Amy Casson Rowntree OBE (1885–1962), educationist, historian, writer, was born in Hobart. In 1902 became a student-teacher, before joining the first intake of students at the new Philip Smith Training College, Hobart.
After four years of teaching, Amy Rowntree went to Sydney (1912–13) to study kindergarten methods. On her return to Tasmania she became mistress of method at the Elizabeth Street Practising School, training infant teachers, and in 1919 was appointed inspector of infant schools – the first female inspector of schools in Tasmania.
Under her control Tasmanian school infant classes reached a high standard; she included music and art in the curriculum and introduced new methods which her studies showed were best suited to Tasmania. An articulate public speaker, she promoted the ideals of early childhood education and in the 1930s greatly advanced the progression of infant teaching into primary education. She also assisted in developing the curriculum for the first area schools. She established a hallmark for Tasmanian career women.
After retiring in 1945 was active in many organisations – including the Royal Society, the Fellowship of Australian Writers, University Women Graduates Association, Arts Club, Tasmanian Historical Research Association and the Professional Women's Club. She also pursued her love of local history in Battery Point, writing newspaper articles and several books on local history, usually illustrated with sketches by her sister Fearn, a skilled water-colourist. Rowntree believed that a sense of history can be awakened and fostered by knowledge. She wanted to elicit in the minds of the young the passion for history that she felt so strongly.
Further reading: ADB 11; C Turney (ed), Pioneers of Australian education, Sydney, 1983; Mercury, 5 March 1962, 7 March 1962, 2 August 1965, 13 November 1965; G Rodwell, With zealous efficiency, Darwin, 1992.