Welcome to some background on another outstanding achiever.
Longmore's career began at Kadina in 1895 after four years as a pupil-teacher and a year at the Training College. In 1906, with Elsie Claxton, she was sent to Melbourne to gain the Infant Teachers' Certificate. Two years later she was appointed by Alfred Williams to the newly established Observation and Practising School in Currie Street, Adelaide, before heading the State's first infant school for 5- to 7-year-olds, at Norwood in 1910; an inspector noted that she was 'very capable, intensely enthusiastic and sympathetic' and 'filled with “divine fire”'. In 1915 and 1916 she was at Blackfriars Public School in Sydney to study Dr Maria Montessori's method under Martha Simpson. On her return Longmore began a Montessori class at Norwood.
The mothers' clubs, headed by infant-mistresses, grew from one in 1920 to thirty-seven in 1931 with over 20,000 mothers being involved; their Froebelian aim was to deepen both mothers' and teachers' understanding of children. The clubs' impact on school life impressed the superintendent of primary education: 'At no time … in South Australia has there been such living contact between the school and the home'.
Lydia Longmore opposed drill and revolutionized infant schools by fostering in them a joyous atmosphere, 'as necessary to the growing child as sunlight is to the growing plant'. She used Montessori's methods to mobilize both infant-teachers and mothers. Her own example inspired in them loyalty and self-sacrifice and, in their children, a love of school and learning. Infant-mistresses in metropolitan schools supervised infant classes in neighbouring schools and corresponded with country teachers. Mothers' clubs supported their less fortunate members, especially during the Depression. Thus Longmore demonstrated the power women could have in the community.
From 1926 the new Infant Schools Mothers' Clubs Association, with Longmore as president and the director of education's wife as patron, held annual rallies, drawing 4500 from city and country in 1932. Its symbol was a bluebird in a silver circle: 'happiness is in unity'. The association protested to the minister of education when in 1931 press reports indicated that, as cost-saving measures, infant schools might lose their independence and infant-mistresses their status. The director of education agreed that infant-teachers had transformed schools 'from prison houses to houses of joy'.
When young, Lydia Longmore had been shy. She was warned against being 'a modest violet', and developed 'an indomitable will' while remaining warm and witty. She loved cream sponge and pretty china, but was also a pioneer camper who enjoyed motoring, photography, was clever with her hands and a skilled puppeteer. She died at Allambi Home for the Aged, Glengowrie, on 30 October 1967 and was buried in Mitcham cemetery. In 1969 the Mothers' Club Association established the Lydia Longmore Trust Fund to commemorate her work.
Clancy's comment: Another woman ahead of her time.