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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Martin, Anna Montgomerie (Annie) (1841–1918)

by Anne Hardy

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Anna Montgomerie (Annie) Martin (1841-1918), teacher, was born on 8 November 1841 at Dale End, Birmingham, England, third of eight children of Unitarians Edward Montgomrey Martin, chemist, and his wife Ann, née Thornton, teacher. Annie attended school at Highgate, Birmingham, where she was instructed by an aunt. In 1850 the family migrated to Adelaide. Taught by Caroline Emily Clark at Hazelwood, Burnside, Annie was 'bookish, good tempered and willing', despite a despotic father. In 1859-61 she was in England, visiting her extended family, schools, a workhouse, lunatic asylum and gaol. She noted that 'many nice women are old maids in England . . . there is so much interesting work for women . . . Sunday Schools . . . Ragged Schools'.

Returning to Adelaide, Annie became engaged to Henry Septimus, brother of her sister Lucy's husband Howard Clark. Henry was a vigneron and founder of Stonyfell vineyard. After Lucy died in 1863 and Henry died from tuberculosis in 1864, Annie began teaching in her own home. Later she moved to city premises. She was 'an excellent teacher, being very successful in inducing her pupils to like their work & to pursue it with vigour'. Child welfare also concerned her.

Martin's schools were in different places, always small and, as she was a Unitarian, never fashionable. Her methods were unconventional—no set homework and no cramming, although excellence was recognized with prizes. As she walked from her parents' home at Norwood to her school she collected students and told them, as a serial, stories by Sir Walter Scott. She 'felt the heat badly, wore her hair short . . . and sometimes just dipped her head into a bucket of water, shook her hair like a dog, and continued teaching'.

Annie Martin closed her school in 1874 and taught elsewhere. She spoke and taught French, German and Italian and also taught Latin and Greek. After a visit to Britain and Europe in 1883-84 she re-established her school in Adelaide. Daughters of former pupils came to her and soon she was preparing girls for university. A few, such as Helen Mayo, left because of a lack of discipline. Female students at the University of Adelaide who had been taught by Martin included Laura Fowler, the first woman to graduate in medicine (1891), and Annie's niece Caroline Clark, who graduated M.A. (1901) and later took over Miss Martin's school. The novelist Catherine Martin was Annie's sister-in-law.

A foundation councillor of the Women's Suffrage League, Miss Martin was a member of its delegation to the premier in 1891. She later joined the Woman's League, founded in 1895 by her former student Lucy Morice to educate women to take part in politics and interest themselves 'in questions relating to women and children'. Martin had unorthodox views about the extension of deep drainage in Adelaide, and in 1893 read to the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science a paper opposing it on environmental grounds. Inheriting a small legacy after her mother's death, she retired in 1901 and left Adelaide for Europe, settling after years of travel at Viterbo, Italy. Martin died of dysentery on 9 August 1918 in Rome and was cremated. Annual prizes and medals, established in her memory by her former scholars and administered by the Senior Secondary Assessment Board of South Australia, are in 2005 still presented to leading students at public examinations in French and history.

Select Bibliography

  • C. H. Spence, State Children in Australia (Adel, 1907)
  • H. Jones, Nothing Seemed Impossible (Brisb, 1985)
  • H. Jones, In Her Own Name (Adel, 1986)
  • The Hatbox Letters (Adel, 1999)
  • Observer (Adelaide), 24 Aug 1918, p 13
  • family information.

Citation details

Anne Hardy, 'Martin, Anna Montgomerie (Annie) (1841–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 28 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

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