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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

‘The story of our influence is not so easily told’: Annie Sharpley, a teacher at Narracoorte

by Kay Whitehead and Belinda MacGill

When former teacher Annie Sharpley died in Naracoorte[1], South Australia, in 1941, several obituaries referred to her as a ‘highly respected resident of the district’ and highlighted her career of ‘fifty-one years continuous service in the one school, believed to be a Commonwealth record’.[2] Since then, Sharpley’s work has been included in histories of Naracoorte schools and the district, along with a short article in the ‘Great Educators’ series of Unicorn journal.[3] While her career was extraordinary in length, the ‘selfless woman teacher in an idyllic [and homogenous] country school’ is a typical representation of rural education in white settler countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States.[4] This image is sometimes tempered by discussions of women teachers’ unsatisfactory conditions of employment in government schools and criticisms of their inadequate training and transience in the profession.[5] However, demographic and cultural changes in nineteenth century rural contexts are mostly obscured, especially those wrought by colonisation and dispossession of Aboriginal people.[6] This article incorporates Aboriginal Australians’ continuous exclusion from the education system and white settler community of Naracoorte in Annie Sharpley’s biography as a white settler woman teacher.

Like many women teachers, Sharpley left no personal accounts except her retirement speech which was published in the Narracoorte Herald[7]; and virtually all of the people who knew her are beyond the reach of oral history.[8] There are no extant inspectors’ reports for her school but some official records of the education department contain details about her career. The most important sources are the Narracoorte Herald and other rural newspapers. Established in 1875 and purchased by Archie Caldwell in 1889, the Narracoorte Herald ‘kept pace with the times and always held a good position in the ranks of provincial journalism’.[9] Archie was the ‘lead writer and chronicler of the news of the day’ and his brother Dugald managed the business until their deaths in 1942 and 1948 respectively.[10] Both lived in Naracoorte with their sisters Annie and Juliet all of their lives. Archie also had a close relationship with Annie Sharpley, the nature of which remains a matter of speculation.[11]

Published twice weekly, the Narracoorte Herald was ‘the mouthpiece of the district and endeavour[ed] to serve the community in all its activities’, including education.[12] Caldwell must have scoured the education department’s annual reports for examination results and other statistics as well as reporting on the activities of local schools. However, the Narracoorte Herald upheld the race and gender hierarchies of the time. Caldwell and most correspondents who submitted news privileged white men’s doings and sayings over those of white women and did not solicit the perspectives of Aboriginal and other non-white people. In addition to reporting contemporary matters, the Narracoorte Herald and other local newspapers connected their readership with the past by publishing some white settlers’ reminiscences and obituaries, and ensuring that their commemorative events were addressed in detail. These public histories brought Naracoorte’s past into the present and were also shaped by the contemporary politics of race and gender.[13] A careful reading against the grain is required to reinstate Aboriginal people in their land and account for Annie Sharpley’s simultaneous subordination as a single woman and her racial privilege as a white settler. In essence, this biography of Annie Maria Sharpley’s life and work is underpinned by three themes: They are the relationships between white settlers and Aboriginal people in the Naracoorte district; the influence of marriage bars in the lives and work of women teachers; and the nexus between white settler histories and the history and geography curriculum in government schools.

The initial contact between the Meintangk people living in the Upper South East and white men dates from the 1830s and dispossession commenced in the 1840s. Sharpley was born in this context and the first section of the article attends to her childhood and schooling. Beginning in 1877, the next section discusses her early years as a teacher at Near Naracoorte provisional school and the curriculum and practices in late nineteenth century government schools. The third section focuses on Sharpley’s position in the Naracoorte community, noting that she was simultaneously resisting her subordination as a single woman and overlooking the marginalisation of Aboriginal people. Turning to the early twentieth century, Sharpley kept abreast of the times so her teaching and involvement in the Naracoorte community were marked by an emerging national awareness among white settlers and the concomitant denial of the ongoing presence of Aboriginal people. By the time Sharpley retired in 1929, her status was such that she was honoured with a huge reunion of parents and former scholars. The final section of the article details tributes to her life and work at the points of retirement and death. At the same time, Aboriginal people were mostly being written out of white settlers’ public histories of Naracoorte and relegated to a pre-contact era.

‘One of the sharpest and cleverest little creatures in the South East’
The lands of the Meintangk people extend from the vicinity of present-day Kingston on the coast to Naracoorte, about 100 kilometres inland.[14] These lands were verdant, with permanent swamps and seasonally flooded plains, all rich in plant and animal life. Comprising seven groups, the Meintangk people lived more or less permanently in the region, moving to more sheltered higher ground during winter to avoid cold weather and flooding. They managed their land expertly in accordance with their gendered roles and responsibilities. With an intimate knowledge of food sources, they used fire as a hunting strategy and to facilitate the growth of edible plants. They constructed drainage systems and built weirs and traps to catch fish and birds.[15] They had trading and cultural relations with other Aboriginal people in designated meeting places, one being ‘narra coorta’, and meaning ‘springs of water’.[16]

Meintangk people’s initial encounters with white men likely occurred in the late 1830s when the latter assessed the lands (named Mosquito Plains) for their economic potential.[17] In 1842, it was reported that ‘the whole of this splendid tract of country is said to resemble a nobleman’s park on a large scale and is well-watered’.[18] Dispossession commenced when squatters, mostly of Scottish ancestry, brought sheep overland from Victoria, quickly destroying the environmental balance and the social order. Some Meintangk people endeavoured to continue their lives as before; some joined the white labour market as shepherds, trackers and domestic servants for the squatters; many died from imported illnesses, thereby reinforcing claims that Aboriginal people were a dying race.[19] As Foster also notes, ‘frontier conflict commenced as soon as settlers arrived’.[20] Whereas white people saw the Meintangk people as ‘treacherous’ and thieving, Aboriginal people regarded sheep as ‘lawful game like kangaroos’.[21] In 1845, an altercation over sheep led to the death of a white man and violent retribution by his counterparts. It is reputed that a wounded Aboriginal man died in a limestone cave as a result and his preserved body was subsequently found by white men in the 1850s.[22] By this stage a private township, Kincraig, had been established in the vicinity of narra coorta and a government township was surveyed across the creek on Mosquito Plains in 1860. The townships were officially combined and named Naracoorte in 1869.[23]

In the 1850s another wave of non-Aboriginal people were passing through Meintangk lands in order to avoid the Victorian colonial government’s poll tax on Chinese immigrants who were bound for the goldfields. More than 15,000 Chinese men disembarked at the port of Robe from 1857 and began the long walk in groups of 600 or more on a route through Naracoorte. Many died along the way and some abandoned their plans and established market gardens in various places including Naracoorte.[24] Rarely was this multiracial site portrayed so in the contemporary press. In 1859, ‘Correspondent’ described ‘the village of Narricourt’ as a ‘charming retreat … romantically situated in a vale lying at the edge of these beautiful plains’. Correspondent told of the Scottish ‘founders’, and added a ‘prosperous tenantry’, plus ‘wheelwrights, carpenters, masons, brick makers and bricklayers’ to the population. Correspondent regretted not having time to view the ‘semi-petrified remains of the aboriginal so much talked of’ in the nearby caves.[25] In contrast, ‘philanthropist’ had visited the district in 1854 and been ‘compel[led] by humanity’ to advocate for ‘a large mob of these aborigines camped near the Merino Inn’, among them two women who were gravely ill. While Dr Gunning, the medical practitioner, ‘was kind to them’, philanthropist recommended that the colonial government’s Protector of Aborigines establish a ration depot and a ‘kind of hospital’ at Naracoorte, thereby accommodating ‘the strong predilection they have to their native country’.[26] It was the former narrative of white settlement and development that took precedence in references to nineteenth century Naracoorte, either omitting or denigrating the ongoing presence of Aboriginal and non-European peoples.[27]

Annie Sharpley was born in ‘Kincraig’ on 24th February 1859.[28] Emigrating from County Cork in Ireland, her parents James and Sarah arrived in Adelaide in 1858 and proceeded via Robe to Kincraig.[29] The Sharpleys did not belong to the squattocracy and were rarely named as pioneers of the district. An experienced horseman, James was one of Cobb and Co’s grooms.[30] He also took ‘charge of the mail stables’ and was later poundkeeper for the Naracoorte District Council, while Sarah kept and sold poultry.[31] Annie’s brother, William, was born in August 1860 and died in May 1862, leaving her as the Sharpleys’ only child.[32]

