Louisa Benson was a Yorkshire born woman. She studied at the Notre Dame Training College in Liverpool, graduating with distinction in 1865. A convert to Catholicism, Louisa entered the religious order of the Loreto Sisters in Dublin in 1868, taking the religious name of Hilda.
Mother Hilda became principal of the National School in Rathfarnham and story has it that she refused to force children to read the required English culture based texts, preferring Irish, and watched as the offending texts were put on a bonfire.
She came to Australia in 1876 to join the Loreto Sisters in Ballarat where she was made principal of St. Joseph’s Parish Primary School; a model practicing primary school with the latest educational methods and a five-year training program for student teachers. Mother Hilda was also principal of Redan Primary School, St. Michael’s Hamilton, All Saints’ Primary School Portland and Saints Peter & Paul’s Primary School in South Melbourne.
Mother Hilda was pivotal in the establishment of one of the first tertiary educational institutions for women in Australia, Loreto’s Dawson Street Training College for Teachers, opened in 1884. Here were trained nuns from Loreto as well as other orders and secular women to staff the growing Catholic schools. Mother Hilda was also principal of the Central Catholci Training College for Teachers, established in Melbourne in 1906.
She was highly esteemed by her pupils who valued her precise, lively mind, keen intellect with her passion for training highly skilled teachers.
After suffering severely with arthritis, Mother Hilda died at Mary’s Mount, Ballarat, on 2 August 1920 and is buried in the Loreto plot in the New Cemetery Ballarat.