May 13, 1887|
South Yarra, Melbourne, Australia
|Died||March 24, 1951
|Occupation||Educator and educational psychologist|
|Known for||First woman to receive a Doctor of Education degree from Harvard University|
Lorna Myrtle Hodgkinson (13 May 1887 – 24 March 1951) was an Australian educator and educational psychologist who worked with intellectually disabled children. She was the first woman to receive a Doctor of Education degree from Harvard University.
Hodgkinson was born on 13 May 1887 in South Yarra, a suburb of Melbourne, to Ada Josephine (née Edmiston) and Albert James Hodgkinson, a sugar planter. The family later moved to Lennox Head, New South Wales, and after her father's death, Lorna and her mother moved again to Perth. After studying at the Perth Girls' School, she began working as a student teacher in 1903.
Hodgkinson became an assistant at the Perth Infants' School in 1907 and started a class for children with intellectual disabilities. She left Perth in 1912 to move to Sydney, where she taught at various public schools until 1915. In 1917 she began working at May Villa in Parramatta, teaching intellectually disabled girls who were wards of the state. She was granted paid leave in 1920 to study at Harvard University; she received a Master of Education degree in 1921 and her Doctorate of Education in 1922. With her doctoral thesis, "A State Program for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Atypical Children in Public School Systems", she became the first woman to receive the degree of Doctor of Education from Harvard.
When Hodgkinson returned from Harvard to Sydney in 1922, she took up a position created for her by the NSW Department of Education: Superintendent of the Education of Mental Defectives. In 1923 she testified before the Royal Commission on Lunacy Law and Administration that the system for caring for intellectually disabled children was mismanaged; her comments sparked protests from the public and a ministerial inquiry was ordered by minister Albert Bruntnell. Hodgkinson was accused of falsifying her educational record in order to gain admission to Harvard, and after the inquiry found against her on all accounts, she was suspended for "disgraceful and improper conduct in making false statements and pretences". She was demoted to normal public teaching in 1924, but she refused to take up her new position and was dismissed. The dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education later wrote a statement to confirm her abilities and achievements.
After being publicly humiliated, Hodgkinson left the public education system and founded the Sunshine Institute, a residential school for intellectually disabled children, in the Sydney suburb of Gore Hill. She worked there for the rest of her career, building the school up from six to sixty pupils. She gave lectures on "mental hygiene" on the radio, wrote for The Sydney Morning Herald, and addressed the Women's Reform League and the Australian Racial Hygiene Congress.