MacKenzie Academic Gown

Contributed by: Fassifern District Historical Society

Front Rear Left side Right side Back yoke showing cartridge pleating Label Margaret Eliza MacKenzie Front row third from the right
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Object information

Significance statement

This garment is significant because it was worn by a female Bachelor of Science graduate in an era where it was not common for a female to attend university and study in this field. The garment was retained by the owner for the duration of her life.

Author: Karen Douglas, December 2011.


A loose robe open at the front without any fastenings.

The front pleated panels continue through to a back yoke. From shoulder around the back yoke and around other shoulder, the fabric is gathered in cartridge pleats diminishing towards the mid shoulder. The inside yoke is hand finished.

Sleeves are very wide and extend from just below the elbow at an angle to a fine point at the lower edge. The inner armhole seam is lined with woollen braid.

Long lapels of double thickness continue from the neckline to the lower hem.

The garment is machine made from worsted wool which has a high lustre.

There are multiple moth holes.

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Margaret Eliza (Maggie) MacKenzie was born in Brisbane 19 March 1893 (Qld Gov Dept Justice and Attorney-General Reg # B20434), the daughter of Alexander MacKenzie and Margaret Ann Law who married c 1890.

She married Thomas William Hardcastle (DOB 7 July 1885, Brisbane) on 28 July 1917 and died 9 January 1982 in Boonah Queensland.

Margaret and Thomas had 3 children:

Son John Hardcastle (born 15 July 1918, died 1999).

Daughter Winifred Mary (born 1920) married Robert Darcy Armstrong (1922-1998).

Son Alexander MacKenzie Hardcastle (born 1924).

Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?

Maggie married Thomas William Hardcastle. They settled at Dugandan, Boonah where Thomas had lived prior to their marriage. They then built a house at Carneys Creek where they raised their family and which is now occupied by a descendant.

Thomas wrote an article on the vocabulary and accounts of events of the local Aboriginal tribe, the Ugarapuls, which was published in 1947 in the Queensland Geographical Journal but it is suspected that Maggie may have written the article due to its academic tone.

A botany exercise book has been located that has Maggie's name in the front page. It is dated from 1913 and contains scientific drawings of various animals. The different systems of each animal has been drawn and labelled. The opposite lined page contains extensive handwritten notes relating to each drawing.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

In 1916 it was not a common occurrence for women to undertake a university degree let alone a Bachelor of Science. In the 1916 graduating class, there were 9 Bachelor of Science graduates with only two of them being women.

Maggie wore a commercially made graduation gown and retained it for the rest of her life. This is perhaps unusual as it would have been a costly item to purchase for a one time use.

Where did this information come from?

Maggie's eldest son John Hardcastle donated the academic robe and her mortar board to the Historical Society in February 1982 following her death in Boonah in January of that year. He donated all her other material to the University of Queensland where it is now retained by the Fryer Library.

Maggie's birth, marriage and death dates were sourced from the Queensland Government Department of Justice and Attorney-General Historical Index.

The University of Queensland Librarian Dr Jeff Rickertt confirmed Maggie's year of graduation and provided a photograph of the 1916 graduates.

Maggie and Thomas moved to Boonah and Rootsweb records them residing in Dugandan, Boonah, Moreton, Queensland in 1919, 1925, 1936. (Rootsweb records Thomas as living in Dugandan, Boonah in 1903 and 1913.)

This garment has been exhibited

This garment was on display for the opening of the House of Fashion at Templin Museum, Fassifern District Historical Society July 2, 2011.

  1. Place of origin:

    Boonah, Queensland, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Margaret Eliza (Maggie) MacKenzie who was born in Brisbane 19 March 1893 (Qld Gov Dept Justice and Attorney-General Reg # B20434).

  3. Worn by:

    Margaret Eliza MacKenzie

  4. Occasion(s):

    1916 Graduating Class

  5. Place:

    University of Queensland

  6. Made by:

    Rothwells Ltd Brisbane

    Rothwells were a menswear store and as well as tailoring and selling menswear, the firm also promoted itself as regalia makers - this means that they manufactured and sold the clothing and accoutrements worn by Masons.

    Thomas Rothwell's menswear store was in Edward St near the Adelaide St intersection. The building was erected in 1885, before Rothwells came into being. The building was originally leased to a drapery and importing firm who bought the building in 1896 and then leased it to Rothwells. Rothwells bought the building themselves in 1909 and traded until 1987.

Trimmings / Decoration

Cartridge pleating extends from the yoke/shoulder seam across the curved back yoke and up to the opposite yoke/shoulder seam.

Fibre / Weave


Wool, worsted

plain weave

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


The inside yoke has been finished by hand. The rest of the gown was machine sewn.


HIGH CLASS ....OBE (some letters can not be deciphered)


Rothwell Ltd


(Handwritten) M E MacKenzie

  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other


This garment appears to be cut from 42 inch wide fabric because the selvedge can be seen at each of the side seams. Also, a white thread that runs through the selvedge is visible at the side seams.

  1. Bias
  2. Straight


No fastenings have been used.

  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

The inter lining used in the yoke appears to be brown canvas.

Additional material

Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions

Photograph of 1916 graduating class

Other related objects

Mortar Board


Insect damage

Moth holes which confirms the fabric used is wool.


  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor


  1. Holes
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