The family that's part of University history

12 July 2018

For almost as long as it's been possible for women to study at the University of Sydney, women from Anne Bollen's family have been here. That proud tradition continues.

Anne Bollen with her daughters and granddaughters

Left to right: Isobel Francis, Anne Bollen, Jennifer Bollen, Helena Bollen, newly graduated Monica Bollen, and Clare Bollen. 

When Anne Bollen (BA ’59 DipEd ’60) started at the University, she was Anne Thomson. She remembers being introduced to a tall and charming young man on the steps of the Nicholson Museum. At the time, she couldn’t have known that David Bollen (BA ’59 PhD ’66) would become her husband, and that one day they would return to the same spot to watch their granddaughter Monica (BA(Hons) ’18) graduate from the University of Sydney.

“David and I joined the opening procession of the ceremony, which was quite an experience,” says Anne. “It was a little nerve wracking because I haven’t worn a gown or mortarboard for a long time.”

The graduation happened on a cool and perfect Sydney day. Many of the wider family were there, with Anne and David coming up from their home in Goulburn in regional NSW. Among the family group were cousins Clare and Helena Bollen and Isobel Francis, all current students at the University, and Anne’s daughter Jennifer (BA ’89 GradDip(Second) ’92), who is also a Sydney graduate.

Anne’s mother and grandmother were Sydney graduates as well, meaning five generations of women in Anne’s family line have earned their degrees at the University, stretching back to a time when women had only recently been allowed to attend university at all.

Amy Hodgkins

Starting a family tradition, Bollen’s grandmother Amy Hodgkins graduated in 1895.

When the University of Sydney was founded in 1850, it was a men-only affair, with a stated objective of training the future leaders of Australia on Australian soil rather than sending them to study in England.

It took more than 30 years for the doors to be opened to women, after a unanimous vote by the University Senate in 1881. Significantly, the Senate gave women the same status as men. The women of Oxford and Cambridge were allowed to study but were not granted degrees, whereas at the University of Sydney, women graduated with full qualifications.

Anne’s grandmother, Amy Alice Hodgkins, was 13 years old when she came out to Australia by ship in 1885, the same year the first two women graduated from the University of Sydney. Amy herself graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1895.

“I don’t know how she came to be studying,” Anne says. “I think she was a bit of a feminist for her time. She put off getting married for three years so as to continue teaching. At that time a married woman wasn’t expected to keep working.”

Amy’s final position before marrying was as principal of Tamworth Girls’ School. The theme of teaching runs strongly through all five generations of Anne’s family, with most of the women University graduates going on to be teachers.

To bring all the numbers together, 21 members of the family, including 14 women, have studied at the University of Sydney.

When Anne was studying, MacLaurin Hall was the Fisher Library and full of bookshelves, tables and study spaces. MacLaurin Hall became the grand and open space it is now when the current Fisher Library opened in 1963.

Anne Thomson (centre), her mother Marjorie James (left), and grandmother Amy Hodgkins.

Anne Thomson, now Bollen (centre) at her 1959 graduation, with fellow alumni, her mother Marjorie James (left), and grandmother Amy Hodgkins.

Anne also remembers good times with friends at Manning House and buying ice cream with strawberry topping, though she now admits it was a bit awful.

“In those days, not so many people went to university,” she remembers. “I used to sit on the train going home, proudly  reading Honi Soit to show that I was a university student!”

After studying geology and geography, Anne’s mother Marjorie James (BSc ’33) became a science teacher until she married in 1938. Anne’s daughter Jennifer began in 1985, studying English, French and German. By then, Anne and David had moved their family to Goulburn, so Jennifer was house-sharing in Sydney with sister Catherine (BA ’87), then in her 3rd year of an arts degree. Brother Jonathan (BA ’94) and sisters Rosemary (BA ’92), Elizabeth (BA ’97 BA ’99 PhD ’05) and Rebecca (BA ’01) followed in due course.

“Being a student from a regional area was unusual then,” Jennifer says. “There were only a couple of other girls from my school who came here.”

Now Jennifer’s newly graduated daughter Monica is part of the Bollen family’s university tradition, having studied psychology with a view to being a school counsellor.

“I like the sense of history,” Anne says. “I’m really thrilled that our granddaughters have chosen to be part of this continuing, proud attachment to the University of Sydney.”

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Written by George Dodd
Photography by Stefanie Zingsheim and provided by Anne Bollen

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