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"Brainboxes": A Study of the Lives of Twenty-Six Gifted and Talented Australian Women

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Brainboxes is a unique study of the lives of twenty six women who, as academically gifted girls in the late 1950s, attended Narrabeen Girls' High School in New South Wales. At that time, Narrabeen was the only government secondary school for girls in the entire Manly-Warringah Shire of Sydney, a huge area extending from Manly to Palm Beach. Manly Domestic Science School pr Brainboxes is a unique study of the lives of twenty six women who, as academically gifted girls in the late 1950s, attended Narrabeen Girls' High School in New South Wales. At that time, Narrabeen was the only government secondary school for girls in the entire Manly-Warringah Shire of Sydney, a huge area extending from Manly to Palm Beach. Manly Domestic Science School provided an alternative public sector education for some girls and Stella Maris (Catholic) College at Manly was the district's only private school for girls. Narrabeen Girls' High was a very large school of 1,400 students. The Brainboxes group began their studies at Narrabeen in a year with ten classes averaging 40 students per class. Students were allocated to classes according to IQ tests carried out in their final year of primary school. The school no longer exists, having been merged with the boys' high school in 1976 to become the co-educational Narrabeen High School, now Narrabeen Sports High School. All the old girls' buildings have disappeared, except for the former gymnasium. The Brainboxes group was remarkably homogeneous, and almost impossible to replicate in the multi-cultural Australian schools of today. Virtually all the girls were Anglo-Australian, and age peers of similar socio-economic background. They were the first or only child in the family, overwhelmingly Protestant, and of similar intellectual ability. It made for an interesting test of life outcomes based on temperament type, as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Louise Wilson née Louise Woodhouse interviewed these women thirty years after their high school experience at Narrabeen to see how their lives had changed and evolved - and to gauge what impact (if any) selective schooling and single-sex schooling had on the decisions they made about their futures. These women hold a special place in Australian history as they were among the first of the 'baby boomers' generation, were part of the 'changeover' generation, the generation which came to regard tertiary education as a right not a privilege, and were part of the age group who created new momentum in the women's movement. This important work explores the various elements that made up the lives of the 'Narrabeen girls' and looks at the patterns that arose in their stories of school, marriage, motherhood and work. The book will appeal to anyone interested in women's stories, social issues, Australian history and the volatile topic of education of the gifted and talented.


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Brainboxes is a unique study of the lives of twenty six women who, as academically gifted girls in the late 1950s, attended Narrabeen Girls' High School in New South Wales. At that time, Narrabeen was the only government secondary school for girls in the entire Manly-Warringah Shire of Sydney, a huge area extending from Manly to Palm Beach. Manly Domestic Science School pr Brainboxes is a unique study of the lives of twenty six women who, as academically gifted girls in the late 1950s, attended Narrabeen Girls' High School in New South Wales. At that time, Narrabeen was the only government secondary school for girls in the entire Manly-Warringah Shire of Sydney, a huge area extending from Manly to Palm Beach. Manly Domestic Science School provided an alternative public sector education for some girls and Stella Maris (Catholic) College at Manly was the district's only private school for girls. Narrabeen Girls' High was a very large school of 1,400 students. The Brainboxes group began their studies at Narrabeen in a year with ten classes averaging 40 students per class. Students were allocated to classes according to IQ tests carried out in their final year of primary school. The school no longer exists, having been merged with the boys' high school in 1976 to become the co-educational Narrabeen High School, now Narrabeen Sports High School. All the old girls' buildings have disappeared, except for the former gymnasium. The Brainboxes group was remarkably homogeneous, and almost impossible to replicate in the multi-cultural Australian schools of today. Virtually all the girls were Anglo-Australian, and age peers of similar socio-economic background. They were the first or only child in the family, overwhelmingly Protestant, and of similar intellectual ability. It made for an interesting test of life outcomes based on temperament type, as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Louise Wilson née Louise Woodhouse interviewed these women thirty years after their high school experience at Narrabeen to see how their lives had changed and evolved - and to gauge what impact (if any) selective schooling and single-sex schooling had on the decisions they made about their futures. These women hold a special place in Australian history as they were among the first of the 'baby boomers' generation, were part of the 'changeover' generation, the generation which came to regard tertiary education as a right not a privilege, and were part of the age group who created new momentum in the women's movement. This important work explores the various elements that made up the lives of the 'Narrabeen girls' and looks at the patterns that arose in their stories of school, marriage, motherhood and work. The book will appeal to anyone interested in women's stories, social issues, Australian history and the volatile topic of education of the gifted and talented.

2 review for "Brainboxes": A Study of the Lives of Twenty-Six Gifted and Talented Australian Women

  1. 5 out of 5

    Louise Wilson

    Today my granddaughter is attending a high school in this same part of Sydney. She started at an all girls school with streamed classes, where nothing much seemed to have changed from my experiences at Narrabeen Girls High. She hated it. Then she moved to an academically-selective, c0-educational high school and loves it. I'm enjoying watching her progress with her school work and her friendship groups. Today my granddaughter is attending a high school in this same part of Sydney. She started at an all girls school with streamed classes, where nothing much seemed to have changed from my experiences at Narrabeen Girls High. She hated it. Then she moved to an academically-selective, c0-educational high school and loves it. I'm enjoying watching her progress with her school work and her friendship groups.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Peter Geyer

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