Louisa Benson, religious Sister and educationist, known as Mother Mary Hilda, was born on 12th May 1845 at York, England, daughter of Christopher Benson and his wife Mary nee Stein. In 1865 she graduated with distinction from Notre Dame Training College, Liverpool and then taught for a time at Hurst Green. A convert to Catholicism, she entered the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Loreto) at Rathfarnham, Dublin, on 10th January 1868.
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.
In 1913 she returned to Ballarat, where she spent her last years, seriously afflicted by arthritis. She died at Loreto Abbey, Mary’s Mount, on 2nd August 1920.
Mother Hilda is buried in the Ballarat New Cemetery Roman Catholic A Row 4 Grave 02.