The Sharpleys soon connected with and contributed to the growth of white settler institutions and thus were implicated in the consolidation of the gendered and racial hierarchies in Naracoorte. White settlers numbered about 600 in the early 1860s and there was a post office, courthouse and police station along with the Merino Inn and other businesses.[33] After some discussion, the first church to be built was Presbyterian in 1858 and James Sharpley participated in services until the Church of England was built in 1867.[34] The Presbyterian church also served as a government school, licensed by the Central Board of Education (CBE) from 1860.[35] In 1866 the Sharpleys hosted the wedding of their relative, Susan Sharpley, to Robert Welcome, a local butcher and later farmer.[36] James Sharpley was a warden in the Church of England and a foundation member of the ‘Loyal Mosquito Plains [Oddfellows] Lodge’.[37] However, Philanthropist’s advocacy for a ration depot at Naracoorte was not successful even though the Protector of Aborigines visited in 1866 and ‘found the blacks more numerous here than he expected.’[38] Visiting Naracoorte and pleading for rations at the same time, Father Tenison Woods stated that ‘the camp contains about thirty blacks, three of whom are prostrate from sickness.’ Noting their ‘precarious earnings’, he added ‘some of them work; but as they plaintively objected to me, the sick cannot work, the aged cannot work’.[39] Nevertheless, the local white settlers focused on developing Naracoorte with familiar institutions, and seemed more concerned with a visiting showman’s seizure of the ‘skeleton of the black’, now characterised as ‘a celebrated murderer’, from Naracoorte Caves in 1861 and its subsequent sale in London in 1866.[40] The Chinese market gardeners were rarely mentioned and the 500 or so Aboriginal people who continued to use Naracoorte as a ceremonial and trading site were deemed ‘troublesome’ and ‘warlike’.[41] The gendered and racial hierarchy was on display when Governor Ferguson was accorded a rousing welcome by the white male ‘pioneer’ squatters and their wives in 1869. Residents of the township gathered as well, and James Sharpley was prominent among Oddfellow Lodge members who declared their loyalty.[42] Large crowds accompanied the governor to Naracoorte Caves where ‘blacks’ performed a corroboree and ‘gave the scene a wild and fantastic look’.[43] As Watson states, ‘Aboriginal ancient cultures were only allowed to return as a means of entertaining those who seek to enjoy “exotica”’.[44]

Annie Sharpley thus spent her childhood among Aboriginal, Chinese and white settler people, but ensconced with the latter and their institutions. Privileged by race, five-year-old Annie enrolled at the government school conducted by Alexander Watson in 1864. There were fifty-four white settler students, including twenty-seven girls. Annie won first prize in her class at the well-attended annual public examinations conducted by Dr Gunning and Rev McCalman.[45] She maintained a prestigious position in the following years with a correspondent claiming that she was ‘one of the sharpest and cleverest little creatures in the South East’ in 1868.[46] Annie’s success notwithstanding, there were ongoing gender issues at Watson’s school. In 1866, the Central Board of Education (CBE) dealt with a complaint about Watson’s ‘discipline and the objectionable conduct of the larger boys towards the girls’. The complainants requested a woman teacher ‘to instruct the girls in the higher branches of education’. The CBE responded that it would license a woman teacher if there were more than twenty girls.[47] Arguing again that ‘a school for elder girls was much felt in this place’, Mrs Catherine Waterhouse was licensed in January 1869.[48] In December 1869, however, the CBE resolved to withdraw licences from women teachers (including Waterhouse) ‘who were conducting schools … connected with schools for which male teachers were licensed, who in several cases were the husbands of licensed teachers’.[49] This was the first time that women’s marital status was cited as a justification for suspending their careers and laid the groundwork for excluding married women as teachers in government schools. By the 1880s married women had all but disappeared from government schools.[50] In 1869, however, there were storms of protest across South Australia: A public meeting in Naracoorte argued that ‘boys and girls should not be mixed’ and supported their case with examples from England and Ireland.[51] The CBE backed down and Waterhouse was re-licensed, attracting increasing numbers of girls and offering an ‘advanced education’ to senior students.[52] It is not known whether Annie Sharpley was among them but she later claimed that she had a ‘first class teacher’ in ‘finishing off’ her education, including music which she used throughout her life.[53] Nevertheless, her entire teaching career was contingent on remaining single.

Teaching white settler students ‘the character of the country’
In the late 1870s white settler Naracoorte continued to expand both its businesses and cultural and social life. In 1877, for example, another Sharpley family, James B. and Bridget Sharpley and their children, came to Naracoorte. He opened a bootmakers shop and advertised in the Narracoorte Herald.[54] The family departed hurriedly in 1883 when James B. was declared insolvent, and he died of alcoholism in 1886.[55] Meanwhile, Annie’s father was serving the community quietly in accordance with his ‘retiring disposition’.[56] He joined the Sons of Temperance in 1872 and the Naracoorte Philharmonic Society in 1876, playing the clarionette.[57] In 1876 Annie and Miss Attiwell performed an instrumental duet at the opening of the Naracoorte Institute.[58] Annie played the harmonium at the Wesley church social in 1877.[59] The first Naracoorte agricultural show took place in 1871 and Annie’s mother won prizes for poultry and dairy produce in 1875.[60] For the most part, however, this was a racially exclusive community. In the 1880s, a small group of Chinese men who had chosen Naracoorte over the goldfields were ‘cultivat[ing] the gardens in such excellent style that all kinds of vegetables are now grown in the district’.[61] But there is little evidence that they were included in social and cultural life with the exception of the Naracoorte Show where they won prizes for their vegetables.[62] Likewise, almost all Aboriginal people were marginalised, the exceptions being some young men who participated in sporting events.[63]

The Meintangk lands around Naracoorte were also changing irrevocably with more intensive white settler interventions such as drainage schemes, subdivision and fencing, all of which impacted on Aboriginal people’s capacity to live in and from their country. Native pastures deteriorated with the introduction of crops, grazing animals, and rabbits; and fencing reduced the need for shepherds.[64] Ever resourceful and resilient, Aboriginal people maintained their presence in the district and township. Kangaroo numbers increased rapidly and provided a meagre income for some Aboriginal men as shooters and trappers. Some were employed as seasonal workers: Two Aboriginal haymakers successfully invoked the Master and Servants Act to sue Angas Campbell for non-payment of wages in 1879.[65] In 1869, however, the colonial government had passed the Strangways Act, liberalising its policies in relation to credit and the size of holdings, and advantaging James Sharpley who belonged to the Naracoorte Permanent Building and Investment Society.[66] Underpinned by a sense of entitlement to Meintangk lands, its advertisement stated ‘every man his own landlord by joining the above society’.[67] Around 1877, James Sharpley purchased four blocks of land about five kilometres from the town on the Messamurry Road to begin ‘farming and horticultural pursuits’.[68] He erected a wooden schoolroom on the property and eighteen year old Annie began her teaching career, riding her horse to work until the family home was built beside the school.

