstown South Africa, 17 December 1974).

Additional sources: Correspondence, LSE Secretary, 4/11/1931; London School of Economics Archive; Obituary, Community of the Resurrection Chapel, Grahamstown South Africa, 17 December 1974; Private Collection; Records from the London School of Economics relating to the register.

Archival Resources

London School of Economics Archive

  • Correspondence, LSE Secretary, 4/11/1931; London School of Economics Archive. Details

Private Collection

  • Obituary, Community of the Resurrection Chapel, Grahamstown South Africa, 17 December 1974; Private Collection. Details

The University of Melbourne Archives

  • Registrar's Correspondence, 1944, 101/16; The University of Melbourne Archives. Details

Published Resources


  • Lawrence, RJ, Professional Social Work in Australia, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 1965. Details
  • O'Brien, L. and Turner, C., Establishing Medical Social Work in Victoria, The University of Melbourne: Department of Social Studies, Melbourne, Victoria, 1979. Details

Journal Articles

  • Miller, J and Nichols, D, 'Moving Among Friends: The Establishment of Professional Social Work Education at the University of Melbourne, 1929-1941', Social Work in Health Care, 2012. Details

Newspaper Articles

See also