The Vetting of Wisdom — the Melbourne Launch

Held at the Lyceum Club on Joan Montgomery’s 96th birthday on 6 July 2021 The Vetting of Wisdom is the gripping tale of a revered Principal—acclaimed nationwide as the leading girls’ school educator of her day—being assailed by a Presbyterian Church minority hell-bent on her dismissal and returning PLC to ‘bible-centred’ education. Biographer, journalist and former editor of the Canberra Times engages Joan Montgomery and Kim Rubenstein about Rubenstein’s book on Joan — a blow-by-blow account of the drama involving big personalities, legal manoeuvring, parliamentary intervention, fiery Council debates, outraged parents, packed public meetings, storms of mail and an incredulous press. Montgomery was eventually replaced with PLC’s first male Principal in 47 years.

The Vetting of Wisdom: Joan Montgomery & the Fight for PLC

The thought of it


  1. The morality tale never goes out of vogue. In Kim Rubenstein’s new account – part education history, part biography – of how the services of an outstanding school principal were terminated before their time by the concerted effort of a religious cabal, we are offered a litany of classic binaries with which any teenage gamer would be familiar.

    Good versus evil, the open creative mind confronting the hermetic worldview, the forward-looking opposed to ancient unchanging ways. Melbourne schoolgirl Joan Montgomery became the principal of Presbyterian Ladies’ College (PLC)
    thirty years after attending as a (not quite trouble-free) student. The reader is riveted watching the inexorable force of nature that is Max Bradshaw – a veritable Gradgrind behind the PLC scene though devoted to spiritual rather than material profit – become her nemesis as he manoeuvres to wrest control of the school not only from Miss Montgomery but from the modern world entire.

    Surviving small-minded detractors is a sweet form of success, so it is cheering to note that Joan Montgomery, now 96, has lived long enough to see her glorious life in print. Anyone who spends nearly thirty years writing a book is either guilty of a monumental waste of time or deserving of high praise for taking great pains to tell the truth in all its complexity. Suffice it to say, Kim Rubenstein has not been wasting her time.

    Ken Haley

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