Whether coincidental or intentional, the Sharpley family was taking advantage of the 1875 Education Act which legislated compulsory schooling for children aged from seven to thirteen. Aboriginal children were not specifically excluded by legislation but the Act was focused on white settler children. Inspector general Hartley led the new centralised, bureaucratic education department until his death in 1896. He created two categories of schools on the basis of student numbers. Schools such as Naracoorte with more than twenty students were designated public schools and staffed by qualified teachers. Those with fewer than twenty students were categorised as ‘provisional’; no training was required of their teachers who were paid £4 per student per annum in lieu of a fixed salary.[69] Annie Sharpley was officially appointed teacher of the ‘Near Naracoorte’ provisional school on 1 August 1877 and thus engaged in ongoing rather than piecemeal waged employment, a privilege rarely accorded to Aboriginal people.[70] Most provisional teachers were women and Annie’s scholarly record supports Theobald’s claim that it was often the brightest girl in the district who became the provisional teacher.[71]

The education department instituted twice-yearly visits to each school by inspectors, the first being ‘without notice’ and the second to examine the students. Inspector Stanton was allocated to the South-East district and visited Near Naracoorte for the first fifteen years of Annie’s career.[72] Stanton was a notoriously harsh judge of teachers’ work and complained that it was difficult to effect ‘visits without notice’ because news ‘of his being on the road soon spread … In the South East the local newspapers, which take a particularly lively interest in all educational matters, betray a want of discretion on this particular point’.[73] In Annie’s case, the inspector-teacher relationship was one of mutual respect, with Stanton giving ‘every assistance’ to this untrained teacher.[74] In 1878, she achieved 93.38% in her first annual examination, the highest for any provisional teacher in the colony and far beyond Naracoorte public school in the township.[75] In 1879 Stanton and inspector general Hartley conducted the examination together with an equally impressive result.[76] Sharpley’s outstanding results earned her special commendations in Hartley’s annual reports until 1885 when she became the first provisional teacher in South Australia to be reclassified as a public teacher and awarded a ‘Fourth Class Certificate’.[77] When the average attendance at Near Naracoorte fell below twenty in 1887, Sharpley declined a transfer to a public school and was reclassified as provisional, remaining so until 1916.[78]

As far as the education department was concerned, Sharpley’s outstanding examination results were an expression of her commitment to teaching a mandated curriculum, comprising the ‘3Rs’, history, geography, sewing (for girls) and drill. Inspector general Hartley revised the curriculum in 1885 and it did not change for the remainder of the nineteenth century. Regarding history, he opined,

the demand is sometimes made that we should teach specially Australian history, because we live in Australia. To me this seems to be a mistake, for two reasons. In the first place our adopted country is very largely in the happy position of ‘having no history’; and further it would be a great pity that we should lose our associations with the glorious past of England. After all, we are citizens of Greater Britain.[79]

According to Hartley, South Australian teachers needed to deliver ‘a fair general outline of the course of English history’.[80] Given his stance, geography ‘provided the framework for training [white settler] students to apprehend their world’.[81] Teachers were required to focus geography lessons on the ‘school and its neighbourhood’ and then the ‘character of the country, occupations of the people, townships etc.’ within ‘ten miles’ of the school, followed by the ‘general geography’ of South Australia, Australia and New Zealand, and the world. ‘Requisite maps with names’ were supplied to every school, and continually updated to encapsulate the spread of white settlement and development, concomitantly erasing Aboriginal people’s past and present.[82] In 1889, Hartley supplemented the curriculum with the Children’s Hour magazine ‘to encourage a taste in reading’ and focus on contemporary life.[83] Although the content was mainly British poems and stories, there were isolated references to Aboriginal people as useful trackers of lost white children, but mostly inferior curiosities.[84] In essence, white settlers were not only increasingly dominating the landscape around Naracoorte, but their narratives and understandings underpinned the school curriculum. Whatever Annie Sharpley’s personal views and experiences, she was enmeshed in an expanding school system that upheld British supremacy and the prevailing racial hierarchy.

She was ‘capital in her love scene’
Unlike most women teachers in public schools who worked under the watchful eyes of headmasters, provisional teachers were relatively independent in their daily work but needed to negotiate effective relationships within white settler communities.[85] A locally-appointed Board of Advice produced annual reports and was delegated to enforce the compulsory attendance regulations with white families. The Naracoorte Board of Advice was initially responsible for Naracoorte and Near Naracoorte schools but the number of provisional schools increased to six by 1893, all led by women teachers.[86] Board members visited Near Naracoorte annually, expressing unilateral support for Sharpley’s work. They also understood the need for children’s labour so rarely prosecuted parents. Sharpley had to produce her roll-book in a case against the Leonard family in 1889, but the defendant was ‘given the benefit of the doubt’ that his son ‘had sore feet and could not walk to school’.[87] Notwithstanding attendance issues which included a measles epidemic in 1898, Sharpley fostered respectful relationships with parents and students.[88] Furthermore, the examination results indicate that the latter did learn their lessons well. She exercised her authority strictly, chastising the boys severely when she caught them having a boxing match in Sharpley’s quarry. But she was also known for kind gestures such as providing ‘a big billy of oatmeal water’ to quench students’ thirsts on hot days.[89] Taken in 1889, a formal photograph of Sharpley, twenty-one boys and girls, and two of their dogs implies a measure of humanity in her relationships with students.[90] Furthermore, she kept in contact with many long after they left school.

Weiler argues that ‘rural schools frequently provided the focus of the local community; they were one of the major public spaces for building collective identity through exhibitions … holiday celebrations’ and so on.[91] From the outset of her career, Sharpley was committed to connecting Near Naracoorte with the local white settler community. For example, she organised membership of the Naracoorte Institute for two students every year.[92] In February 1891, she sent the older boys to help fight a bushfire which was threatening nearby homes, including Sharpley’s.[93] Examples of Near Naracoorte students’ school work were exhibited regularly at the Naracoorte agricultural show, along with other schools in the district. In 1894 there was ‘an excellent collection of children’s ‘manual work’ from Near Naracoorte.[94] However, it was Near Naracoorte’s annual Christmas break-up party which became embedded in white settlers’ social calendar and reported in the press. Board of Advice members were present along with parents and friends. Press accounts of the Near Naracoorte break-up were treated more generously than other schools, enhancing Sharpley’s status and reputation year upon year. In 1883, a typical year, the examination results were applauded and prizes were distributed to children, including Susan and Alfred Welcome, both relatives of Sharpley. In turn, the students presented Sharpley with ‘a handsome lady’s plush companion and they also gave a plated butter dish to Mrs Sharpley in recognition of her many acts of kindness’.[95] These gifts were indicative of the esteem in which both women were held, and they also represented donors’ perspectives of their feminine tastes and interests.[96] In 1883, the ‘party was kept up gaily until midnight’.[97] Sharpley was not only deemed a good teacher by inspectors, the Board of Advice and parents but inspired great loyalty from students, so much so that by 1898, the annual break-up attracted ‘a large gathering of parents and former pupils’, including Rupert Magarey who was training to be a doctor, and Lucas DeGaris, a well-known auctioneer. In 1898, the children’s gift to Annie was a ‘beautiful bicycle lamp’, indicating that she embraced this modern mode of transport and well as the horse and trap.[98] In short, Annie Sharpley’s reputation as an exemplary teacher began early and increased throughout the nineteenth century.

While the Christmas party exemplified the reciprocity between Near Naracoorte and the white settler community, Sharpley also engaged in social and cultural activities that brought her into focus as a modern and youthful woman. In this typically gendered public space, white men such as the Caldwell brothers assumed leadership positions while women served on separate ladies committees.[99] Furthermore, the education department’s regulations constrained teachers’ participation in politics, stating that ‘teachers are enjoined not to take part in political affairs other than by exercise of the franchise’.[100] Sharpley’s everyday teaching commitments also prevented participation in daytime committee meetings but she was a keen participant in diverse social spaces. For example, Annie and another provisional teacher, Juliet Caldwell, were stallholders at the Presbyterian fair in 1883.[101] Having trained ‘earnestly’ with Juliet and twenty other ‘maidenly and matronly’ women for three weeks, Annie captained the blue team in a ‘ladies cricket match’ on New Years Day in 1886. This entertainment raised funds for the Naracoorte hospital.[102] Subsidised by the government to treat Aboriginal as well as white patients, this was a rare white settler institution where the colour bar was blurred.[103] Otherwise, it was the colonial Destitute Board, operating through the Naracoorte District Council and local doctor that ‘attended to the destitute poor and aborigines in the district’.[104] The Sharpleys were donors to the hospital but the Board of Management acknowledged that ‘none were more regular nor more liberal than the Chinese in Naracoorte’ in the 1880s.[105]

Annie’s wide-ranging participation included the Naracoorte Literary Society and the Naracoorte Cycling Club, and agricultural, horticultural and floricultural shows of which there were several across the year.[106] In 1890, she won first prize for her bouquet at the Floricultural Society’s Spring Show at which vegetables donated by Sun Hap Shing were also sold to raise funds for the Society.[107]  In 1894, she was one of the principal prize winners in floriculture and pianist for the ‘Agricultural Show Ball’ which lasted until five in the morning.[108] Notably, Annie acted many roles in the Dramatic Society’s productions. In 1887, she ‘looked well as the rather vain [and ‘lovesick’] heiress’.[109] ‘In her usual bright and dashing style’, she played ‘Seraphina Wiggins, an eligible young lady’ in 1892.[110] Annie had ‘lost none of her histrionic ability … and was capital in her love scene’ in 1898.[111] Last but not least, Annie’s social life reputedly included a longstanding relationship with Archie Caldwell. They participated in the same white settler institutions and shared an interest in history and world events. Archie also spent weekends at Sharpley’s home. Their relationship challenged societal norms and students were known to arrive at school early on Monday mornings hoping to catch a glimpse of Archie.[112]

