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Article entitled "‘A Froebel trained “Scot” from Edinburgh’: Miss Isabel Little (1876-1937)." by Dr Helen May, 2020

Identifier: Coll-1848/20-0110

Scope and Contents

This paper is a part of a publication on Scots in New Zealand and relates the life of Isabel Little, a "Froebel trained Scot from Edinburgh" who studied at the Free Church Training College, Moray House and who emigrated to New Zealand in 1912. The paper was written by Dr Helen May, Emeritus Professor at the University of Otago, and was prepared for The International Froebel Society (IFS) conference planned in Edinburgh for June 2020. The conference was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however Dr May decided to use her research on Isabel Little to write her story more fully. The completed paper includes a few of the power points prepared for the conference with a fully referenced text telling Miss Little’s story as a teacher in Edinburgh and New Zealand.


  • Creation: 2020


Conditions Governing Access

The paper is available in hard copy or digitally without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by author Helen May.

Biographical / Historical

Dr Helen May is Professor Emeritus at the University of Otago, New Zealand. She trained as a primary school teacher in the mid-1960s and in her early career taught 5-6 year olds. Later, when she had her own children she worked in childcare and for five years was the Coordinator of the Victoria University crèche. In 1987 she began work in teacher education at Hamilton Teachers' College and later the University of Waikato. During the early 1990s she worked with Margaret Carr on the development of Te Whaariki, the first national curriculum guidelines for New Zealand. In 1995 she was appointed to the first New Zealand professorial Chair in Early Childhood Education at Victoria University Wellington. In 2005, she was appointed as Professor of Education and Head of Faculty of Education at the University of Otago, and from 2007-2011 was the Dean of the University of Otago College of Education. During 2015-19 she was a Deputy Moderator for the PBRF evaluation process. Dr Helen May retired in 2016 and was appointed an Emeritus Professor and is currently based in Wellington. In 2018 and 2019 Helen was on the judging panel for the Prime Minister’s Teaching Excellence awards. She has spoken and published widely in the field of early childhood curriculum and the history and policy of early years education.

Isabel Little was born in Edinburgh in 1876, to Margaret and Jacob Little. She trained as a teacher at the Free Church Training College, Moray House between 1896 and 1898, and gained her National Froebel Union Higher Certificate (second class) by "private study" in 1912. In the same year she emigrated to New Zealand, and in 1914 she appears in the education records as an assistant teacher at Thorndon Normal School. She later worked as an "Infant Mistress" at Hutt District High (1921-1922), South Wellington (1922-1927), Karori (1928-1929), and Ashburton Borough (1931-1933). She became renown in the Wellington area for her ‘modern methods’ of teaching with play based activities the infant classroom. She retired in December 1933, and died four years later in 1937.


1 file

817 kilobytes

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated digitally by its author Helen May in June 2020. Accession no. SC-Acc-2020-0110.


See also, Kerry Bethell and Helen May, "So far from home’: Tracing the endeavours of three Froebel trained teachers from Edinburgh, who migrated to New Zealand in the early 20th century." (2020). (available on request)

Materials Specific Details

1 PDF file.

Processing Information

Description created by Aline Brodin in December 2020.

Digital file processed through Archivemativa.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

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