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Dr Belle (Isabel) Reid

Dr Belle Reid blazed a trail as a female veterinarian and in her support of animal welfare.

Honour Roll

When Belle Reid was growing up in Melbourne, her Balwyn home was surrounded by market gardens and dairy herds. She had a particular passion for horses and, perhaps, because of that interest she became a student at the Melbourne Veterinary College when she was 19 years old.

When she graduated with honours in 1906, she created history by being the first woman in Australia to be registered as a veterinary surgeon and one of the first in the English speaking world. She built up a successful practice in Balwyn, one that is still operating today, and became a familiar sight visiting patients on her pony and trap.

In addition to her private practice, Belle was deeply involved in animal welfare. She worked as voluntary veterinarian for a number of animal welfare organisations including the RSPCA, the Lost Dogs' Home and the Lort Smith Animal Hospital. Support for these organisations not only improved the lives of countless animals, it also helped extend the benefits of pet ownership to low income families. Significantly, one of the next two female veterinarians registered in Victoria became the first paid veterinary practitioner to work at an animal welfare clinic - working at both the Lort Smith Animal Hospital and the Lost Dogs' Home.

After 18 years of practice Belle retired to a farm in Bundoora where she showed a similar dedication by establishing a number of award winning stud lines. The male dominated professional environment in which Belle worked at the beginning of the 20th century was in many ways typical of other professional workplaces at the time. Through her entry into Melbourne Veterinary College and her graduation with honours, her subsequent successful career as a veterinarian and as a farmer, and in her long association with animal welfare organisations, Belle helped blaze a trail that many other women have followed.