Setting Annie’s dramatically imagined and perhaps real romantic interests aside, her life path could not combine teaching, marriage and motherhood, and Archie never married either. Beginning in the 1870s, the education department restricted the employment of married women teachers and operated an informal marriage bar. For example, when Mrs Hannah Humphries applied for re-employment as a provisional teacher in 1887, inspector general Hartley responded that it was ‘not considered desirable to appoint married persons to these schools’.[113] Humphries was doubly disadvantaged in that she was also an unqualified teacher. In 1888 Hartley read about Charlotte Wauchope’s marriage in the newspaper and requested her resignation from Lower Wakefield provisional school.[114] And in 1895 he stated that ‘it was now the practice of the Department not to appoint married female teachers living with their husbands’.[115] Given the escalating marginalisation of married women in the education department, especially those without qualifications, teachers such as Annie Sharpley were placed in an invidious position. For whatever reason, Annie did not marry but spent her working life as a teacher, experiencing significant changes to both family and work. 

Linking past and present in Near Naracoorte school and district
In the late nineteenth century, the colonial approach to South Australia’s Aboriginal people shifted markedly when it became apparent that the numbers of mixed race people were increasing. It was assumed that Aboriginal people of full descent would die out sooner or later but people of mixed descent were ‘destined for assimilation’ into white settler society.[116] From 1911, most Aboriginal people’s lives and opportunities were constrained by restrictive government legislation.[117] For example, they were pressured to live on missions or reserves including Blackford and Sandy’s Hut near Kingston. They continued to engage with the white settlers’ economy as itinerant shearers, labourers and cooks but their freedom of movement was strictly controlled. Nevertheless, living in close proximity on reserves facilitated strong and supportive relationships. With determination and ingenuity, senior Aboriginal people passed on their knowledge, skills, customs and traditions to younger generations, thereby maintaining continuity and identity with their land.[118] In the 1920s, for example, Aboriginal women were making baskets and mats from indigenous sedges, rushes and grasses, and selling them as domestic goods in Kingston.[119] With assimilation in mind, the education department established Blackford provisional school in 1908.[120]

Although the ongoing presence of Aboriginal people around Kingston was undeniable, they were relegated to ‘the contemporary historical sensibility of the [Naracoorte] district’.[121] New waves of white settlers who relied on family labour to develop their mixed farms found artefacts such as tools, grinding stones and abandoned camp sites. Some saw these artefacts as worth collecting for museum displays and others ploughed over them.[122] Two skeletons were found by a farmer in 1898; it was ‘deemed that they were the remains of aborigines and no further action was considered necessary’.[123] The Narracoorte Herald reported on contemporary Aboriginal people in other places but it was silent about any who might have been living in the Naracoorte district and township. Likewise, the Chinese men whose market gardens continued to supply fresh vegetables were rarely mentioned.[124] However, Aboriginal people reappeared sometimes via the Herald’s commitment to public history. For example, the Herald sponsored a history of the district by Blacket and published some local white settlers’ reminiscences and obituaries, as did other newspapers.[125]  

In contrast, contemporary white settler Naracoorte was a go-ahead town with new high school in 1909 and a burgeoning tourist industry which focused on the Naracoorte Caves.[126] The surrounding land had been declared a reserve in 1876 and was a favourite picnic spot. Official tours began in 1887 and the site was developed by the caretaker, William Reddan, until 1918 when it was taken over by the tourist bureau.[127] In 1909 the caves were promoted as ‘beauty spots worth visiting’ but the description of the ‘beautiful stalactites and stalagmites’ was disrupted by a graphic account of the violence resulting in the Aboriginal man’s death in the cave, and his subsequent removal and sale in London.[128] There had been several such articles over the years, each reminding readers about the violence of dispossession, but in 1909 that was deemed a phenomenon of the distant past. Potential tourists were encouraged to visit the ‘spectacular caverns’ rather than ‘spending a lot of money’ in other parts of Australia.[129] Of course, some of Naracoorte’s white settlers were also tourists: Annie Sharpley’s students had presented her with a ‘handsome travelling bag’ in 1902 and she ‘and several other ladies from Naracoorte’ enjoyed a vacation at the seaside town of Kingston in January 1906.[130]

Aged sixty-nine, James Sharpley’s sudden death in June 1899 had marked significant changes in Annie’s domestic and working life. In the late afternoon, James had prepared the horse and trap for Annie to drive into town but he did not return to the house for the evening meal. Sarah Sharpley called a neighbour who found him deceased. The Narracoorte Herald regretted that his death ‘marks another link broken in this district between the past and present’.[131] There was ‘a large funeral being representative of all classes of the community’; and Annie and her mother thanked ‘their neighbours and numerous friends’ for their condolences.[132] From this time Annie took responsibility for the farm as well as Near Naracoorte school, employing young white men such as her former student, Richard Blacksell, as farmhands.[133] Annie’s active social life and committee work continued in the Dramatic Society and other organisations.[134] When the Oddfellows’ lodge purchased a new piano in 1904, she was invited to ‘play the first overture’ in memory of her late father’s membership.[135] Sarah’s health gradually deteriorated and she died from influenza in September 1908, aged seventy-four. She was accorded ‘a large and representative funeral’ and Annie was granted one week’s bereavement leave by the education department.[136]

As stated earlier, Annie had declined to transfer to a public school in 1887. Following inspector general Hartley’s death, inspector Stanton led the education department from 1897 to 1906 and he offered Sharpley a position in a public school.[137] In 1901, the proposition was also canvassed in the presence of ‘a large attendance of parents, old scholars and friends’ at the annual Christmas break-up party. Near Naracoorte had won twenty-three prizes at the Naracoorte Show and ten at Lucindale, and achieved 92.92% in the annual examination. Given Sharpley’s impressive record, one speaker opined that she should be in a ‘much larger school’. One of the students’ fathers responded that the ‘parents would have something to say if he tried to persuade Miss Sharpley to leave for a higher sphere’.[138] Transferring to a public school would inevitably have rendered Sharpley subordinate to a headmaster, teaching larger classes with less autonomy and recognition, and living apart from her aging parents and social networks. Sharpley chose to remain at Near Naracoorte and did not rest on her laurels.

Sharpley’s career record indicates that from inspectors’ perspectives she was keeping abreast of changing times. The appointment of Alfred Williams as director of the education department in 1906 enabled extensive revisions to the curriculum in government schools. Williams was a progressive educator and encouraged teachers ‘to instil in pupils a love of their own country’.[139] To this end, history was to be taught under the banner of ‘civics and morals’ with a dual focus on the ‘glorious’ British history and the ‘people who explored and settled’ Australia.[140] Geography was part of ‘nature knowledge’ and teachers were encouraged to add ‘stories of Australian aborigines’ to the existing curriculum for younger children and introduce ‘the controlling influence of man’ to older students.[141] The Children’s Hour was the primary source for both subjects so there were endless stories of white explorers and a near absence of Aboriginal people. Furthermore, ‘the early decades of the 1900s brought a cluster of royal events which gave added strength to the ties with Britain and crowded the pages of the Hour’.[142] Inspector Nicolle wrote that Sharpley was ‘progressive and industrious’ in 1908; and she was deemed ‘progressive’ again in 1909 and 1911. Inspector Pavia examined Near Naracoorte between 1913 and 1918, and was continually impressed by this ‘ardent, devoted, stimulating, efficient’ teacher. Sharpley was reclassified as a public teacher under new regulations in 1915, which also institutionalised the marriage bar.[143]   

Mediated by Sharpley, the curriculum in government schools and white settler activities in the Naracoorte district coexisted in mutually productive ways. Indeed, Near Naracoorte joined in the construction of white settler Naracoorte’s identity as a patriotic Australian community, linked of course to the British Empire. In 1893 Sir Henry Parkes had been invited to Naracoorte to explain the merits of federation.[144] The enthusiastic audience at this meeting were equally committed to imperial events such as coronations and there were plenty of celebrations in the early twentieth century.[145] Near Naracoorte students marched in their school colours of pink and green in the 1902 coronation procession.[146] To celebrate Empire Day in 1905, Sharpley invited parents and friends to the school, suspended normal lessons and spoke about ‘the great advance in the area over which the British flag waved’. Another speaker urged students to participate in making Australia ‘one of the greatest nations in the world’.[147] These displays of patriotism were mere precursors to Sharpley’s investment in World War One.       

