Woman Teague, Cynthia (1907 - 2007)


Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia
Architect and Public servant

Written by Ann Standish, The University of Melbourne

Cynthia Teague was born in Hawthorn, Victoria, in 1907. She attended Ruyton Girls' School in Kew, where she was dux in her final year, 1923. Although she had had plans to study medicine, in 1924 she instead enrolled in Architecture at Swinburne Institute of Technology, also located in Hawthorn. In this decision she was probably influenced by her father, Charles Teague, an architect who practised with his stepfather, Guyon Purchas, in the prominent firm Purchas and Teague. Cynthia did her articles with the firm while she pursued her studies, mainly funded by scholarships. In 1928, she attended the University of Melbourne's Architectural Atelier. When she graduated with honours in 1931she was the only woman in her year.

Throughout the 1930s, Cynthia Teague worked first for Edward Bilson, specialising in residential design, before moving to the leading architectural practice Oakley and Parkes, where she was employed as chief draughtswoman. Here, she specialised in larger scale commercial projects.

When World War II broke out, many building projects were abandoned or put on hold and non-government work for architects dried up. In response, Teague joined the Commonwealth public service, working for the Department of Labour and National Service. In 1945, after the end of the war, she moved to the Commonwealth Public Works Department. This department was responsible for many major projects, and employed a large fleet of architects, designers and engineers to undertake state building projects of a varied sort including schools and hospitals. Here she worked first on the design of post offices and telephone exchanges; later she designed tropical housing in Darwin, major office buildings and diplomatic accommodation in Indonesia.

In 1959 Teague was promoted to the position of supervising architect and two years later became a fellow of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects. In 1963 she was given the honour of managing the refurbishment of the house in Alice Springs to be used by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip on the Northern Territory leg of their royal tour. She was lauded for this on the women's pages of the Age, which claimed: 'Wildflowers and natural grasses near Alice Springs helped Melbourne architect, Miss Cynthia Teague, to decide on colour schemes for the Alice Springs residence where QE and PP will stay during their Australian visit next month' (Age, 8 January 1963).

In 1964, Teague was promoted to assistant director general for prestige and special projects in the Department of Works. This was the highest level a woman had reached in the public service and the first time a woman had been appointed to the second executive level. She retired from the Commonwealth service, and from architectural practice, in 1970. A year later she was awarded an MBE for services to the Commonwealth. Cynthia Teague died in 2007 at the age of 100 years.

Archival Resources

National Library of Australia

  • Biographical cuttings on Cynthia Teague, public servant and architect, containing one or more cuttings from newspapers or journals, c. 1900 - c. 2000, 1730697; National Library of Australia. Details

Published Resources


  • 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

Journal Articles

  • Schoffel, Sarah, 'Women Architects and Victorian Modern: 1930-1960', Transition: Discourse on Architecture, vol. 27-28, 1989, pp. 71-9. Details

Newspaper Articles

  • 'Setting for Queen at Alice Springs', The Age, 8 January 1963, p. 8. Details

Online Resources

See also