Progressive Spirits

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we honour two influential and intensely capable women whose stories are central to ours.

In the annuals of our school’s history, certain people stand out as pioneers whose contributions have left an indelible mark on our community.

Among these trailblazers are Betty Crombie and Dorothy Green, two remarkable women whose leadership, dedication and progressive vision as Co-Principals of PGC reshaped the educational landscape of our College.

Both were driven and propelled forward by a thirst for knowledge and a deep love for learning. And, it was these characteristics that saw Betty and Dorothy pursue, what were considered at that time, unusual pursuits for women.

The journey to PGC | Dorothy

Born in Sunderland, County Durham, England, Dorothy’s love of literature emerged in her early years with her mother, according to The Australian Women’s Register, “…‘careful to provide books’ and a good school.”

After immigrating to Australia at the age of 12, her academic abilities became clear as she progressed through her schooling at North Sydney Girls High School where she had “…‘a splendid time’ with ‘highly dedicated staff’ who issued ‘a silent appeal to girls to achieve excellence in as many fields as possible’.”

Unsurprisingly, Dorothy went on to pursue higher education, completing a Bachelor of Arts in English, French and Philosophy and a Master of Arts at the University of Sydney. “Decades later she remembered it as an exhilarating experience, which ‘set [her] mind free’…”

A successful career in literary criticism and journalism followed with Dorothy appointed Co-editor, with RW Rutledge, on the oldest literary journal in Australia, Hermes, before going on to work with outlets such as the Telegraph in Sydney and ABC Brisbane, where she was appointed as the first female journalist to handle the news. Dorothy also worked as a freelance journalist, writing for the Australian Women’s Weekly with her poetry widely published over the years.

It was 1955 by the time Dorothy arrived in Warwick, moving there to take on a teaching role at PGC before being appointed as Co-Principal in 1957.

It was here that Dorothy and Betty – a long term Warwick local and former PGC student – would meet.

The journey to PGC | Betty

Betty’s PGC journey commenced in Kindergarten in 1922. During her 13 years, Betty, like Dorothy, proved to be a high achiever. She was a champion athlete, College Dux, College Captain for two years running and described by the then Principal as one of the most influential girls in the history of the College.

Following graduation, Betty went to the University of Sydney where she earned a degree in science, despite having never studied the subject while at school, where more ‘female’ pursuits were focused on.

It was 1948 by the time Betty circled back to PGC as a teacher and 1957 when the council approached her to take on the role of Principal, which she rejected at first, going on to say, if Dorothy wanted to join her as Co-Principal they could do it together.

So, while their journeys differed, the synergies shared united this pair and made for one incredible team.

As Co-Principals, they leveraged their individual strengths to address the diverse needs of the community, ensuring every student received the support and guidance they needed to thrive.

Betty’s nurturing presence and dedication to science education complemented Dorothy’s intellectual pursuits and advocacy for curriculum innovation.

Together they laid the groundwork for a progressive educational environment characterised by inclusivity, creativity and academic excellence. They also implemented changes well ahead of their time.

In 1964, Queensland underwent a significant re-organisation of the school system, transitioning to a seven-year primary phase and a five-year secondary phase; a move made by Betty and Dorothy five years before it was implemented across the state.

Achievements aside, it’s the memories held – and shared – by others that serve as the real testament to the indelible mark these amazing women left on so many. And, both embody the attributes we seek to instill in our learners today.

“It was my honour and pleasure to have been present during Mrs Crombie’s final years as headmistress of PGC, as she and Mrs Green benefited our school with their kindness and intelligence.” – Val Coyle (nee Webb) Class 1964

“She [Betty] was always very positive, cheering us on, encouraging, bringing to my attention my possibilities and talents.” – Louisa Francini (nee Pippos), Class of 1962

“It’s an honour to see mum recognised alongside an endeavour that captures what were recurring themes throughout her own life – reinvention, passion and a love for learning,” says Betty’s son, David Crombie AM.

“This was her character, her strength and her way of being. She just exuded this interest in people and in life – science, facts, history, geography, chemistry – she loved it all and she really found her niche in education.”