When the British declared war on Germany in August 1914, Australia followed suit. Several young men from Naracoorte enlisted initially with one of Sharpley’s former students being Naracoorte’s only Gallipoli veteran and another being awarded a military cross.[148] By 1915, there was a Red Cross branch and a Cheer Up Society in Naracoorte, the latter established by Juliet Caldwell.[149] Both organisations benefited from Sharpley’s personal donations and Near Naracoorte was reputed to be the first school in the district to begin war work.[150] The Union Jack and Australian flag featured in a photo of Sharpley and her students in 1914.[151] In 1915 the boys and girls were busy knitting and sewing for ‘our soldiers’ and Sharpley was equally occupied with committee work throughout the war years. In 1915 Sharpley and the students agreed to suspend prizes and gifts at the annual Christmas break-up party and donate the money to the Wounded Soldiers Fund and the education department’s Children’s Patriotic Fund.[152]

Amidst ongoing debates about conscription in Naracoorte and across Australia, Naracoorte’s white settler community organised elaborate ‘Australia Day’ celebrations to raise funds for war charities.[153] The day typically commenced with women selling flags, buttons and small articles on street corners in the morning. Accompanied by the Naracoorte Brass Band, there was an enormous procession of flag bearers, decorated vehicles, trolleys featuring Australian and imperial tableaus, adults and children in comic and fancy costumes, teachers and students, and various clubs. The afternoon programme comprised stalls, sideshows and sports at the showgrounds, and the evening’s entertainment of ‘moving pictures’ of patriotic themes ‘was in every way a fitting wind-up to the day’s outing’.[154] In 1915 Near Naracoorte’s Red Cross Company collected money in their Red Cross go-cart and marched in the procession. Among the prize winners in the procession was a reputedly comical tableau of white men masquerading as Aboriginal people in the nineteenth century: ‘It was a truly Australian representation’.[155] Repeated in 1916, ‘the characters were true to the native race’.[156] Yet again Aboriginal people were misrepresented as historical figures in white settler Naracoorte rather than as contemporary Australians.

World War One was not the end of Sharpley’s commitments. As compulsory retirement at age seventy approached, she kept abreast of contemporary education and contributed to the community. In keeping with many country towns, funds were raised for a ‘Fallen Soldiers Memorial’ in Naracoorte. Sharpley donated personally and Near Naracoorte students grew and sold vegetables from the school garden as their contribution.[157] In 1922 Near Naracoorte celebrated Empire Day in May and ‘memorial wreaths were placed on our Fallen Soldiers Memorial on three occasions … the unveiling ceremony, Nelson Day and Armistice Day’. Edna Welcome and Margaret Humphries were successful in the state-wide ‘Qualifying Certificate’ examinations, entitling them to attend secondary school even though they were under thirteen years of age.[158] Their success was not only seen as a measure of Sharpley’s teaching, but Welcome would subsequently begin her teaching career at Near Naracoorte. [159]  

‘The story of our influence is not so easily told’
Annie Sharpley retired on her seventieth birthday in February 1929, having taught about 500 children during her fifty-two year career at Near Naracoorte.[160] Determined to ‘mark in some way what she had done for them in her able conduct of the school’, parents and old scholars organised a reunion in her honour which took place in May. Responses to invitations were so overwhelming that the venue had to relocate to the Naracoorte institute. Her long-time friend Archie Caldwell recorded the occasion in enormous detail.[161] An old scholar from 1892-1899, Albert DeGaris, presided and he recalled the boys’ boxing championships in the quarry. ‘Appreciatory letters’ from throughout South Australia were read, including one from an old scholar, Lucas DeGaris, who stated ‘it has been said that one can easily tell the tale of one’s life, but the story of our influence is not so easily told’. Nevertheless, the latter was the focus of several speeches, interspersed with musical items. While local speakers gave firsthand testimony, newly appointed inspector Hosking relied on ‘existing reports’ and stated that they were ‘uniformly excellent’. Naracoorte’s mayor recalled that Sharpley ‘had done a good deal in assisting the public institutions of the town when they were being built up’. He nominated her as ‘one of the leading amateurs in the Dramatic Club’ along with five more women provisional teachers who were in attendance. He highlighted her ‘war work’ and added that no less than seventy-four old scholars had enlisted. He concluded by naming several old male scholars in ‘prominent positions’ who were a ‘credit’ to her. Before presenting Sharpley with two ‘moquet easy chairs’, Albert Schinkel stated that she had shown ‘a wonderful adaptability as a teacher … she appeared to have grasped every change and adapted to it’. Sharpley’s carefully constructed speech was read by DeGaris on her behalf and published in full in the Narracoorte Herald. She commenced with thanks to the organisers and confessed that the reunion was emotionally challenging. Evaluating her life’s work as a teacher, she stated ‘I felt through the long years I conducted the school that I had the respect and support of the parents, and the goodwill of the children and I can assure you that was more than sufficient encouragement for me’. Then she ‘added a few words’ about her career, highlighting Near Naracoorte as the ‘first country school in the district’. She acknowledged inspector general Hartley and inspector Stanton’s support, and said that she had declined ‘chances of promotion in other spheres’ on account of her aging parents. She valued her Fourth Class certificate as testimony to her ‘practical work in teaching’ and made a special point of Near Naracoorte’s contributions to the ‘Great War’ in the battlefields and at home. She concluded by outlining how her work as a teacher had contributed to making a white settler nation.

I am proud that so far as I know nearly all of my old scholars have become useful citizens in varied walks of life, and a number have held and hold important positions in the business and commercial activities of the state, and in the public service of the country.[162]

Supported financially by the education department’s superannuation fund, Sharpley continued living in the family home, managed the farm and did not relinquish her association with Near Naracoorte. She dealt with issues to do with ‘Sharpley’s quarry’ and dogs that menaced the forty or so sheep on her property.[163] She was selling a bale of wool annually in the 1930s.[164] Her father’s orchard was still producing almonds which Near Naracoorte students shelled and sold to raise funds for the school. Sharpley supported the teachers, being Edna Welcome in 1929, Dorothea Kay (1930-1935) and Harry Clarke (1935-1941).[165] By the time Clarke arrived, the school building was ‘not modern’ and very dilapidated, but he credited Sharpley with Near Naracoorte’s ‘wonderful tradition and history’.[166] In turn, Annie gave Clarke some of her up-to-date teaching materials and donated prizes for the annual Christmas break-up party.[167] Naracoorte High School also benefited from her generosity.[168]

Retirement increased the flexibility in Sharpley’s life in that she was able to maintain her social networks in the daytime as well as evenings. In February 1935, for example, she enjoyed a ‘little afternoon reunion of Naracoorte old friends’.[169] Furthermore, she could participate more freely in Naracoorte’s white settler institutions including the Cheer Up Society. She was a foundation member of the Naracoorte branch of the Country Women’s Association in March 1935 and membership grew quickly to sixty-five by October.[170]  Annie attended its monthly meetings which were held in the afternoon. The August 1937 meeting was a ‘Handcrafts afternoon, and Sharpley showed ‘quite a number of interesting exhibits done by former scholars and to each piece of work was given the name of the child who made it’. The exhibits included coat and horse brushes, baskets and mats, fretwork, fancy work and sewing specimens.[171] Having been denied public involvement in politics while she was employed by the education department, Sharpley was a member of the Naracoorte Women’s Branch of the Liberal and Country League. In 1938 she and Archie Caldwell were nominated as delegates to select a candidate for a Legislative Council bi-election.[172]

Perhaps prompted by the centenary of white occupation in South Australia, the Narracoorte Herald published several brief historical pieces in 1936, thereby consolidating the past in the present. The articles focused on white men’s progress around fifty years ago with one passing reference to the ‘decline’ in numbers of Aboriginal people in the 1880s.[173] The longest piece was reminiscences by Malcolm McPherson who arrived in Naracoorte in 1879. McPherson wrote of his childhood in a land abundant with wildlife. He mentioned his education at Naracoorte Public School and recalled ‘stoning a couple of Chinamen’ who owned gardens in the town. He named the white settler ‘businessmen of the town’ but omitted any reference to the presence of Aboriginal people in his childhood. Instead, McPherson consigned ‘old-time aborigines’ to a pre-contact era, the remaining evidence being their ‘pounding stones’ which he found during his rambles. Mentioning the missing Aboriginal body from the Naracoorte Caves, however, negated his earlier claims.[174] McPherson’s account was indicative of the ways in which Meintangk people had not only been dispossessed of their lands but also marginalised from the living memory of the district. Likewise, obituaries of white settlers’ lives and work in Naracoorte and surrounding towns inferred an exclusively white community.[175] While the same applied to Annie Maria Sharpley’s obituaries in 1941, none were as lengthy or compassionate.

