JavaScript is required

Dr Constance Stone

Dr Constance Stone was the first woman to be registered as a medical practitioner in Australia.

Honour Roll

Emma Constance Stone was born on 4 December 1856, in Hobart. She and her sister were educated at home by their mother, a former governess. Their father was a builder and the family moved to Melbourne in 1872. The family had a Protestant work ethic and believed strongly in the value of education.

Constance was interested in anatomy from a young age but, like many middle class young women, she started her career as a primary school teacher. When she was 28 she went overseas to study medicine as the University of Melbourne did not admit women to its medical course. She studied at the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania for three years and in 1888 graduated MD, ChM, with first class honours from the University of Trinity College, Toronto. She then went to London where she worked with the famous Dr Elizabeth Garrett Anderson at the New Hospital for Medicine, a hospital staffed entirely by women for women patients only. This gave her the idea for a similar medical institution in Melbourne.

On her return in 1890 she became the first woman to register with the Medical Board of Victoria. Meanwhile, in 1887, following petitions, Constance's sister Clara had been among the first women to enter the University of Melbourne's medical school and by 1891 was one of the first two women to graduate. The two sisters set up private practice and worked at the free dispensary attached to Dr Singleton's missionary in Collingwood.

A few years later their cousin Emily Stone graduated from medical school. The three of them were among a group of female doctors who met at Constance's home in 1895 to establish the Victorian Medical Women's Society to network and further their common goals. In 1896, eleven women doctors decided to set up a hospital of their own, under the leadership of Constance. It began as an outpatients' dispensary in La Trobe Street but eventually became the Queen Victoria Hospital for Women and Children, funded by a jubilee shilling appeal. It opened in 1899.

The doctors worked there on a voluntary basis and the patients were treated for free. Family planning work was encouraged at the hospital and sexually transmitted diseases were treated. Unfortunately, Constance was worn out from the effort to establish the hospital and caught tuberculosis from one of her patients and died on 29 December 1902. She was survived by a husband, Rev. David Jones, whom she had married in 1893, and a daughter who went on to become a doctor.