Jean grew up in Broome in Western Australia in the 1930s, her father being involved in the pearling business. She attended a two-teacher school in Broome for her primary schooling, however, she spent a year in Melbourne when she was eight, staying with her grandmother and aunt and attending Thornbury State School. When she was eleven and a half she started boarding school Methodist Ladies College in Perth and remembers that when she started there at she felt underprepared, as many of the other students had studied algebra and French and her schooling in Broome hadn’t included these subjects. Jean could only travel home once a year to Broome on the ship, so her boarding school friends became like family to her. She recalls ‘you learned to be tolerant of other people’s foibles’. Contact with her family was minimal: ‘we wrote home once a week … no telephone calls, didn’t speak to them for long periods’. She remembers the long journey on the ship between Perth and Broome and the freedom afforded the dozen or so children who were travelling unaccompanied: ‘we virtually looked after ourselves, we were responsible for ourselves, and we were treated like that. We weren’t treated like ineffectual children’. She believes children were less demanding and left to their own devices more in those days. Jean was sixteen when she completed the Junior Certificate and, although she would have liked to continue on to the Leaving Certificate, her family’s financial situation was tight and it was decided she should attend Business School instead: ‘what I wanted to do was go on and get a degree in English and History, you see … well of course you don’t do that if you’re going to earn a living at that stage’. She had a number of office administration jobs and remembers that ‘I learned things all the way along the line, and it stood me in good stead for all the other things I’ve done since’.
Primary: Broome State School (1930s)
Primary: Thornbury State School (1930s)
Secondary: Methodist Ladies College, Perth (1930s and 1940s)
Schoolgirls at Methodist Ladies College Claremont, 1937. Photographer unknown. State Library Western Australia, 015811PD
“Jean Dowie,” Schooling Memories, accessed June 1, 2023, https://omeka.cloud.unimelb.edu.au/schooling_memories/items/show/13.