With the exception of an unspecified ‘accident’ in July 1936, Sharpley seems to have enjoyed good health until 1940.[176] In about June 1940 she fell and broke her thigh and spent several weeks in hospital.[177] Still unable to walk, she purchased a home in the township and ‘seemed to be getting along fairly well’. Her ‘cheerful presence was missed by all present’ at the Near Naracoorte Christmas break-up party.[178] She suffered a heart attack on 15 January 1941 and died the following day, aged eighty-two.[179] Given her relationship with Archie Caldwell, some people wondered if there had been a previous secret marriage but she was buried as Miss Sharpley.[180] Her funeral ‘was very largely attended by many old scholars’, six of whom were pallbearers.[181]

Without mentioning their friendship specifically, Caldwell’s lengthy and poignant memoire was published in the Narracoorte Herald. He stated that

Being widely known and esteemed, it is needless to say that her death is regretted by a host of friends. Her quiet and unassuming disposition and sympathetic manner combined with her intellectual and conversational qualities gained friends for her in all walks of life. Being a school teacher of experience and ability over a long period, it can be said that she played a special part in the social and home life of the community.[182]

He turned to Sharpley’s late parents and recounted the ways they had contributed to the development of white settler Naracoorte through farming and institutional memberships. Then he detailed Annie’s extensive community service because she ‘recognised that it was a civic duty to furnish the town with institutions for social and intellectual purposes’. Next was an exposition of Annie’s ‘remarkable record of service as a school teacher’ which drew heavily on the account of her farewell in 1929. Finally, he described her funeral service and commented on ‘beautiful floral wreaths’, including one from Near Naracoorte students and parents, also noting Annie’s fondness for gardening and flowers. Vale, an ‘old and highly respected resident of the district’.[183]

Near Naracoorte’s demise followed soon after Sharpley’s death. Harry Clarke transferred to another school in July 1941 and the education department closed ‘one of the oldest establishments of its kind in the district’.[184]  

Born in a multiracial community, Annie Sharpley’s racial privilege began early with access to schooling, followed by ongoing rather than intermittent employment, inclusion in white settler institutions and networks, and respectful acknowledgement of her past and present life and work at the points of retirement and death. These privileges were rarely, if ever, enjoyed by Aboriginal and Chinese people who lived in the Naracoorte township and district. But Sharpley’s access to racial privilege was not unfettered. There was gender discrimination in her schooling; her employment was contingent on remaining a single woman; her community participation was subject to male leadership, and virtually all of the accounts of her life and work were produced by white men. Nevertheless, those texts, especially the education department’s reports and the Narracoorte Herald, served Sharpley well, representing her as an exemplary teacher and influential woman. 

Nineteenth and early twentieth century schools were important institutions and Sharpley constructed her life and career in ways that accommodated the racial hierarchy and challenged the gender order of her time. As a highly dedicated and skilful teacher, she cooperated with white men in the education department and Naracoorte to embed particular visions of history and geography, and install Australia as a white settler nation in the classroom and the local community. She rejected offers of a vertical career path that would have subordinated her to male school leadership in order to sustain family and community relationships, and relatively autonomous work as a teacher in a one-room school. In an era when marriage, motherhood and domestic life was women’s assumed destiny, Sharpley engaged in paid work and social activities that brought her into public focus. As a self-assured single woman, she experimented with ‘love scenes’ on the stage and participated in a long-term off-stage relationship with a single man that tested social conventions, but did not compromise the respect and goodwill of parents, students and the community. In essence, Annie Sharpley negotiated the opportunities and constraints of her time and place to shape a fulfilling independent life in white settler Australia.


[1] The town’s name went through many spellings Gnanga-kurt, Nanna-coorta, Narcoot, Nancoota, Narricourt, Narcoota, and, for many years, Narracoorte.

[2] Narracoorte Herald, 24 January 1941, 4; Border Watch, 18 January 1941, 5; Border Watch, 25 January 1941, 8; Advertiser, 29 January 1941, 8; Chronicle, 30 January 1941, 2.

[3] J. Murdoch and H. Parker, History of Naracoorte (Naracoorte: Naracoorte Chamber of Commerce, 1963); S. Findlay, The Centenary of Primary School Education in Naracoorte, 1879-1979 (Naracoorte: Naracoorte Herald Pty Ltd, 1979); K. Whitehead, 'Great Australian Educators: Annie Sharpley, 1859-1941’, Unicorn 24, no. 3 (1998): 89-92.

[4] K. Weiler, ‘Betsey Holsbery’s School: Place, Gender and Memory’, Gender and Education 26, no. 5 (2014): 524-538; D. Warren, ‘Looking for a Teacher, Finding Her Workplaces’, Journal of Curriculum and Supervision 19, no. 2 (2004): 150-168.

[5] K. Whitehead, ‘”The Insufficiency of the Low Grade Teacher”: A Transnational Matter’, Australasian Canadian Studies 22, no. 2 (2005): 289-311.

[6] M. Allbrook and M. Nolan, ‘Australian Historians and Biography’, Australian Journal of Biography and History 1, no. 1 (2018): 16; P. Brock and T. Gara (Eds.), Colonialism and its Aftermath: A History of Aboriginal South Australia, (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2017); P. Sendziuk and R. Foster, A History of South Australia, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018); L. Watson, Looking at You, Looking at Me: Aboriginal Culture and History of the South-East of South Australia, vol. 1 (Adelaide: History Trust of South Australia, 2002); K. Whitehead and B. Wadham, ‘Marking a Marginal Past: Schooling and Dispossession in the Franklin Harbour District’, History Australia 8, no. 3 (2011): 25-46.

[7] The Naracoorte Herald was spelt as Narracoorte Herald until 1948.

[8] Narracoorte Herald, 21 May 1929, 3.

[9] Narracoorte Herald, 17 March 1942, 3; Murdoch and Parker, History of Naracoorte, 110-112.

[10] Narracoorte Herald, 17 March 1942, 3.

[11] Murdoch and Parker, History of Naracoorte, 112.

[12] Narracoorte Herald, 27 March 1942, 4.

[13] C. Healy, From the Ruins of Colonialism: History as Social Memory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

[14] L. Watson, Looking at You, 37.

[15] J. Murdoch, Bool Lagoon: A Changing Balance (Naracoorte: Bool Lagoon Hall Committee, 1991); P. Clarke, ‘The Aboriginal Ethnobotany of the South East of South Australia Region. Part 1: Seasonal Life and Material Culture’, Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 139, no. 2 (2015): 216-246; See also  B. Pascoe, Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and the Birth of Agriculture (Broome: Magabala Books, 2014); B. Gammage, The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2011).

[16] J. Blacket, The Early History of the Old and Thriving Town of Naracoorte (Naracoorte: A. Caldwell, 1930), 2.

[17] Murdoch and Parker, History of Naracoorte, 13.

[18] Quoted in Murdoch and Parker, History of Naracoorte, 13.

[19] H. Jones, Broad Outlines of Long Years in Australia (London: Samuel Tinsley and Co., 1878); Murdoch and Parker, History of Naracoorte, 13-15.

[20] R. Foster, ‘The Lower South-East of South Australia’, in Colonialism and its Aftermath: A History of Aboriginal South Australia, eds. P. Brock and T. Gara (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2017), 204-205.

[21] Ibid, 205; Watson, Looking at You, 61.

[22] Register, 27 February 1856, 2; Murdoch and Parker, History of Naracoorte, 121; Blacket, The Early History, 5-6.

