Woman Harvie, Ellison

Alternative Names
  • Harvie, Edythe

Written by Ann Standish, The University of Melbourne

Edythe Ellison Harvie, always known as Ellison, was born in Prahran, Melbourne, in 1902 to Robert Harvie, and his wife (née Marshall). She went to the girls' school, Warwick, in East Malvern. After secondary school, she was keen to realise her long-held ambition to become an architect, but was unable to find an architectural practice willing to accept her as an articled assistant. With great determination, she nevertheless began architecture training at Swinburne Technical College between 1920 and 1923.

Here, Harvie's skills caught the attention of her building construction lecturer, Arthur Stephenson, an architect whose practice with Percy Meldrum focused mainly on the design of hospitals, public housing developments and commercial enterprises. Harvie became Stephenson's first articled student in 1921. After graduating from Swinburne in 1923, she travelled to Europe to extend her experience in architecture before returning to Melbourne, and Stephenson & Meldrum, to complete her articles in 1925. She then took on a further four years of study at the University of Melbourne's Architectural Atelier, which prepared student to sit the qualifying exams for the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects (RVIA). Harvie excelled, winning the University of Melbourne's Atelier award and the President's Prize for best student work in 1927. In 1938, she was awarded a diploma of architectural design in recognition of the work she did at the atelier - the first woman to receive this diploma.

Harvie registered as an architect in 1926 and became an associate of the RVIA in 1928. She continued to work with Arthur Stephenson for the rest of her professional life. The practice became Stephenson & Turner in 1937, after Meldrum had left the firm and Stephenson entered into a partnership with former associate, Donald Turner. Harvie, in turn, became an associate of Stephenson & Turner the following year. It is not surprising, then, that Harvie is best known as a committed modernist, and for her design of hospitals and hospital additions. In this, she had a 'meteroic rise' (Willis and Hanna).

In 1926, as soon as she was qualified to practice, Harvie was made architect in charge of the Jessie MacPherson wing of the Queen Victoria Hospital, in Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, which was a major project. She went on to work on all Stephenson & Turner's hospital projects, in both Sydney and Melbourne, throughout the 1930s and 1940s, including the Mercy Hospital in East Melbourne (1934-1936) and the Royal Melbourne Hospital (1936-1941). She was recognized as an expert in hospital planning (and later aged-care facility design) and in managing major projects all the way through, from overseeing design to completion of building. She also designed the buildings for the exclusive the Lyceum Club in Collins Street, (1959), and St Hilda's College (1963), a women's college at the University of Melbourne.

Harvie is reported to have declared that 'there's nothing in architecture women can't do' (Obituary) and she did her best to ensure this was true. She provided an influential leadership role for other women architects, both through her own status as a prominent designer of large public buildings and through advocating for women's professional development and against discrimination of women in the workplace. She broke ground for women in many ways, as receiving her diploma of architectural design was not the only 'first' she achieved. In 1942 she was the first woman to be elected to an Australian Architectural Institute Council. When she was made partner at Stephenson and Turner in 1946 she was also the first woman to achieve such a position in an architectural firm in Australia. That same year she was the first woman to be elected a fellow of the RVIA. She also held positions on the boards of the RVIA's education section (1946-1956) and the University of Melbourne's faculty of architecture (1945-1973), was a founding member of the Melbourne Soroptomist Club and for two years president of the Lyceum Club. She died in Melbourne in 1984.

Published Resources


  • Goad, Philip; Wilken Rowan and Willis, Julie, Australian Modern: the architecture of Stephenson & Turner, Melbourne University Publishing, Melbourne, Victoria, 2004. Details
  • Willis, Julie and Hanna, Bronwyn, Women Architects in Australia: 1900 - 1950, 1 edn, Royal Australian Institute of Architects, Red Hill, Australian Capital Territory, 2001. Details


  • Carter, Nanette, Ellison Harvie, Pen to Pixel: 100 years of design education at Swinburne, Exhibition catalogue, Chapel off Chapel, Melbourne, Victoria, 2003, 7 - 9 pp. http://hdl.handle.net/1959.3/63918. Details

Journal Articles

  • 'Obituary', Melbourne University Gazette, vol. 40, December 1984, p. 14. Details

Online Resources

See also