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Revisiting the life of Lucy Garvin, first principal of Sydney Girls High School: expanded biography and use of digital sources

Josephine May (University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia)

History of Education Review

ISSN: 0819-8691

Article publication date: 5 March 2021

Issue publication date: 5 October 2021




The article sets out primarily to fill in some of the gaps in the biography of Lucy Arabella Stocks Garvin (1851–1938), first principal of Sydney Girls High School. As a reflexive exercise stimulated by this biographical research, the second aim is to explore the transformative work of digital sources on the researcher's research processes that in turn generate possibilities for expanded biographical studies in the history of education.


This article encompasses two approaches: the first uses traditional historical methods in the digital sources to provide an expanded biography of Lucy Garvin. The second is a reflexive investigation of the effects of digitisation of sources on the historian's research processes.


The advent of digital technologies has opened up more evidence on the life of Lucy Garvin which enables a fuller account both within and beyond the school gate. Digital sources have helped to address important gaps in her life story that challenge current historiographical understandings about her: for example, regarding her initial travel to Australia; her previous career as a teacher in Australia and the circumstances of her appointment as principal; her private and family life; and her involvement in extra school activities. In the process of exploring Garvin's life, the researcher reflected on the work of digital sources and argues that such sources transform the research process by speeding up and de-situating the collection and selection of evidence, while at the same time expanding and slowing the scrutiny of evidence. The ever-expanding array of digital sources, despite its patchiness, can lead to finer grained expanded biographical studies while increasing the provisionality of historical accounts.


The article presents new biographical information about an important early female educational leader in Australia and discusses the impact of digital sources on archival and research processes in the history of women's education.



May, J. (2021), "Revisiting the life of Lucy Garvin, first principal of Sydney Girls High School: expanded biography and use of digital sources", History of Education Review, Vol. 50 No. 2, pp. 287-302.



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