Woman Simpson, Martha (1865 - 1948)

Omagh, Tyrone, Ireland
Inspector of Schools, Lecturer and Teacher

Written by Deborah Towns, Swinburne University

Martha Margaret Mildred Simpson was born in Omagh, Tyrone, Ireland in 1865. She emigrated to Australia, aged 21, and was appointed teacher in charge of a small rural government school near Lake Macquarie. She moved to other schools including Carrow Brook and Tea tree. By 1891 she was a Classified teacher and transferred to larger schools. In 1906 she was appointed as Mistress of the Blackfriars Demonstration School, attached to the Teachers College, Sydney. Here she introduced Froebelian principles. In 1908 she was the first lecturer in a special course designed to prepare women kindergarten teachers. She creatively used legends and stories of Aboriginal people in her demonstration lesson plans. She was impressed with Maria Montessori's innovative teaching methods and in 1912 the NSW government sent her to study with Montessori in Italy. Simpson was particularly impressed with Montessori's approach which emphasised freedom for individual development, the scientific approach to child study and the stimulation of children's initiative, self-reliance and self-discipline. In 1917 Simpson was appointed as an inspector of infant schools which made her the first woman inspector in NSW. Aspects of the Montessori Method were introduced throughout Australia inspired by Simpson and others but the methods were seldom adopted completely. Simpson retired in 1930 and died in 1948.

Published Resources


  • Simpson, M. M., Work in the Kindergarten: an Australian programme, based on the life and customs of the Australian Black, Teachers College, Sydney, New South Wales, 1909. Details

Book Sections

  • Waters, Joan, 'Martha Simpson 1865 - 1948', in Joan Waters (ed.), With Passion, Perseverance and Practicality: 100 Women Who Influenced Australian Children's Services, 1841-2001, OMEP Australia, Melbourne, Victoria, 2002. Details

Newspaper Articles

Online Resources

See also