Ellen Ida Benham
On March 12th 1871, just outside Kapunda, in the town of Allen's Creek, was born Ellen Ida Benham. The third of eleven children born to Aimie and William Huggins Benham (Solicitor).
Ellens father, William was a solicitor, and could afford a better than average education for his children. Ellen was sent to Kapunda Model School for her education, and later to The Adelaide Advanced School For Girls, where she was under the tutelage of headmistress, Rees George.
Ellen then went on to study at The University of Adelaide in 1889 and graduated with a B.Sc in 1892. Ellen then came back to Kapunda to teach, as headmistress for the Anglican Christ church Parish for two years, before removing herself to Europe in 1895 to continue studies.
Upon her return Ellen taught science at the Dryburgh House school from 1896 through until 1900, then at Tormore House school in North Adelaide.
In 1901 Ellen was approached by the University Of Adelaide Professor, Ralph Tate, to take over his botany lectures as he was unwell, later the same year he died. Ellen held the position of lecturer at the University from 1902 until 1911. She also, at times, held the roles of “Head Of Department”, “Sole Lecturer” and “Keeper Of the Herbarium”
Ellen visited England in 1908 to attend Oxford and complete a Diploma of Education, returning the following year to Adelaide to continue at the University.
In 1906, The South Australian government appointed her to reorganise the the botany curriculum, and to classify a major collection of flora of fauna presented to the Herboruim
Her aim was to educate girls to “become a useful and effective woman in whatever position she may have to fill”. Ellen achieved this by offering a well balanced education that included hockey , tennis and cricket matches for the girls a prefect system, and the willingness to communicate with the parents of children into how to effectively teach each child using “the right adjustment of work to the physical and mental powers of the children”.
Ellen also gave the school it's motto “Virtute et veritate.” - “With Truth And Courage”
Ellens Achievements were vast indeed., helping to found “The Womens Student Club”, “The Womens Graduate Club”, Being the first recognised female Academic in South Australia and earning a Bachelor of Science degree.
She has been honoured by Adelaide University by the naming of the “Benham Building” which houses the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and with the Benham Lecture Theatre.
Also being honoured at the Walford Church of England Girls' Grammar School with the “Benham Wing”
|Benham Building, University of Adelaide|
Miss Ellen Benham died on April 27th 1917 of hepatic abscess (abdominal infection caused by appendicitis) in Adelaide, and was interred in Christ Church Cemetery Kapunda.