[23] Blacket, The Early History, 8, 18; Murdoch and Parker, History of Naracoorte, 14.

[24] L. Harfull, Almost an Island: The Story of Robe (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2013) 60-63; Mail, 6 June 1925, 20.

[25] Adelaide Observer, 11 June 1859, 8; See also Register, 27 February 1856, 2.

[26] Adelaide Times, 2 September 1854, 3.

[27] Register, 19 September 1862, 3.

[28] J. Thomas, South Australian Births: Index of Registrations, 1842-1906, vol. 9 (Adelaide: South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society, 1997), 2725.

[29] Register, 2 February 1858, 2.

[30] Register, 28 April 1868, 3; Murdoch and Parker, History of Naracoorte, 87.

[31] Border Watch, 13 May 1876, 3; Narracoorte Herald, 8 October 1878, 2.

[32] J. Thomas, South Australian Births: Index of Registrations, 1842-1906, vol. 9 (Adelaide: South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society, 1997), 2725; A. Cobiac, South Australian Deaths: Index of Registrations, 1842-1915, vol. 4 (Adelaide: South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society, 2000), 1300.

[33] Adelaide Observer, 11 June 1859, 8; Murdoch and Parker, History of Naracoorte, 18.

[34] Narracoorte Herald, 10 November 1916, 2.

[35] Blacket, The Early History, 11-15; Murdoch and Parker, History of Naracoorte, 16.

[36] A. Cobiac, South Australian Marriages: Index of Registrations, 1842-1916, vol. 5 (Adelaide: South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society, 2001), 2022.

[37] Register, 3 December 1867, 3; Border Watch, 23 May 1866, 3; Narracoorte Herald, 31 October 1930, 4.

[38] Border Watch, 21 July 1866, 2.

[39] Register, 25 July 1866, 3.

[40] Border Watch, 20 September 1861, 2; Both events were extensively reported in the British press. See for example, Leicester Journal, 30 May 1862, 3; Morning Advertiser, 31 July 1862, 3; Western Daily Press, 17 March 1866, 3; Field, 17 March 1866, 11.

[41] Narracoorte Herald, 25 November 1924, 1.

[42] Border Watch, 5 June 1869, 2; Jones, Broad Outlines, 173.

[43] Border Watch, 9 June 1869, 2.

[44] Watson, Looking at You, 5.

[45] Border Watch, 15 July 1864, 3.

[46] Border Watch, 8 July 1865, 2; Border Watch, 4 July 1866, 2; Border Watch, 18 December 1867, Border Watch, 26 December 1868, 4; Border Watch, 30 June 1869, 2.

[47] Minute nos. 9027, 9057, Minutes of the Central Board of Education, GRG 50/1, State Records of South Australia (hereafter SRSA); Border Watch, 25 August 1866, 3.

[48] Minute nos. 495, 532, Minutes of the Central Board of Education, GRG 50/1, SRSA; Register, 2 December 1868, 4.

[49] Minute no. 946, Minutes of the Central Board of Education, GRG 50/1, SRSA.

[50] K. Whitehead, ‘The Teaching Family, the State and New Women in Nineteenth-century South Australia’ in Transformations in Schooling: Historical and comparative perspectives, ed. K. Tolley (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 159.

[51] Register, 11 January 1870, 6; Border Watch, 12 January 1870, 3.

[52] Border Watch, 24 December 1870, 2; Southern Argus, 2 June 1871, 3; Border Watch, 21 September 1872, 2.

[53] Narracoorte Herald, 21 May 1929, 4.

[54] Advertiser, 27 July 1876, 6; Argus, 29 September 1877, 1; Narracoorte Herald, 18 September 1877, 1: James B. Sharpley was Susan Welcome’s (nee Sharpley) brother.

[55] Narracoorte Herald, 25 December 1883, 2; Observer, 8 September 1883, 30; Mackay Mercury and South Kennedy Advertiser, 3 March 1886, 2.

[56] Naracoorte Herald, 27 June 1899, 2.

[57] Border Watch, 17 January 1872, 2; Narracoorte Herald, 25 January 1876, 2; Narracoorte Herald, 24 September 1878, 4.

[58] Narracoorte Herald, 3 October 1876, 2.

[59] Narracoorte Herald, 24 April 1877, 2.

[60] South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail, 28 August 1875, 13.

[61] Narracoorte Herald, 11 January 1881, 2; South Eastern Times, 5 July 1940, 4.

[62] M. Hextall, The Family of Wattle Farm (Adelaide: Gillingham Printers, 1986), 41.

[63] Narracoorte Herald, 22 January 1878, 2; Narracoorte Herald, 28 May 1879, 2.

[64] Murdoch, Bool Lagoon, 41, 79; Watson, Looking at You, 53.

[65] Narracoorte Herald, 4 February 1879, 2.

[66] Sendziuk and Foster, A History of South Australia, 63; Murdoch and Parker, History of Naracoorte, 22.

[67] Narracoorte Herald, 20 February 1877, 2; Narracoorte Herald, 9 September 1879, 1.

[68] Narracoorte Herald, 27 June 1899, 2.

[69] Whitehead, ‘The Teaching Family’, 159-162.

[70] Advertiser, 25 December 1877, 6.

[71] M. Theobald, ‘And Gladly Teach? The Making of a Woman’s Profession’, in Women Teaching, Women Learning: Historical Perspectives, eds. E. Smyth and P. Bourne (Toronto: Inanna Publications and Education Inc., 2006), 65-84.

[72] Inspector Stanton’s report 1890, South Australian Parliamentary Papers 1891, no. 44, 7 (hereafter SAPP).

[73] Inspector Stanton’s report 1879, SAPP 1880, no. 44, 7.

[74] Narracoorte Herald, 21 May 1929, 4.

[75] Report of the Minister Controlling Education 1878, SAPP 1879, no. 35, 25; Narracoorte Herald, 10 December 1878, 2.

[76] Narracoorte Herald, 25 November 1879, 2.

[77] Education Gazette, August 1885, 25.

[78] Naracoorte Board of Advice report 1887, SAPP 1888, no. 44, 52; See Annie Sharpley’s teaching record in Teachers’ Classification Board and Teachers’ History Sheets, GRG 18/167, SRSA.

[79] Inspector general Hartley’s Report 1885, SAPP 1886, no. 44, xviii.

[80] Education Regulations 1885, SAPP 1885, no. 34, 9.

[81] Healy, From the Ruins, 8.

[82] Education Regulations 1885, SAPP 1885, no. 34, 7.

[83] H. Bonnin, Hours to Remember: Reflections on Life in South Australia, 1889-1929 from the Children’s Hour (Adelaide: Government Printer, 1987), 13.

[84] Ibid, 35-36, 50, 53.

[85] Weiler, ‘Betsey Holsbery’s School’, 526; Whitehead and Wadham, ‘Marking a Marginal Past’, 25-46.

[86] Naracoorte Board of Advice report 1879, SAPP 1880, no. 44, 32; Findlay, The Centenary of Primary School Education, 6-10.

[87] Border Watch, 25 September 1889, p. 4.

[88] Narracoorte Herald, 20 December 1898, 3.

[89] Narracoorte Herald, 21 May 1929, 4.

[90] Findlay, The Centenary of Primary School Education, 5.

[91] Weiler, ‘Betsey Holsbery’s School’, 534.

[92] Border Watch, 16 January 1884, p. 2.

[93] Narracoorte Herald, 3 February 1891, 2.

[94] Narracoorte Herald, 21 September 1894, 2.

[95] Narracoorte Herald, 25 December 1883, 2.

[96] Weiler, ‘Betsey Holsbery’s School’, 527.

[97] Narracoorte Herald, 25 December 1883, 2.

[98] Narracoorte Herald, 20 December 1898, 3.

[99] Weiler, ‘Betsey Holsbery’s School’, 525.

[100] Education Regulations 1885, SAPP 1885, no. 34, 3.

[101] Narracoorte Herald, 17 August 1883, 2.

[102] Narracoorte Herald, 5 January 1886, 2.

[103] P. Brock and T. Gara, ‘From Segregation to Self-Determination in the Twentieth Century’ in Colonialism and its Aftermath: A History of Aboriginal South Australia, eds. P. Brock and T. Gara (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2017), 43.

[104] Narracoorte Herald, 11 August 1893, 3.

