Early women students

Fanny Elizabeth Hunt

Fanny Elizabeth Hunt was the first woman to graduate with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Sydney, graduating in 1888.

Her early years

Fanny Elizabeth Hunt was born in Reading, England on 25 July 1863. Her father Edwin Hunt and her mother Margaret Morgan had married in England in 1862 and their ten children were all born there between 1863 and 1876.

Edwin and Margaret Hunt emigrated to Sydney with their daughter Fanny and their seven other surviving children in 1879.

Her father became a Public School Master at Goulburn in NSW.

At the University of Sydney

Fanny moved from Goulburn and passed the matriculation examination for the University of Sydney, obtaining a Pass Class II in Mathematics and a Pass in German.

In her first year in 1885, Fanny was in the Faculty of Arts. In her exams she received the followng results: Pass Class II in Mathematics; Pass Class I in Chemistry and Physics; and a pass in Latin and French, and in Latin and German.

The following year in 1886, she enrolled in second year in the Faculty of Science.

Chemistry class in 1886

A Chemistry class in 1886, with Medical students wearing sashes. Sole female Medical student Dagmar Berne is in the front row on the far left and Fanny Elizabeth Hunt is next to her, photo G3_224_1553, University of Sydney Archives.

In her Bachelor of Science examination at the end of third year, in December 1897, she achieved Honours Class II in Geology and Palaeontology, Pass Class I in Minerology and in Comparative Anatomy, and Pass in Physiology.

Fanny Hunt graduated at a commemoration ceremony held in the Great Hall on Saturday 14 April 1888, becoming the first woman to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Sydney. She was presented by Professor Liversidge to the Chancellor Sir William Manning who conferred the degree.

Fanny Elizabeth Hunt

Fanny Elizabeth Hunt, photo G3_224_1421, taken in 1888, University of Sydney Archives.

Her career

Fanny Hunt was appointed as the first headmistress of Ipswich Girls Grammar School, Queensland, which opened in 1892 with 37 students. Her sister Miss Margaret Hunt was in charge of housekeeping arrangements and she was in charge of the school until 1901, when she resigned because of ill-health. 'Under Miss Hunt the school steadily made progress in numbers, and when she relinquished office at the end of 1901 its traditions were securely established on a sound scholastic foundation' (The Brisbane Courier, 18 March 1933).

In 1894, the Senate of the University of Sydney appointed Miss Hunt as a lecturer under the University Extension Board on the Board's recommendation.

Her father died at Randwick in 1895 and her family relocated to Toowoomba. After visiting England, in February 1903 Fanny Hunt founded Girton College, a private girls’ secondary boarding school in Toowoomba. At first located at ‘The Grange’ in Russell Street, the school was soon moved to ‘Stoneleigh’ on the Range. It was run by Fanny and her sister Lily (who married in 1909).

The Girton College choir, with Miss Hunt as conductor, won first prize in the girls' choral contest at the 4th annual festival of the Austral Association held in Toowoomba in November 1906. The festivals were conducted on the same lines as an Eistedffod.


Miss Hunt and the Girton College choir, 1906

Miss Hunt conducted the choir in November 1909, which again won the prize in the Austral festival in Toowoomba.

The College closed in 1910, becoming the site for Ernest Gill’s boys’ school which opened the following year.

Fanny was a member of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, and was made a life member of the Linnean Society.

In 1915 the family moved to Sydney and settled at Rose Bay. Her mother died in 1920 at Woollahra, and Fanny Hunt who had never married died in Sydney in 1941.

Information sources