A symbol of honour and responsibility: the fascinating evolution of the Head Girl badge

On Wednesday 7 February, the 2024 School Council was inducted in a time-honored ceremony. Every student promised to ‘conscientiously honour the School, uphold its spirit, traditions and high standards, and be faithful in the execution of (her) duties’. Each Council member received a badge to illustrate their specific role of responsibility and another to identify them as Student Councillors. As with the School badge, the Student Council badge is stark silver with the addition of laurel leaves and ‘Council’ engraved across the top of the badge.

However, the badge presented to the two Head Girls is much more flamboyant and distinguishes them from their cohort. It is interesting to ask if Head Girls were always identified in this manner, for this high-profile and responsible role. If not, when did the badge appear, and what influenced its design?

The current Head Girl badge

The story begins with the appointment of Prefects and the acknowledgement of a Head Girl. It appears the School has always had a Prefects’ group. Our first reference to a Head Girl was in the May 1925 BGGS Magazine, under the heading of ‘Fifty Years ago’, which stated that Dora Franz (1876) was ‘Head of the School’. Other Head Girls mentioned in Annual Reports, Old Girl recollections or School Magazines were Eleanor Bourne (1897), Aileen Dodds (1912-13), Olive Adam (1914), Ena Eden (1915), and Nellie Dath (1916).

It was in the December 1916 edition of the School Magazine that the VI (Year 12) report mentioned ‘We are proud of being the first VIa to wear the long-talked-of prefects’ hat-bands’. The identification of the Prefects was important to the girls to acknowledge and recognise the students who were expected to shoulder extra responsibility.

Perhaps the 1916 hatband resembled Eva Popper’s 1951 Prefects hatband

Sadly, we do not have visual evidence or an actual hatband from the 1910s era. We do know, however, that there was a Prefect group from the School’s commencement and this evidence continued to flow once a School Magazine was regularly published.

Badges are the most common way to identify someone in a position of responsibility. Thus, in 1940, the first specially-minted Prefect badge was produced. One of the most beautiful Prefect badges in our collection is the badge of Head Girl, Betty Lugg (1940). Photographic evidence suggested this was the beginning of the Prefect badge. However, World War II was looming in the Pacific and it was to have far-reaching implications for all.

1940 Head Girl, Betty Lugg’s (1940) Prefect badge

The Prefect body of 1941 and 1942 proudly wore the beautifully crafted badge; however, on close inspection of the 1943 group, it is evident that the only Prefect with a badge was Margaret Hynd (1943) who had been Head Girl in 1942 and had repeated VI Form.

In 1944, the second last year of World War II, Head Girls, Valda Hendren (1944) and Alison Berry (1944), began their leadership journey in a very different way. Regrettably for Valda and Alison, the silver badges from Wallace Bishop were not to be, and Valda and her fellow Prefects were handed a modest assortment of ribbon, cardboard, and safety pins to fashion their own Prefect badge. The ensuing result was a far cry from Betty Lugg’s elegant brooch.

Valda Hendren’s (1944) Prefect badges—one given to her at School and the silver badge purchased by her after the war

In May 2000, Valda Ridgeway (Hendren, 1944) donated two Prefect badges to the School, and in the accompanying letter, Valda explained the reason why she had two badges.

‘Because of WWII in 1944 when I was Head Girl, (metal) badges were not available from Wallace Bishop, so we were given a tiny piece of ribbon, cardboard and a safety-pin to make our own Prefect’s badge—the enclosed is the result … After the war we were notified that badges were available if we wanted to purchase one—hence the enclosed has never been worn’ (Letter from Valda Ridgeway, 04.05.00).

Letter from Valda Ridgeway (Hendren, 1944) written to the Archivist in 2000

World War II had a serious impact on resources and materials which impacted all walks of life, including Grammar girls. Jewellers, Wallace Bishop would have been affected by a lack of staff, the interruption of the usual supply chains, and procurement processes. In response to the scarcity of metal badges, the School looked to creative alternatives to celebrate their leaders with the rectangular royal blue cloth badge with the handsewn ‘PREFECT 1944′ representing a sense of unity and identity for the School’s Prefects.

In the 1944 Prefect photograph, the seven girls are wearing their School badge in lieu of a silver Prefect badge. One can only wonder if that was the girls’ choice or a ruling from a higher authority.

1944 Prefects: Back row—Jean Hulbert, Elizabeth Flewell-Smith, Elizabeth Exley, Mary Noyes; Front row—A Byth, Valda Hendren (Head Girl) Alison Berry (Head Girl) wearing their School badges (all 1944) (Absent: Diana Evans)

From 1945, the Prefect badges reappeared and were proudly worn by Grammar girls, only changing in style when the handmade badge was replaced by the quicker and cheaper mass-produced replicas. They were the only form of identification for Prefects until the crest was embroidered onto the top blazer pocket in 1964.

