Jean Uhl (1912-2010)

RHSV Councillor 1962-1966

When Jean Uhl joined the RHSV as a Monday volunteer in the 1950s, the Society had just moved into 19 Queen Street after shifting from Palmer Hall in the State Library. As Jean mentioned in her memoirs, in those days ‘things were slightly chaotic.’ Some time later she was nominated by John McEwen as a council member and served on the Council from 1962 to 1966.

Jean arrived in Australia on the Ormonde in 1939 and was only here a short time when she experienced a baptism of fire on Black Friday, 13 January 1939. Involved in school Mothers’ Clubs, producing plays for Sunday School concerts, acting as secretary for Home and Family Week, Jean was dismayed at the lack of awareness of Victorian (and Australian) history and the lack of documentation thereof.

This was rectified to some extent by Jean’s output of nine publications by 1979. Many researchers today are grateful to her for the huge task she completed in the indexing of Victoria’s earliest Criminal Trial Briefs which were then held in the basement of the State Library. Copies of these indexes are held by the State Library and the Public Record Office.

Other activities included being the house mother in charge of all the girls who were sent from interstate through the YWCA. Jean was a foundation member of the Box Hill Historical Society, a long time supporter of the Friends of Nunawading Library and a foundation member of the Schizophrenia Fellowship.

In 1992, aged 80, Jean launched her publication A Woman of Importance: Emily Childers in Melbourne, 1850–1856. Five years later she published Once in a Lifetime, which detailed the exasperating experiences of building a new home in Blackburn in the early 1950s.

Jean once wrote: ‘I am a firm believer that what you give out either materially, mentally or spiritually, you get back in double, sometimes triple measure.’ A great philosophy indeed.

Lucille V. Andel, April 2020


The RHSV library holds the following publications by Jean Uhl:

Call back yesterday : Eumemmering Parish, 1972.

Dandenong : from slab hut to city, 1976. (This short history of Dandenong covering the period from 1836 – 1959 was originally written for a competition organised by the Royal Historical Society of Victoria in 1960 and was first published in the Victorian Historical Magazine, vol 34 (2), November 1963. This is a reprint of that article.)

A work on wheels : a history of St. Johns Anglican church, Blackburn 1890 – 1980 (pamphlet)

Mount Royal Hospital : a social history, 1981.

Still stands the schoolhouse by the road : the old National School at Koroit and early education in the Western District, 1982.

Sailing ships, shipwrecks & crime in the 19th century : a handbook for historians, genealogists, shiplovers and criminologists based on Supreme Court records, Criminal Sessions 1840s-1860s, 1985.

A woman of importance : Emily Childers in Melbourne 1850-1856, 1992. (Manuscript MS 001832 (Box 330-1) contains Emily Childers’ diary 1856-1857, letters 1864, 1869, 1880 and photographs of her grave. These are printouts from microfiche held in the Royal Commonwealth Society Library, London that were collected and used by Jean Uhl for her book A Woman of Importance.)