When Mentone Girls’ High School opened in 1955, students were divided alphabetically into four houses. At that time marching was a competitive school sport and Miss Nina Carr, the first Principal, oversaw the training and practice of the House marching teams. Today House activities are many and varied, but the women whose names they bear are still remembered:
Jackson House – Marjorie Jackson (Green House)
Jackson House was named in celebration of Marjorie Jackson, known as the ‘Lithgow Flash’. Born in 1931 at Coffs Harbour, NSW, and educated at Lithgow, Marjorie was the first Australian woman to win an Olympic gold medal in athletics. She was 17 years old when she won the 100-metre sprint at the Helsinki Olympic Games in 1952, beating Dutch athlete Fanny Blankers-Koen who held four Olympic gold medals. Marjorie also won the 200-metre event in the same games, setting an Olympic record of 23.4 seconds in a preliminary round. Running the last leg of the 4 x 100 metre relay, she took the baton from fellow runner Winsome Cripps. The baton hit her knee and flew into the air. The time taken to retrieve it lost the race for Australia.
Kenny House – Sister Elizabeth Kenny (Blue House)
Elizabeth Kenny is the name-sake for Kenny House. Born in Warialda, NSW, on 20th September 1880, she later became a bush nurse. One day an epidemic of poliomyelitis struck and when no outside medical help was available, Elizabeth devised a method of treatment. She found that muscle spasms were relieved and patients escaped becoming crippled if hot woolen packs were applied as soon after onset of the disease as possible. Elizabeth was later known as Sister Kenny, after serving as a nurse in the Australian Army during World War 1 (1914-1918). In 1933, she set up a clinic in Townsville and her treatment was accepted for use in Australian hospitals by 1939. She also lectured and demonstrated her method overseas. Sister Kenny died on 30th November 1952.
Melba House – Dame Nellie Melba (Yellow House)
Melba House is named after Nellie Melba, the famous Australian coloratura soprano. Her real name was Helen Porter Mitchell and she was born on 19th May 1861 in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond. She adopted her stage name from the name Melbourne. Nellie Melba was six years old when she first sang in public. She made her operatic debut in 1887 in Brussels, Belgium, singing the role of Gilda in Rigoletto. She performed in Italy, Russia, Denmark and England, and made her American debut in New York City in 1893. She was made Dame Commander in the Order of the British Empire in 1918 and died on 23rd February 1931.
Mackellar House – Dorothea Mackellar (Purple House)
Poet and fiction writer Dorothea Mackellar is the name-sake for Mackellar House. Born Isobel Marion Dorothea Mackellar in Sydney, 1885, Dorothea became known for her descriptive lyrics about her native land. Her well-known poem My Country was first published in the London Spectator in 1908, and has been part of Australian children’s education for many years. Her books of poetry include The Closed Door (1911) which includes My Country, The Witch-Maid (1914), and Dream-Harbour (1923). Her works of fiction include Outlaw’s Luck (1913), The Little Blue Devil (1912) and Two’s Company (1914) in collaboration with Ruth Bedford.
Please Note: This historical information about Dorothea Mackellar, Nellie Melba, Elizabeth Kenny and Marjorie Jackson is based on articles from the World Book Encyclopedia.