145 Years of BGGS

145 years ago, on 15 March 1875, Brisbane Girls Grammar School opened its doors to fifty girls from Brisbane and its surrounding regions.

This small group of girls were the first in Queensland to attend a non-denominational girls’ secondary school, established under the Grammar Schools Act 1860. Their school building in that first year was a two-storey house on George Street, leased from the Chamber of Manufacturers.

The School offered a wide range of subjects to students, as was expected of Grammar schools, which were historically established to prepare students for further education and tertiary study. Students were taught English, Latin, French, German, Political and Physical Geography, History, Arithmetic, Mental Arithmetic, Mathematics, the Elements of Natural and Physical Science, the Elements of Political and Social Economy, Drawing, and Vocal Music. Instrumental Music was offered as an extra subject (The Brisbane Courier, 5 Jan 1875).

Opening before many universities accepted women as students, Girls Grammar was viewed by many as a radical ‘experiment’. Led by founding Lady Principal, Ms Janet O’Connor, the staff of Brisbane Grammar School often taught the girls’ lessons, and girls sometimes joined classes at the boys’ school for subjects such as Greek and Latin (Hirschfeld, K., p. 2).

As a government-managed institution, the School attracted much attention regarding its curriculum, purpose and leadership. Criticism and debate about the School was frequent in The Brisbane Courier and in Queensland Parliament.

However, the School also found strong supporters.

Sir Charles Lilley, who chaired the Royal Commission that led to the free and secular education policy and became one of the School’s foundation Trustees, was the driving force behind Girls Grammar’s establishment and growing independence. He was resolutely committed to providing girls the same educational opportunities as their brothers.

‘we know that so far as any real knowledge is concerned, the great mass of women have been left in complete darkness … I propose, therefore, by this bill that the women of the colony should be able to take academic degrees …’

From its first days, the School has been led by strong women who have pioneered innovative educational opportunities for students.

In 2020, Brisbane Girls Grammar School students, staff, alumnae and community celebrate all that the School has achieved and become in its 145-year history.

The importance of a holistic, rigorous education not tied to religious tradition, is a focus that remains essential to Brisbane Girls Grammar School’s strategic vision.

As a school grounded in the Grammar tradition of delivering a broad, liberal education, Girls Grammar proudly supports girls to pursue their interests and passions across academic, co-curricular, and community service fields.

The School is delighted to share some of its achievements, successes, innovations and evolutions throughout 2020.


‘At a time when a woman’s social identity was derivative of, and inextricably linked with, that of a man, a grammar education was one of very few ways for individual young women to achieve an identity of a more independent kind.’ (Educating Girls, p. 28)

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A Proud History

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Open Day

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