A Lesson in South Australian Early Childhood History

You may not know this about me - but my maiden name is Mellor. My Dad's Great Aunt Kathleen Mellor was quite an influential Early Childhood Educator back in the 1940s - 70s in South Australia, and it feels kind of special that I have become an Early Childhood Educator myself. During my years at uni, I learnt a little about her, but recently I became more curious and did some investigating. I thought it would be something nice to write on the blog this month.

My Family Tree

This is roughly how the family tree works out, from Mellor's who arrived in Adelaide from England on the ship "Fairlee" in 1840 up until now. This is more for my sake than my readers to get my head around it!

  • Thomas Mellor, aged 49 came to Adelaide from England on the ship "Fairlee", 07-07-1840
  • He had seven children (second eldest was Joseph Mellor)
  • Who had five children (eldest was Thomas Fox Mellor)
  • Who had six children (fourth eldest was James Taylor Mellor)
  • Who had six children (two of which were my great grandfather Thomas Reginald Mellor and Kathleen Marion Mellor D.O.B 12-02-1906)
  • My Grandfather ('Papa') was David Edison Mellor (the youngest of four)
  • He and my Grandma, Yvonne had four children. Doug (who's daughter Haylie is also a school teacher), Sue Mellor (who is also a kindy teacher), My Dad - Richard Donald Mellor, and Alan Mellor.
  • Then came my brother and I
  • And of course my little Miss M
And there you go! I found this family tree information from this website. It was so fascinating! Have you ever looked into your family tree?

The Early Childhood Pioneer


The information from the following bio was found here.

Fifth of six children of James Taylor Mellor and his wife Emma, Kathleen was eight years old when her father died and she was brought up by her mother. Her ambition was to nurse in a children's hospital. When she left school she was still too young to begin training as a nurse, so she went to Kindergarten Training College, and it was here that her interests remained. She became the first Director of the Lady Gowrie Child Centre, Adelaide (1940-1944) and it was during this time that her first book was written for her children's library corner and later published. This was a success and was followed by the publication of some other hand-made books (see images below). Kathleen became the first Pre-School Advisor to the Kindergarten Union of South Australia from 1945-1970 as was a leader in the development of pre-school education. She also wrote a history of the North Adelaide Baptist Church, and a history of Kindergartens in SA. 

"Kindy gives a child a place of his own where he can grow in his own time away form stress and strain of the fast moving world." - Kathleen Mellor, Pre-School Adviser's Report 1952

Kathleen Mellor was awarded the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in 1970 at Buckingham Palace, for significant achievement and outstanding service to the community.

She passed away on the 16-08-1978, aged 72.

The Children's Book Author

Kathleen wrote a total of thirteen books for young children, four of which were printed as an International Year of the Child project in 1979. These are the four that I still own to this day, and have fond memories of reading them (and being read to) when I was little. I thought it would be nice to photograph the books as a way to preserve them for years to come. When I was googling - I even came across her book on this site.


A photograph taken of the inside back cover of one of Kathleen's books.

Her Legacy

Nestled in the suburb of Tea Tree Gully, in the north-eastern foothills of Adelaide, is the Kathleen Mellor Kindergarten. Opened in 1966, Kathleen was an integral contributor to the establishment of this lovely kindergarten.


I contacted the director and explained my relation to Kathleen, and asked if I would be able to visit the kindergarten. It is evident that the kindergarten's history is important to the director and staff. Kathleen's photograph is proudly displayed along with some quotes.


The kindergarten has a lovely homely, relaxed and comfortable feel. One parent told me that as soon as she walked in, she knew it was the kindy for her family. The natural beauty surrounding the kindy is a part of what makes it so special. Bird and wild life are a key part of the children's learning.


Fortunately I attended a playgroup session on a Monday and took my little miss with me. We had such a lovely time, playing in the cubby house outside, painting and play dough inside.


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Kathleen didn't have children of her own, her children were all the pre-school children of South Australia. So it's comforting to know that her name will live on through the kindergarten. The year 2016 will be the kindergarten's 50th celebration. I am hoping to return and be involved! There's even a time capsule which was prepared at the 25th celebration in 1991. A commemorative calendar was also produced to celebrate this milestone and I appreciate the director lending it to me for my research.

So today's post was a little different to normal. But I really enjoyed researching and writing it as well as meeting some people along the way.

Thanks for reading Kathleen's story.
Lauren

8 comments

  1. Wow Lauren! Thank you so much for the work you have done in showcasing the woman behind our kindergarten. It is very timely as we begin preparations for our 50th birthday celebrations in 2016.
    The photos look amazing and I am very proud to be the Director of this beautiful kindergarten.

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    1. Thank you Anne, glad you were happy with my post. I would definitely like to be involved and contribute to the 50th celebration. Thanks again for allowing us to visit :)

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  2. Hi Lauren, Very interesting reading and all the best with your career. From a neighbouring Kindy Director, Win Davis

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    1. Hi Win, I'm glad my article has been shared around and made it's way to you. Lovely to read your comment, thanks so much.

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  3. Wow! So fascinating. I don't know a whole lot about my family tree but I find it all really interesting. Thanks for sharing this Lauren!

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  4. So pleased to be sending Miss L here now - I agree, there was definitely a good vibe and the space was light and bright. Still giggling over the connection to you! So Adelaide!

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  5. Hi Lauren, I am your second cousin and I have some books and articles that may interest you. Sue Mellor may help us to link up. Cathryn Bawden (nee Mellor)

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  6. Hi Lauren, beautiful work <3 I am Sue's first cousin, David's sister Margaret - Peg - was my mother. So many wonderful memories. This amazing heritage is part of my every day life as a relief teacher in primary schools in Canberra. Great work putting this together, I never knew about the Kathleen Mellor pre-school, founded the same year as I was born. With love from Carolyn Minchin

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