Book Cover by OGA

Our History

“Friendship and Memory” is a “history of twentieth-century New Zealand from a woman’s perspective, seen through the experience of one organisation – Christchurch Girls’ High School Old Girls’ Association”. This is our history!

Early Beginnings

In December 1897, Henry Webb, chairman of the Canterbury College Board of Governors (which controlled CGHS), reasoned that if Christchurch Boys’ High School and Christ’s College had old boys’ associations then old girls should have an association too.

However, it was a group of ex-pupils who made the association a reality. In November 1899 at a meeting of ex-pupils, Mary Gibson (then Principal and an ex-pupil) backed the proposal to create an old girls’ association. A core enthusiastic group of 11 ladies plus the Principal formed a provisional committee. This group drew up the rules and located ex-pupils.

On 27 April 1900, 55 women attended the first official meeting. Dolce Cabot was the first president, Mary Gibson the vice-president and Louisa Bing, the assistant secretary (see photo). By the end of the first financial year, 145 women had paid their subscriptions.

The early Association’s goals were to foster an active interest in the school’s welfare, to promote the attendance of ex-pupils at important school functions and to set aside life subscriptions for special awards.

From the beginning, ties with the school were important. Members attended sports days, dances, prize-givings and school functions. To help support a tradition of excellence, the association contributed money towards the school’s honour’s board.

Acland Old Girls

On 7 July 1945, eight women met to consider an "Acland Old Girls Reunion". A list of old girls was drawn up and several more meetings were held to organise this gathering. The cost of the reunion afternoon tea was 1/6d. Tea was to be served at 2.45pm to enable people plenty of time to catch buses and trains home. Whitcombes duplicated the notices and the meeting was advertised. Children were to be supervised by any boarders present. This reunion led to the founding of the Acland Association on 10 November 1945. The Acland Association was an affiliated but separate branch of the Old Girls Association. The annual subscription was 2/6d with Life Membership fixed at 1 Guinea.

Old Girls Today

The women who founded the Old Girls’ Association in 1900 lived in quite a different social world from those who celebrated its centenary in 2000” (an excerpt from “Friendship and Memory”). And now the Association is 120 years old!

Life in the twenty first century is vastly different to life when the old girl associations were founded; it is even vastly different to life in 2000, just 20 years ago. As a result, around 2012 both associations started to experience decreasing memberships, poor attendance at functions, depleted finances and difficulties recruiting members to their committees.

The associations realised that they had similar goals and were both based in Christchurch. Accordingly, at the 2013 Annual General Meeting, Acland Old Girls (as the Acland Association was then called) and the High School Old Girls’ Association (as it was called) agreed to merge and operate as one body, while trying to retain the identity of each association. The Constitution was amended in 2014 and the Association name changed from High School Old Girls’ Association to Christchurch Girls’ High School Old Girls’ Association.

We are grateful to the foresight of the 1999 Old Girls’ committee who commissioned Jean Garner to write the book “Friendship and Memory”. This book marks the centenary of the Old Girls’ Association in 2000. It is a detailed and fascinating insight into the history of the Association and CGHS, society and women’s lives over the intervening 100 years.

The brief history in this article is sourced from that book. If you’d like to read more, copies of the book (ISBN 0-473-082993) can be found in Tūranga, Christchurch.

A few scanned images from “Friendship and Memory” are below. They are but snippets from the wealth of information that is in the book.