Life Sentences - Tillyard Sisters

Melanie Nolan, 'One Canberra family name has had a remarkable impact on a number of aspects of the capital', ANU Reporter, vol 47, no 1, Autumn 2016, Life Sentences, p 60

Robin and Pattie Tillyard named their four daughters Patience, Faith, Hope and Honor "after the virtues", their mother explained.

They also chose those names "because she did not want to offend the grandmothers, both of whom had the unfashionable name of Fanny".

The Tillyards were well-known in Canberra as the city began to take shape and the family had a long-lasting legacy in the nation's capital.

As a result, they are all well represented in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Robin and Pattie were graduates of the University of Cambridge and separately came to Sydney, where they married in 1909.

They headed to Nelson, New Zealand, where Robin (1881-1937) – a naturalist and entomologist – served as head of the biology department at Cawthron Institute.

In 1928, Robin was appointed the first head of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research entomology division in Canberra.

Pattie Tillyard, née Craske (1880-1971) MBE was a biologist and suffragist who had illustrated her husband's book The Insects of Australia and New Zealand (Sydney, 1926).

She became deeply involved in community work in Canberra, arguing "there ought to be women on every governing body".

She was fundamental in establishing the ANU Tillyard Prize in 1940.

The prize is the oldest and most prestigious prize available to Bachelor degree students whose personal qualities and contribution to university life have been outstanding.

This drive and determination led the Australian Federation of University Women (ACT) to erect a memorial in Pattie's honour at ANU in 1976.

The couple's eldest daughter, Patience (Pat) Australie Wardle (1910-1992), was one of the first recipients of a Canberra University College scholarship to assist her studies at the University of Sydney.

Like her sisters, she excelled at sport and played hockey at international level. A trained librarian, she worked in the National Library of Australia, then part of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library.

Faith 'Duchy' (1912-2003) married Dr John W Evans, an entomologist who had worked with her father. He later became Director of the Australian Museum in Sydney.

After raising her children, Faith worked in a zoology department, completed a Master of Science degree and also became an entomologist.

Alison Hope (1915 - 2011) drove ambulances in London with her sister Pat during the Second World War after studying painting in Paris.

She married Lenox Hewitt, a senior federal public servant, who was later knighted.

Hope was the first woman appointed to teach English at Canberra University College, where she later became a senior lecturer. She was also a theatre critic, book reviewer and poet.

Meanwhile, Honor Margaret 'Sonny' (1919-1995) was a champion swimmer and studied home nutrition at Otago University, New Zealand, from 1942-44.

She worked as a dietitian in Cambridge where she met her future husband, New Zealander Donald Balfour Joseph.

The couple settled in Auckland where Honor was an active member of the New Zealand Federation of University Women.

She, indeed, honoured her mother's feminist legacy.

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