[105] Border Watch, 16 January 1884, 2; Naracoorte Herald, 12 May 1899, 2; Narracoorte Herald, 19 June 1885, 2.

[106] Narracoorte Herald, 24 August 1894, 2; Narracoorte Herald, 3 May 1889, 2; Narracoorte Herald, 11 March 1892, 3; Narracoorte Herald, 12 May 1899, 2. 

[107] Narracoorte Herald, 14 November 1890, 3; Narracoorte Herald, 18 November 1890, 2.

[108] Narracoorte Herald, 21 September 1894, 3;

[109] Narracoorte Herald, 6 September 1887, 2.

[110] Narracoorte Herald, 30 December 1892, 2.

[111] Narracoorte Herald, 29 July 1898, 3.

[112] Interview with Mr Harry Clarke, 22 June 1993.

[113] Quoted in G. Morphett and K. Whitehead, ‘Marginalising Married Women Teachers in South Australia From the 1870s’, History of Education Researcher, no. 88 (2011): 53.

[114] Inspector General Hartley to Charlotte Wauchope, 16 April 1888, in B. Condon ed. The Confidential Letterbook of the Inspector-General of Schools, 1880-1914 (Adelaide: Murray Park College of Advanced Education, 1976). 

[115] Quoted in Whitehead and Wadham, ‘Marking a Marginal Past’, 38.

[116] P. Brock and T. Gara, ‘From Segregation to Self-Determination in the Twentieth Century’ in Colonialism and its Aftermath: A History of Aboriginal South Australia, eds. P. Brock and T. Gara (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2017), 41; R. Foster and A. Nettlebeck, ‘From Protectorate to Protection, 1836-1911’, in Colonialism and its Aftermath: A History of Aboriginal South Australia,  eds. P. Brock and T. Gara (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2017), 39.

[117] Foster and Nettlebeck, ‘From Protectorate to Protection’, 41-49.

[118] M. Forte, Flight of an Eagle: The Dreaming of Ruby Hammond (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 1995), 22-41; Watson, Looking at You, 60, 106; Foster, ‘The Lower South-East’, 212-216.

[119] Clarke, ‘The Aboriginal Ethnobotany’, 233-236.

[120] Watson, Looking at You, 122.

[121] Healy, From the Ruins, 122; Foster, ‘The Lower South-East’, 212.

[122] Murdoch, Bool Lagoon, 22-24.

[123] Hextall, The Family of Wattle Farm , 44.

[124] Narracoorte Herald, 10 January 1904, 2; Narracoorte Herald, 24 May 1912, 2.

[125] Blacket, The Early History of the Old and Thriving Town of Naracoorte; Narracoorte Herald, 25 November 1924, 1-2; Narracoorte Herald, 23 March 1932, 1; Mail, 6 June 1925, 20; South Eastern Times, 5 July 1940, 4.

[126] Murdoch and Parker, History of Naracoorte, 100.

[127] L. Reed and S. Bourne, ‘”Old” Cave, New Stories: The Interpretative Evolution of Blanche Cave, Naracoorte, South Australia’, Journal of the Australasian Cave and Karst Management Association, 90 (2013): 11-28; Narracoorte Herald, 10 January 1939, 4; Narracoorte Herald, 29 April 1954, 4.

[128] Observer, 30 January 1909, 40.

[129] Ibid.

[130] Narracoorte Herald, 23 December 1902, 3; Observer, 27 January 1906, 4.

[131] Narracoorte Herald, 27 June 1899, 2.

[132] Narracoorte Herald, 27 June 1899, 2; Narracoorte Herald, 4 July 1899, 2.

[133] Narracoorte Herald, 23 February 1906, 3; Narracoorte Herald, 24 December 1909, 3; Narracoorte Herald, 9 August 1945, 6.

[134] Narracoorte Herald, 28 May 1901, 3; Chronicle, 10 November 1906, 16.

[135] Narracoorte Herald, 29 October 1904, 3.

[136] Narracoorte Herald, 25 September 1908, 2; Border Watch, 30 September 1908, 3; Narracoorte Herald, 27 October 1908, 2.

[137] Narracoorte Herald, 21 May 1929, 4.

[138] Narracoorte Herald, 24 December 1901, 3.

[139] Healy, From the Ruins, 8, 115-117.

[140] Education Gazette, February 1907, 50.

[141] H. Harrison ed., Primary School Courses of Instruction, South Australia, 1920-1938, Vol. 3 (Adelaide: Murray Park College of Advanced Education, 1976), 40.

[142] Bonnin, Hours to Remember, 98.

[143] See Annie Sharpley’s teaching record in Teachers’ Classification Board and Teachers’ History Sheets, GRG 18/167, SRSA; Morphett and Whitehead, ‘Marginalising Married Women Teachers’, 7.

[144] Narracoorte Herald, 22 August 1893, 2; Narracoorte Herald, 5 September 1893, 2.

[145] Murdoch and Parker, History of Naracoorte, 29; Narracoorte Herald, 15 May 1908, 2; Narracoorte Herald, 9 June 1911, 3.

[146] Narracoorte Herald, 12 August 1902, 2.

[147] Narracoorte Herald, 13 June 1905, 4.

[148] Narracoorte Herald, 23 April 1918, 4; Observer, 18 May 1939, 7.

[149] Narracoorte Herald, 10 January 1949, 8.

[150] Narracoorte Herald, 15 October 1915, 4; Observer, 18 May 1939, 7; Narracoorte Herald, 14 November 1916, 2.

[151] Findlay, The Centenary of Primary School Education, 13.

[152] Narracoorte Herald, 24 December 1915, 4.

[153] Narracoorte Herald, 3 October 1916, 2; Narracoorte Herald, 18 December 1917, 3; Sendziuk and Foster, A History of South Australia, 104-111.

[154] Narracoorte Herald, 3 August 1915, 3; Narracoorte Herald, 1 August 1916, 2; Narracoorte Herald, 24 September 1918, 3.

[155] Narracoorte Herald, 3 August 1915, 3.

[156] Narracoorte Herald, 1 August 1916, 2.

[157] Narracoorte Herald, 15 October 1920, 2.

[158] Narracoorte Herald, 16 January 1932, 4.

[159] Education Gazette, February 1929, 94.

[160] Education Gazette, January 1929, 64.

[161] Narracoorte Herald, 21 May 1929, 4; see also Advertiser, 13 May 1929, 6; Mail, 18 May 1929, 19.

[162] Narracoorte Herald, 21 May 1929, 4.

[163] Narracoorte Herald, 30 November 1934, 3.

[164] Narracoorte Herald, 14 March 1933, 1.

[165] Narracoorte Herald, 19 May 1935, 1.

[166] Narracoorte Herald, 7 January 1936, 4.

[167] Interview with Mr Harry Clarke, 22 June 1993; Narracoorte Herald, 2 February 1940, 3, Border Watch, 5 January 1939, 5.

[168] Narracoorte Herald, 2 January 1940, 3.

[169] Narracoorte Herald, 19 February 1935, 1.

[170] Chronicle, 10 October 1935, 5; Narracoorte Herald, 27 March 1936, 4.

[171] Narracoorte Herald, 31 August 1937, 4.

[172] Narracoorte Herald, 6 May 1938, 2.

[173] See for example, Narracoorte Herald, 26 June 1936, 1; 8 December 1936, 1.

[174] Narracoorte Herald, 1 May 1936, 1; Narracoorte Herald, 5 May 1936, 1.

[175] See for example, Narracoorte Herald, 7 February 1936, 2; Narracoorte Herald, 5 June 1936, 3.

[176] Narracoorte Herald, 7 July 1936, 4.

[177] Narracoorte Herald, 18 June 1940, 3.

[178] Narracoorte Herald, 24 December 1940, 4.

[179] Border Watch, 18 January 1941, 5.

[180] Interview with Mr Harry Clarke, 22 June 1993.

[181] Border Watch, 25 January 1941, 8; Advertiser, 29 January 1941, 8; Chronicle, 30 January 1941, 2.

[182] Narracoorte Herald, 24 January 1941, 4.

[183] Ibid.

[184] Narracoorte Herald, 8 July 1941, 3.

Citation details

Kay Whitehead and Belinda MacGill, ' ‘The story of our influence is not so easily told’: Annie Sharpley, a teacher at Narracoorte', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, originally published 2 March 2021, accessed 17 October 2021.

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