Stella Bowen: St Dominics Convent and School

Behind the Bowen family home was the precinct of St Dominics. The school is unusual as it was founded by and for women. Six Dominican nuns and two in training arrived from Britain in 1883 to run a hospital. However, under South Australian government rules hospitals had to admit both male and female patients and the Sisters were only allowed to attend to female patients. So they decided to set up a school for the city’s children.

In 1893 the Dominican Sisters completed a chapel and priory for themselves. This was the same year Stella’s parents built their home at 59 Mills Terrace. 

A devout Anglican, Stella’s mother must have found it uncomfortable living so close to St Dominics. Stella described an awkward encounter: "Behind our house was a Catholic convent, and by looking through the red or blue corners of the bathroom window-panes, I could see the nuns walking amongst their lemon trees. They kept a boarding school, and my mother was distressed to discover a little Protestant girl amongst the boarders. She obtained permission to take this child to our church, and when we knocked at the convent door to collect her on Sunday mornings I was always impressed by the nun’s smiling composure in contrast to my mother’s nervous embarrassment.

"Of course, I considered it was very deceitful of the nun to smile, when she must have been furious at the loss of her prey! All the same, I thought their chapel (I peeped in) was much prettier than our parish church."



139 Molesworth Street, North Adelaide