Historical information

Sister Elizabeth McGovern, Sister Mary Lacey, Sister Mary Griffiths, and Sister Gerardus Thistlewaite were all nuns of the Brigidine Order in Beechworth in the second half of the twentieth century. They had backgrounds in teaching and office work. As nuns, their contributions to the community included teaching, running camps, being there for community members wishing to talk to them or pray, and visiting prisons and hospitals. During their time in the order, the role of the nuns in Beechworth shifted due to the closing down of the Priory School, and changes in where housing for nuns was provided. The oral history also includes stories of boarding at the convent in the 1950s, and reflections on how the experience of being a nun has changed due to increasing immersion in the modern world, and the move from convent to house.

This oral history recording was part of a project conducted by Jennifer Williams in the year 2000 to capture the everyday life and struggles in Beechworth during the twentieth century. This project involved recording seventy oral histories on cassette tapes of local Beechworth residents which were then published in a book titled: Listen to what they say: voices of twentieth century Beechworth.

These cassette tapes were digitised in July 2021 with funds made available by the Friends of the Burke.


Sister Elizabeth McGovern, Sister Mary Lacey, Sister Mary Griffiths, and Sister Gerardus Thistlewaite's interview with Jennifer Williams is revealing of the history of the Brigidine order in Beechworth, and the role religion and nuns played in the wellbeing, education, and life of the community in the latter half of the twentieth century. It is significant both for what it illustrates about the lives and motivation of the Sisters, and for what it tells us about how the role of religious education and figures shifted in Beecjhworth from 1950 onward. It is especially illuminating about the experience of women in education.

This oral history account is socially and historically significant as it is a part of a broader collection of interviews conducted by Jennifer Williams which were published in the book 'Listen to what they say: voices of twentieth-century Beechworth.' While the township of Beechworth is known for its history as a gold rush town, these accounts provide a unique insight into the day-to-day life of the town's residents during the 20th century, many of which will have now been lost if they had not been preserved.

Physical description

This is a series of digital recordings that were originally recorded on multiple cassette tapes. The cassette tapes are black with a horizontal white strip and are currently stored in a clear flat plastic rectangular container. They up to 40 minutes of recordings on each side.

Inscriptions & markings

Sister Elizabeth McGovern, Sister Mary Lacey, Sister Mary Griffiths, Sister Gerardus Thistlewaite