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Isabella Jane Mead

Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women logo
Isabella Jane

Awarded for service to Cultural Heritage

Born: 1 February 1912

Died: 21 August 1969

Entered on roll: 2009

Isabella Jane Mead (nee Thomson) was born in Launceston on 1 February 1912. Isabella was educated at Glen Dhu Primary School and the Methodist Ladies College. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Tasmania in 1935, majoring in history and philosophy. Prominently associated with the Australian Student Christian Movement, she obtained an Associate Diploma of Theology in 1931.

Isabella did honours work in psychology at the University of Sydney and taught for a short time in Sydney before returning to Tasmania in 1935. From 1936 to 1940 Isabella taught at Broadland House, before resigning to engage in patriotic work at Paton & Baldwins from 1941 to 1946. She worked in the mill and also taught mathematics and English to RAAF recruits in the evenings.

In April 1947, Isabella was appointed to the staff of the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) as Assistant to the Director. She was assigned the task of giving particular attention to the museum’s historical and fine arts activities and was instrumental in having the library’s holdings catalogued. In July 1950, Isabella was appointed Acting Director of QVMAG and appointed Director in January 1951, making her the first woman to head a major public museum in Australia. Her contribution to QVMAG was impressive, however, she resigned in 1953 to marry Ernest Mead.

Isabella was a foundation member of the Tasmanian Historical Research Association, becoming Chairman in 1963. She also held office in the Royal Society of Tasmania (Northern Branch), the Historical Committee of the National Trust, Women’s Graduate Association, National Council of Women and the Launceston Literary Society.

Isabella died on 21 August 1969. Her name is remembered in the biennial Mead Smith Von Stieglitz Memorial Lecture established by the National Trust in 1973 to honour its three former members.

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