Students at the University of Sydney

Early women students

Ellice Maud Nosworthy

Ellice Maud Nosworthy was one of the first eight graduates of the Faculty of Architecture and one of its first three women graduates, graduating Bachelor of Architecture in 1922.

Her early years

Ellice Maud Nosworthy was born in Mosman, Sydney on 25 February 1897, the second of four daughters. Her father Robert John Nosworthy, who came from England, was secretary to Burns, Philp & Co Ltd and her mother Maud Jane Eliza (nee Smith) came from a family of notable academics.

Her secondary education was at SCEGGS Redlands at Neutral Bay, where she was dux in 1915.

Her student days at the University of Sydney

Ellice began a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Sydney in 1917. When Professor Leslie Wilkinson arrived at the University the following year to establish Australia's first academic architecture course, she transferred into the newly established Department of Architecture in the Faculty of Science with the first group of students. This became a separate Faculty of Architecture in 1920, and she graduated Bachelor of Architecture in August 1922.

While a student at the University, she was Treasurer of the Sydney University Women's Undergraduates Association Committee in 1918, and lived at the Women's College where she won the Dickinson Cup for tennis in 1919 and in 1921.

Ellice Maud Nosworthy in 1918

Ellice Maud Nosworthy (front, left) in the Sydney University Women's Undergraduates Association Committee in 1918, photo, 'Hermes' June 1918.

Ellice Maud Nosworthy in 1922

Ellice Maud Nosworthy in 1922, photo G3_224_1351, University of Sydney Archives.

Her career

Ellice's first employment was with Waterhouse and Lake during 1922 and 1923, implementing domestic designs. She was one of two architects to be the first registered in NSW when registration began in June 1923 and one of the first women to set up their own architectural practices.

In 1924 Ellice travelled in Europe, returning there in later years as well as travelling extensively to Canada, the USA, Mexico and South America. By 1925 she had set up her own independent practice, first from her parent’s house in Treatts Road, Lindfield and later from the home she built for herself in her parents' orchard in 1956.

Her commissions were mostly for new houses for friends and acquaintances on Sydney’s North Shore and the northern beaches. She also became a specialist in renovations and extensions. Several homes designed by Nosworthy were photographed by Max Dupain and Harold Cazneaux, and the photographs were published during the1940s.

Her practice employed many women architects, such as Barbara Munro, Louise Hutchinson, Libby Hall, Ethel Richardson and Brigid Wilkinson, daughter of Professor Wilkinson, and played an important role in offering work to women colleagues.

In the 1940s and 1950s she designed child care centres for the Sydney Day Nursery, the Nursery Schools Association and the Karitane Mothercraft Society. In the following decade, having travelled overseas to consider current trends and developments, she designed four blocks of community housing suitable for older residents for the Kuring-gai Older Peoples’s Welfare Association.

Ellice was Honorary Architect for the Women's College from 1941 until 1972, her work including designs for an air-raid shelter under the cloister in 1942, the addition of the (Mary) Reid Wing to accommodate 31 students in 1958, additions to the Williams Wing in 1960 and maintenance advice on all the College buildings. She frequently donated her fees for such work to the College's building appeal.

In the late 1950s Ellice collaborated with her old professor, Leslie Wilkinson on alterations to St Andrew’s College at the University.

Ellice was a fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. A member of the Australian Federation of University Women, she attended the international federation's conference in Mexico City (1964) and visited South America.

She never married and her career was interrupted only by her extensive travels to Europe and the United States and her work for the Department of Interior during World War II.

She worked full time for nearly fifty years until her death on 7 January 1972.

Ellice Nosworthy

Ellice Nosworthy, photo G3_224_1672, University of Sydney Archives.

Information sources
  • 'The Architectural Gems of Warrawee' by Zeny Edwards, 2000, from The Women's College website
  • Dictionary of Sydney
  • australian women's history forum
  • Australian Dictionary of Biography
  • University Calendar Archive