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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Sherrard, Kathleen Margaret Maria (1898–1975)

by Rachel Grahame

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Kathleen Margaret Maria Sherrard (1898-1975), geologist, was born on 15 February 1898 at North Carlton, Melbourne, only child of John McInerny, an Irish-born, American-qualified medical practitioner, and his Victorian-born wife Margaratta Wright, née Brayshay. After passing the senior public examination in December 1914, Kathleen entered the University of Melbourne (B.Sc., 1918; M.Sc., 1921), graduated with honours, and won Kernot and Caroline Kay research scholarships. She spent 1919 doing research, joined the staff of the university as a demonstrator and rose to be assistant-lecturer in geology. Honorary secretary of the Victorian Women Graduates' Association (1920-28) and of the Australian Federation of University Women (1928-38), she maintained a continuing interest in and membership of the International Federation of University Women.

In 1927 Kathleen spent six months in England at the mineralogical laboratory, University of Cambridge, working on crystallography under Professor Arthur Hutchinson. She then travelled in Europe with her mother. Back in Melbourne, on 20 December 1928 at the Sacred Heart Church, Kew, she married with Catholic rites Howard Macoun Sherrard, a civil engineer; they lived in Sydney and were to have two sons.

Professor Leo Cotton enabled Mrs Sherrard to use the facilities of the department of geology at the University of Sydney. A member of the Royal societies of New South Wales and Victoria, the Linnean Society of New South Wales and the Geological Society of Australia, she published scholarly articles mostly on graptolites (extinct marine fossils), attended conferences at home and abroad, and persevered with field-work, sometimes taking her children on the expeditions. In 1950 she worked in the Sedgwick Museum with Dr Gertrude Elles at Cambridge, England; in 1963 she visited Moscow; and in 1967 she studied fossil collections in Peking (Beijing).

Sherrard had helped to establish the Australian Association of Scientific Workers in 1939. She convened a sub-committee which studied the effects of nutrition on child growth. In addition, she worked on the problems of food storage and distribution in the event of any large-scale evacuation from the cities during World War II. She joined her friend Jessie Street on the Status of Women Council in 1949 and also belonged to the United Associations of Women and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Sherrard became involved with the Children's Library and Crafts Movement, contributed to publications as diverse as Australian Quarterly and Australian Women's Digest, wrote an (unfinished) autobiographical novel, and filled long letters with sharp observation, thoughtful musings and practical instructions.

Well read, Sherrard spoke French and German, relished theatre, music and art, and made lively and provocative conversation. Her friendship, thoughtfulness, gifts and hospitality were widely appreciated. Survived by her husband and their sons, she died on 21 August 1975 at her Centennial Park home and was cremated. Her colleagues named Monograptus sherrardae in honour of her pioneering work in the study of graptolites.

Select Bibliography

  • Records of the Geological Survey of New South Wales, 16, 1975, p 231
  • Royal Society of New South Wales, Journal, 109, 1976, p 168
  • Royal Society of Victoria, Proceedings, 89, 1977, p 208
  • Sherrard papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Rachel Grahame, 'Sherrard, Kathleen Margaret Maria (1898–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 21 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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