1964 Prefects

It was decided in 1964 that every girl would have the crest embroidered on her top blazer pocket. Until that year, the pocket had remained bare until a student won sporting accolades. Once the crest appeared, it was deemed appropriate that the Prefects would have ‘PREFECT’ embroidered above the crest.

This recognition continued until 1971, when white laurels were added to either side of the crest on a Prefect’s blazer pocket, mirroring the Prefect badge. At this point, the Head Girls were identified in exactly the same way as all Prefects.

1971 Prefect’s blazer

In 1988, however, the first change for the Head Girls evolved. In that year, on the scroll across the top of the blazer pocket, ‘HEAD GIRL’ was embroidered. The badge remained the same with ‘PREFECT’ still engraved in the scroll on the silver badge.

1989 Head Girls, Sarah Martin and Diana Lohrisch

A major shift occurred in 1998 in naming the leaders of the student cohort. As Head Girl, Kate Farmer (1998) remembered, ‘We didn’t have Prefects in our year’ (Email 30.01.24). The first ‘Student Executive’ was convened, and the term ‘Prefect’ disappeared from the main leadership student body. It returned within the House system at a later date. The Executive consisted of House Captains and the Head Boarder and was Chaired by the Head Girls. Subsequently, ‘Prefect’ also disappeared from the silver badge to be replaced by ‘Executive’ for the group and ‘Head Girl’ for the two Chairs of the Student Executive.

Another role of responsibility was introduced in 1998 by Principal, Mrs Judith Hancock. This was another badge: the Honour Badge. Honour badge recipient, Suzanna Nash (Nisbet-Smith, 1998), remembered ‘It was a peer-nominated award and then co-signed by another peer. There was an application form completed by the peer… and it was quite involved … I think the cohort was a little confused as to why this Honour Award system was brought in to replace the Prefect system’ (Email 05.02.24).

The recipients were included in the 1998 Student Executive and the award was presented for approximately four years. It was this badge that introduced royal blue enamel to the traditional Girls Grammar silver badge, and I suspect, inspired the new Head Girl badge of gold plate and royal blue enamel.

1998 Honour Badge

Head Girl in 1999, Judith Hainsworth (1999), also recalled: ‘If memory serves, we were the first year to have a (gold and blue) Head Girl badge, but we didn’t receive them until late in the year or even early in 2000 when the new Head Girls were sworn in’ (Email 04.12.23).

Judith Hainsworth’s (1999) badges

In 2000, the ‘Dream it, Dare it, Do it’ Head Girls, Eleni Anthony (2000) and Eleanor O’Gorman (2000), were presented with a glorious gold-plated and royal blue enamel Head Girl badge at their induction. Eleni stated ‘I recall it being very special when it was given to me, so I think it was first introduced then … It was all very exciting for me, but I do recall it being very special when Mrs Hancock gave it to Ellie and me’ (Email 28.11.23).

2000, Eleni Anthony’s (2000) framed badges

And so, from 2000, the Head Girls have received a spectacular gold-plated and royal blue enamel Head Girl badge recognising this intense and challenging position of responsibility. It was a new badge for a new century!

Pauline Harvey-Short (Harvey, 1971)
Manager, School History and Culture

Jenny Davis
Sesquicentenary Research Officer

A collection of significant badges in Girls Grammar’s history on Elizabeth Hatton’s (1964) blazer pocket


Anthony, E. Email Correspondence 28.11.23; 07.02.24

Bayne, K. Email Correspondence 30.01.24.

BGGS Annual Reports 1897-1916

BGGS Magazines 1913-2004

Farmer, K. Email Correspondence 30.01.24.

Gleeson, E. Email Correspondence 08.02.24.

Hainsworth, J. Email Correspondence 04.12.23; 31.01.24

Hopkins, P Email Correspondence 28.11.23; 08.02.24

Hunter, C. Email Correspondence 30.01.24

McKay, B. Email Correspondence 30.01.24

Nash, S Email Correspondence 05.02.24.

Ridgeway, V. Correspondence 4 May 2000, addressed to the Archivist, BGGS.

Ritchie, K. Email Correspondence 02.02.24.

Sandercock, C. Cecily Sandercock’s Recollections, 2003, pg. 19, copy held in the BGGS Archive.

Walters, E. Email Correspondence 01.02.24.

White, Margaret (BGGS 1944-1945). Recollections held in the Brisbane Girls Grammar Archive.